Why Do Bad Things Happen?
As mentioned at the end of my previous article, the topic of God’s involvement in why bad things happen couldn’t be covered in one article. Therefore, I have written this second part which is just a continuation of the theme from the last article. In this article we are going to get into more detail about why God allows suffering in our lives with biblical support for each idea. Once again I recommend reading all the articles in this series. The list of articles is as follows:
Why does the Lord test us and put us through trials? One reason is to increase our faith and develop a better relationship with Him. You don’t truly get to know God until you go through trials and tests. The same thing can be said for our personal relationships. We don’t truly know our spouse until we go through hard times with them. Then our relationships will deepen and strengthen because of them. Yes, you get to know your spouse and fall in love during the dating phase of your relationship, but it’s the hardships that bring you closer. I know that some of the hardest things my wife and I went through involved the loss of close family. Let’s be honest, there is a lot of pain associated with the loss of someone we love. Most people typically put on a strong appearance when out in public, but your spouse sees what you are truly going through. If you read my last article then you know that my sister passed on after losing her battle with cancer, but I didn’t tell you that I also lost my father to a severe heart attack just over nine months ago from the time of this writing. I bring that up only to tell you a short story about how my wife saw me in one of my most vulnerable moments. That moment was a couple days after my father passed away. I went to work because we scheduled the funeral for later in the week in order to allow time for family from out of state to travel. Luckily, at that time, I was able to seclude myself and work alone so I didn’t have to deal with a lot of questions. However, I struggled to hold back tears all morning. When I went to lunch my wife said that she was going to go with me (we work for the same company but in different areas) which was unusual. Well, when we got in the car she asked me how I was doing and I only got three words out before my strong exterior crumbled and we were sitting in the middle of our company's parking lot while I sobbed uncontrollably. She was there to see me at that moment and gave me as much support as she possibly could. Most people never saw that side of my struggle, as is the same with most of you, but our spouses do see that side. It’s going through times like that together that bring you closer together.
This concept also applies to your friendships. My closest friends are not my high school buddies or those I ran around with in my college days, but my Army buddies. Why? Because we went through many hard times together. Deployments that included separation from our actual loved ones (i.e. wives and kids), dealing with the loss of loved ones (i.e. the loss of my sister), our own personal struggles (i.e. depression or anxiety), and the list goes on and on. Going through those hardships together have caused us to grow closer and have a deeper and more meaningful relationship than I could find with almost anybody else. This is called comradery. This same concept also applies to God and our relationships with Him. When we go through the life struggles that are promised to us, given we go through them with Christ, we will develop a type of comradery with God. We will develop that deeper and more meaningful relationship that we couldn’t have otherwise.
Another reason for trials is to help keep us humble. I’m sure there are more people in this world than just me who struggles with pride. Well, God can use hard times to recenter us on Him. Romans 5:3-5 states, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” God can use trials to shape our character into the image that He wants for us. When we get too proud, he will humble us. We have to remember that pride, envy, deceit and many others are sins that come from our heart. We discussed that in our article, “What is Sin?” So, God will take these sinful characteristics that come from our heart, and shape them through trials to give us the character that we should have according to His perfect will. A character that is more in line with the character of Jesus.
Find the Lost
Yet another reason is to draw His lost children back to Himself. C.S. Lewis once wrote that God will whisper to us in our pleasure, speak to us in our conscience but shout to us in our pain. Pain is God’s megaphone to a deaf world. This couldn’t be more true. God will try to reach us in multiple ways in increasing severity. In the military it is called rules of engagement. It consists of increasing your posture and threat level in order to communicate that somebody should listen to what you are saying or suffer consequences. If you are a non-believer then it may start with a passing comment from a friend or a random believer. Or it could be finding a sermon on either the television, radio or social media. The frequency and intensity of these “random” encounters could increase but if you still don’t notice them then the Lord will have to up the ante. He will have to take on a more threatening posture and increase the pressure or intensity until you notice Him trying to speak in your life. That is where evil, pain and suffering come into play. Evil is always ready and waiting to inflict pain in your life, but God normally keeps evil at bay. If we look at the book of Job, then we see that the devil can attack us just based on the word of God. If God chooses to give evil the green light, then they will attack us and bring pain and suffering into our lives. Something to remember from the book of Job is that the devil can only do as much as God allows. The devil needs either our permission or God’s to act in our lives. In a similar manner, God will not work in our lives unless we ask Him to.
