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Why do bad things occur?

April 30, 2012

Last week I had someone ask me the question.  “How has this changed your concept of faith, in dealing with something as difficult as cancer?”  To me it was like the famous question of “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  It is one of those things that destroys some people’s faith or has them seriously questioning their belief in God.  If God is good and loving, then why does he allow things such as cancer and genocide to occur?  This is an age old questions that I am sure that if you Google it, you will be overwhelmed with hits and answers.  After my last post and reading some of the comments, it really got me thinking:  How would I answer this question?  I would argue that I could put a list of not so great things that have happened to my family that could probably hold its own in terms of bad things. Meaning I have seen some challenging events – from  losing my Dad to cancer, to my brother dying of SIDS, to having my Grandpa commit suicide.  I have lost a best friend from college to a motorcycle accident, all the way to Goliath, the sad part is that I could keep going, but I think you get my point, I am not immune to bad things happening.

My first thought was to discuss the concept of “good people.”  The truth is that we are all subject to the bondage of sin.  I am not immune to sin, I am not perfect by any means, I am a sinner and have fallen short many times.  Thus I am not sure that I would fall into the concept of “good people” – decent I could agree with .  But “good”  I am not so sure.  Since we are all subject to the bondage of sin, then we are all guilty and open to judgement and punishment for our transgressions.  There was only one perfect person to walk the earth and that person was the son of God.  We pale in comparison to the love and compassion that Jesus lived with.  Thus the argument that the concept of “good people” is untrue and the answer is that “that bad things happen to sinful people”.  However I think  the counter argument to that is, well why then is it not the fugitive hiding out in a bunker on Rattlesnake Mountain who is stricken with cancer, but it’s people who are generally good hearted who come down with things like cancer.  Shouldn’t our prisons be filled with people who have developed cancer and other horrible health issues?  But the truth is they are not.   There are many people that do horrible things and “get over”  no direct punishment of accountability.

That brings up point number two on this topic: the concept of freewill.  God gives us all freewill, meaning that we can choose how our lives unfold.  God gives us the choice to not choose him.  Thus bad things need to be “random” or else how is God to know who actually loves him and chooses to have faith.  If good things only happened to people who eat their vitamins and say their prayers, then of course everyone would and the concept of freewill would be gone as everyone would do things to receive something in return.  That is not how God has designed things.  Having faith does not mean you are free of hardship, disease, harm, and trails.  It just means that God will be their with you and you will have the opportunity for eternal life.  The response to this answer is still “Why does God do this?  He asks us to follow him, yet he still inflicts us with pain and suffering?  That doesn’t make sense, does not seem logical, especially for a loving God.

This now leads me to point number three:  Why doesn’t someone ask God – why?  The answer is that someone has and God has answered him.  That person is Job, he was a man who loved and honored God, yet Satan inflicted all kinds of horrible things upon Job and his family.  He friends debated him and told him that he must have done some awful sin to reap the terrible things that happened to him.  Job remained steadfast in his faith and love for God and his standing as a “good person”, despite every reason to turn his back on God.  Job does confront God and asks him that very question. In general, God responds that He is God and their are lots of things that man does not understand, nor ever will.  Honestly a non-believer would site this as sort of a cop-out, to claim that we are not able to understand things because God is God and we are subject to sin, thus unable to completely understand God’s perfect judgement and actions.  In the end God does restore Job. However I would not argue against the notion that his confrontation with God, still leaves some questions unanswered – it does not fully satisfy the question of “why do bad things happen to good people?”  In Job’s, case God agrees that he is a good person, yet he still endures relentless pain and suffering – hence he is the perfect test case for this question.

This brings me to my final thought on this question.  I think some things in life we will never fully understand, nor are we entitled to completely understand why.  All that I can use as a reference is my experiences in life.  I know that God has spoken to me  several times, and those times in which  I have listened and obeyed, (which unfortunately has not always been each time)  I have for sure become a better person and understood the circumstances better at that point.  I would say that I have never been lead astray by listening and obeying.  Thus all I can do is trust and have faith that there is a greater plan, a greater purpose.  My own test cases and data from them says there is.  I know that people will say that answer is not logical, lacking in data and completely subjective.  I do not disagree.  My only response would simply be that I can only rely on my own data and experiences.  And in each case, when I have trusted and have had faith, things make more sense, things seem to work out for the better and in general my life has shifted in a positive light.

Granted I know that many will not be satisfied with any of these answers, and I can understand that.  However as for me, it is good enough.

Really I would recommend a reading of Job, but God’s response can be found in Job 38 -42  NIV

Here is a sample (though this is not enough to really give God’s response justice):

Job 40

New International Version (NIV)

40 The Lord said to Job:

“Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
Let him who accuses God answer him!”

Then Job answered the Lord:

“I am unworthy —how can I reply to you?
I put my hand over my mouth.
I spoke once, but I have no answer —
twice, but I will say no more.”

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm:

“Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.

“Would you discredit my justice?
Would you condemn me to justify yourself?
Do you have an arm like God’s,
and can your voice thunder like his?
10 Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor,
and clothe yourself in honor and majesty.
11 Unleash the fury of your wrath,
look at all who are proud and bring them low,
12 look at all who are proud and humble them,
crush the wicked where they stand.
13 Bury them all in the dust together;
shroud their faces in the grave.
14 Then I myself will admit to you
that your own right hand can save you

15 “Look at Behemoth,
which I made along with you
and which feeds on grass like an ox.
16 What strength it has in its loins,
what power in the muscles of its belly!
17 Its tail sways like a cedar;
the sinews of its thighs are close-knit.
18 Its bones are tubes of bronze,
its limbs like rods of iron.
19 It ranks first among the works of God,
yet its Maker can approach it with his sword.
20 The hills bring it their produce,
and all the wild animals play nearby.
21 Under the lotus plants it lies,
hidden among the reeds in the marsh.
22 The lotuses conceal it in their shadow;
the poplars by the stream surround it.
23 A raging river does not alarm it;
it is secure, though the Jordan should surge against its mouth.
24 Can anyone capture it by the eyes,
or trap it and pierce its nose?

(Yes I skipped chapter 41)  Here is Job’s response after hearing God’s:

Job 42

New International Version (NIV)


42 Then Job replied to the Lord:

“I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.

“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”

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