Why do bad things happen to good people? If God can do anything, why can’t he stop evil? How can God allow innocent people to suffer, and guilty people go free?
As a parent, Sunday School teacher, and youth leader, I hear these questions a lot. Usually the asker genuinely wants to know, and he or she wants a straight answer. Kids want to know that the world has order, that there is a good reason for everything. Everything else in the world has been presented to them this way. Wear your coat because it is cold outside. Eat breakfast before school so you’re not hungry during class. Take a shower every day so you won’t be known as the kid with b.o.
Why does God allow bad things to happen? Is he listening? Doesn’t he see that we are hurting? These questions break my heart. They are sincere. Kids don’t want to believe that God, the God of the “God is great” prayer, the one who they’ve learned is good, light, and love, is cool with bad things happening in our world, but the evidence pointing otherwise is hard to understand. They want to be sure about God, as sure as they know that one plus one equals two.
Kids want to be sure about God, as sure as they know that
1 + 1 = 2.
People all over the world do bad things. We all have the will to do whatever we want to – it’s how we were created. I can say without a doubt that every single person on this earth has done something bad, and when those things are done, it sets into motion more bad things. I’ve done it in my own life, and I’ve watched in helpless concern when I see it happening in other people’s lives.
But as with every other thing in the world, it’s not easy to explain why bad things happen, why incomprehensible things exist, and why God doesn’t just swoop in and save us all if that’s what he wants for us anyway. It doesn’t make sense. If we are supposed to love God wholeheartedly, why does he make it so difficult by being so mysterious?
The love in my heart and soul for my own children overflows to almost embarrassing levels. They couldn’t do anything to lose my love. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for them. Despite my deep love for them, I also don’t owe my children an explanation for everything I do or don’t do. If I’ve done my job correctly, they’ve learned to trust my judgment. My kids don’t always know why I do things, but they’ve learned that I’ll do what’s right.
If I’ve done my job correctly, my kids have learned to trust
If we are God’s children, then he is our Father. He is gracious and sometimes tries to explain the reasons behind his actions. We might not understand the reasons right away, but they are there. Our job is to have faith in him and to trust that he is doing what’s right.
If God – who in his infinite capacity loves us more than any human could love another – is expecting me to trust him to do what’s right, then I will. I will trust that he has very good reasons not to swoop in and stop bad things from happening. That his reasons are much more important than mine.
But it is not my job to answer for God. God does wondrous things like create light and dark, knows each of the hairs on each of our heads, and sent his Son to die for the sins of the world. I don’t know how he does it. I don’t know how these things translate into love for us. I’m not him – I don’t know his whole plan.
I don’t know.
What I do know is that sometimes the reasons for why things happen just aren’t clear. I know that God loves us. I know that God doesn’t want any of us to suffer or to perish. And I know that he is planning a forever home for us with him, where there will be no tears, no suffering, and no bad things happening.
I know that God loves us.
Knowing that is enough.
Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counselor? Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding? Isaiah 40:13-14
Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything. 1 John 3:20