This question came to mind today when I thought of a family friend who was diagnosed with cancer and was given weeks to live.
This is the question posed by Christians and unChristians alike.
For Christians it is a pursuit of understanding how our good God could permit to happen the things we see around us daily.
For the unbelievers, it is used as a dismissal of the idea of God, as if somehow a truly good God would never let bad things happen.
For those who are in the former category, read on. For those in the latter category, I’m not sure they really want the answer, but they’re welcome to read my explanation.
Since even many Christians are not ready for this difficult concept, I feel the need to warn you that I struggled with this concept, wrestled with it until I finally realized that I have no one in heaven but Him and that I choose to throw myself at His mercy regardless of what He does.
It was 1995, and we were traveling all over the USA: a 1970s twelve passenger van, a 24-foot camping trailer, my mom and dad, us three kids, and our border collie lab mix.
We camped outside Washington DC in a quaint little camp ground and made day trips into the city.
One day on our way back –bear with me, this story is going somewhere– we stopped along side the country road to rescue a turtle (tortoise?) from the middle of the road.
No matter how many times we moved it to the side, it would repeatedly, sloooowly plod its way back toward the middle of the double lane country road.
We even tried carrying it to the other side of the road hoping that maybe this was the turtles goal and he’d be out of danger.
I can only guess that he liked the summer heat on the asphalt and did not understand that danger.
How could he?
His brain is quite small.
He was not created with the ability to understand complex ideas like roads and cars.
Much like a child who does not understand adult concepts, the turtle was unable to see the danger.
I’m sure it struck him as mean (if indeed such a concept was available to his small brain) that I kept removing him from his destination.
I was so unkind and unhelpful.
That’s how I imagine our interaction with God to be.
“But God, I want to be in the middle of the road!”
We cannot see the danger, but He in His loving care protects us from what we cannot even fathom is there.
There are two basic flaws in the argument that God let’s bad things happen to good people.
Flaw number one: the idea that there are good people.
This is the foundation of the argument: that people are good and deserving of good things, that by not giving them only good things God is depriving them of what’s owed to them.
Is that true?
Are people basically good?
Is God depriving people of the good owed them?
What does scripture say?
That there’s no one who is good, not even a single one.
That it is only by God’s grace that any of us see any good things.
It is certainly not because we are owed them.
The only thing we deserve is hell.
Flaw number 2: the idea that what we define as bad things are actually bad things.
Remember the story of the turtle above?
We are like an ant in our understanding of God and what is good.
We only know what is truly good because He is good and He has told is what is good in scripture.
If He is good, if His very essence is good, how could what He does not be good also?
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it’s more likely that our understanding of good is skewed.
I remember as a child struggling with the concepts of justice and fairness.
Sometimes justice meant that someone was punished which seemed unfair to my childish understanding of the idea.
What if our understanding of good is just as skewed if not more so than my understanding of justice?
What if our ability to grasp the concept of good is just as low as the turtles ability to understand he was in danger?
The problems with this argument are thus: there are no good people — only people with imputed righteousness if they’re believers– and God never does bad things — we just lack the ability to understand what good is.
This is a hard concept, I think.
It is not readily accepted.
People want God to cater to their whims instead of saying “Thy will be done.”
They want a Jesus who makes them happy, not one who makes them holy.
That’s a false Jesus.
Those who truly follow Christ will embrace whatever comes their way.
Remember what Job said, “Shall we receive the good from God’s hand and not the bad?”
Sometimes God does things that seem bad to us and don’t make sense.
That’s because they don’t make sense yet.
They will one day.
We see like in a dark window, but one day we will see Him face to face.
Then we will know that it was worth it.