This brings us back to the same question that we have had for a while now. Why? Why does God allow these things to happen? What is the purpose? To answer these answers we need to go to the Bible which is full of stories of redemption and judgment by God. First, let’s go to Exodus 14:3-4 where God is talking to Moses about Pharaoh saying, “ 3 For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, ‘They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ 4 And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” This seems cruel, but God is tricking Pharaoh into thinking that the Israelites backed themselves into a corner and will be easily overthrown once again by the Egyptian army. God baited Pharaoh into fighting only to get, “glory over Pharaoh and all his host.” I’m sure most of you know this story, but for those that don't, God does get His glory. He gets it by parting the Red Sea, the Israelites walk through safely, the Egyptians try to follow, but God allows the waters to return over the Egyptians leaving them utterly destroyed. How did this bring God glory? If we back the story up then we will see that the Pharaoh in this story enslaved the Israelite people, tortured them and ordered that all of their male children be killed. This Pharaoh was not kind toward the Israelite people and God knew this. God was getting His glory by carrying out judgment on Pharaoh and Egypt for the horrible things that they put the Israelites through. Comparing this to our modern day society, if you persecute Christians in any way shape or form then God could order judgment to be carried out on you and your life. Typically God doesn’t work in this manner any more due to the covenant of grace that we are currently under, but then again, if you never accept Jesus Christ then you are not under the covenant of grace. Rather, you belong to the devil and the devil could freely work in your life.
Another concept that we could look at comes from Psalm 13. This psalm was written by David and refers to the idea that David felt abandoned by God. David felt that God was leaving him open to attack from his enemies and was being disgraced by God for this reason. However, verses 5-6 state, “5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. 6 I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” Even though David felt abandoned, he still knew the truth of every situation. That no matter what happens, you need to remember the good things that the Lord has done in your life and rejoice in them. Be thankful for what you do have and don’t lose yourself trying to find God. He is always there with you, even though you don’t always see or feel Him. We need to remember what the Lord has done in our lives and not worry about what He is going to do next. When it is time for you to know what the next move is, then God will make sure you know.
Next, let’s look at John 9:1-3 which reads, “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”” I feel that this passage of scripture is fairly self evident in its meaning. Bad things may happen to us in order to fulfill God’s glory. Those bad things may not come because of anything we have done or because of who we are associated with, but they may happen so people can see God through us. This would bring God glory, but not through judgment like we saw with the Egyptians, rather through redemption. God may choose to redeem you out of whatever pain or suffering you may be going through in order to glorify Himself. Then again, Paul discusses a “thorn” that was given to him in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 which says, “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Paul is talking about the same thing that Jesus was talking about in John 9:1-3 above which is suffering for a reason beyond our understanding. Paul may have persecuted Christians before he was converted to Christianity himself, but since his conversion he lived a good Christian lifestyle that was completely devoted to the Lord. He was devoted to the point that Paul became one of the main authors in the New Testament. Even with his dedication and devotion to God, he was still plagued by his self described ‘thorn of the flesh.’ Nobody knows what this “thorn” was because Paul never actually describes it, but what we do know is that he embraced the suffering that came from it. As we see in 2 Corinthians, Paul actually pleads to the Lord to remove whatever it is that was bothering him, but the Lord said no. Paul had to accept the fact that he was going to have to live with this pain in his life. He could have become bitter and blamed God for his ailment, but instead chose the path we should all choose. To embrace our weaknesses and hardships as gifts from God. Because, as Paul understood, those trials are what make us strong in the eyes of the Lord. If we could all adopt that way of thinking then everybody's view on life would change for the better.
A few things to remember is that the Lord is always with us. When we accept Jesus Christ then we have His protection. We know this because it is promised to us in the Bible. The world would be much worse if God didn’t restrain evil. We may not always know how or see when God is protecting us, but we have His promise of love and protection. We couldn’t possibly understand why bad things happen or why God allows evil unless we possessed God’s omniscience and omnipresence. Without knowing how everything works and being able to see how it works throughout time, then we couldn’t possibly know why something is happening now in our lives. Again, we have to trust that God has our best interest in mind and know that something better is on the other side. We just need to continue looking for God’s will in our lives by reading and studying scripture, praying for His guidance and looking for Him in everything that we do. Remember that if you rebuke the devil then he has no choice but to run from you, and if you repent of your sins and turn back to the Lord then sin will have no power over you. However, even if you repented of all past sins and lived the rest of your life perfectly in the sight of God, you may still suffer for reasons unknown to you. Job is a perfect example of that. Job was sinless and remained sinless throughout his trials, but he still lost everything he had. We just can’t possibly know why something bad happens to us because it’s not for us to know. All you can do is to put your faith, hope and trust in the Lord and He will carry you through anything that comes. I pray that this series helps you to find peace and calm through any storm that comes your way. May the Lord bless you and keep you safe. God Bless.