“How can I believe in God when bad things happen?” Christians seem less and less able to articulate answers that satisfy a growing, skeptical public. ♦
“How can I believe in God when bad things happen? Why does God allow this? Is God in control or not? These are common questions that arise again whenever evil emerges and causes mayhem and tragedy.
The people light candles and mourn as the politicians express renewed resolve with new policies and security measures. The masses tell themselves that it has to get better, but deep inside they are fearful, doubtful, and increasingly cynical in their view of God who is apparently silent, absent, and non-intervening.
And Christians seem less and less able to articulate answers that satisfy a growing, skeptical public.
What would you say to people who ask these legitimate questions?
Let’s first address the question of the characteristics of God. There’s a simple way to visually assess the power and goodness of God. In a simple 4 quadrant view, consider God measured on one axis representing Goodness (Evil to Holy), and another axis representing Power (Weak to Almighty). If God is not in the upper right quadrant as Holy and Almighty, then he falls into less-than-God categories of “Benevolent and Weak” or “Malevolent and Strong” or downright “Mean and Mortal.”
Of course we know from the Scriptures that God is big, good, almighty and holy Creator of all things:
- “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” – Genesis 1:1
- “The Lord God is my strength.” – Isaiah 12:2
- “The Lord God is an everlasting rock.” – Isaiah 26.4
- “He is great in power and justice.” – Job 37:23
- “His power who can understand.” – Job 26.14
- “That power of God…called Great.” – Acts 8:10
- “No one is good but God alone.” – Mark 10:18
- “O how abundant is thy good.” – Psalm 31:19
- “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God.” – Revelation 4:8
Yes, as Scripture tells us, God is holy and almighty. In fact, beyond 2-dimensional quadrants, God is omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnipresent (all-present).
So if God is Holy, good, and all of that, and bad things still happen to us and innocent others, then something else must be going on here.
Job Gets Schooled
If you haven’t read it, read the Book of Job (see BV post: Job – the Book No One Finishes), particularly chapter 38 through the end. God cuts through all the rambling speculations by Job and his friends for the pain, loss, and misery Job has experienced. God’s explanation is through a series of very pointed questions:
- “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me if you understand.” – Implied answer: You weren’t there; you don’t know.
- “Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb…?” – Implied answer: You weren’t there; you don’t know.
- “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep?” – Implied answer: No you haven’t.
- “Can you bring out the stars in their constellations?” – Implied answer: No, you can’t.
- “Do you know the laws of the heavens?” – Implied answer: No, you don’t.
- “Shall a fault-finder contend with the Almighty?” – Implied answer: No, Job, you can’t.
Actually, neither Job nor any of us, can fathom what Almighty God knows or is doing in running all of His creation in the universe. It is according to His purposes and beyond our vision and comprehension. But it is purposeful.
Perhaps painful, but purposeful.
Jesus himself was asked how God could allow such tragedy in his own day. In chapter 13 of the New Testament’s Gospel of Luke, some people asked Jesus about an atrocity that had occurred at the hands of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. It seems that some people who were in the midst of worship were massacred by Pilate’s soldiers. The people who came to Jesus were troubled about this and asked Him how God could have allowed this to happen to His chosen people.
Jesus answered their question with a question:
“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners that all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?“
An odd question in response, isn’t it?
It reveals that the people posing the original question to Jesus were assuming that human suffering in this world is dealt out proportionately related to their degree of sinfulness. Do we think like that today? Many do – like Karma – people get what they deserve. Or thinking that innocents do not “deserve” the pain and suffering that is “unfairly” encountered at times in this world.
Jesus and Karma do not go together.
He then mentions another recent local tragedy, when a tower fell in a nearby town and killed 18 people:
“Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem?
The answers to Jesus’ rhetorical questions are obvious: No. There is no distinction between people’s sin and doled out punishment or tragedy. No, according to Jesus, there is no Karma. There is, however, a connection between moral evil and human suffering. That is because death and suffering came into this world in the first place because of sin.
Jesus finishes His lesson with the following:
“I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” – Luke 13:1-5
Wow. Jesus doesn’t mess around. He is not being callous – remember He is God incarnate. In God’s economy we exist to be restored and reconciled back to God. All men/women are born into sin via Adam’s sin and so have a broken relationship with Almighty/Holy God. Evil and tragedy abound in this present dark and broken world, wreaking havoc, pain, and suffering to all.
Only God knows the rhyme and reason, but the Lord is “patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
So Now What?
Repent and be saved, eternally. You’ll not be invulnerable to the evil in this world, only eternally reconciled with your Creator and restored to real Life, even in this temporal life. Submit to the sovereignty of God, without murmurings, but in humble relinquishing of control to Him with a long-term perspective. Pray for God’s peace, love, joy and blessings on a lost world longing for what is good, right, and just.
Can you answer the question ‘Why do bad things happen?’
But all sinners will be destroyed; there will be no future for the wicked. The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. – Psalm 37:38-39