If God is Good, Why do bad things happen?

My grandfather died when I was young. I was so sad and upset when I heard the news. I ripped off my shirt, stood on the top of my parent’s garage and screamed at the top of my lungs. The rain pounded on my body and the thunder drowned out my cries. After a few hours, I burned through all the energy of my rage, but the fury of the storm didn’t show any sign of ceasing. The rain that overflowed from my hair ran down my face mixing with my sweat and tears. I began to whisper, “Where are you God? What have I done to deserve this? Why didn’t you save him? I guess you are either not all-powerful or you are a jerk. I hate you.”

We have all been in a place where we question the existence of God. It usually comes from a time when we are hurt or facing some huge tragedy. It’s in these moments we come face to face with an unspoken belief we carry: God will only let Good things happen. This belief is seeped in our culture. We see it in old western movies to cartoons. God does good things, and satan does bad things. Even scripture can feed this misunderstanding.

 “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” -James 1:17

“This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.” -1 John 3:10

When we hold this belief that God is good and only good things come from God, but we experience hurt or pain, our world fractures. This belief shatters under the weight of reality and the sharp edges hurt. But lets play out this belief in our imaginations. What do you think would happen if God only allowed good things to happen? Everyone wins the lottery. No one ever died. Everyone gets whatever they want. You ever met someone who gets whatever they want? We have a word for that type of person: spoiled. Ever met a spoiled person? Not very fun to be around.

Now, what would happen if God allowed only good things to happen to people who were Christians? There would be a lot more Christians, but would they be Christians because of their love for God or the love of self? Would people become Christ followers because of their faith in God, or because of what they get for their devotion? On that note, would there even be such a thing as faith if everyone who believed was rewarded for their devotion with a painless stress free life?

What if God worked for the best of every person who believed in him, but that sometimes meant they would have to experience hurt or pain to obtain or understand it? What if our belief is wrong? What if God doesn’t only let good things happen but instead allows the best thing to happen? What if we misunderstood? What if following God means that things wont always go my way,   but Gods way? That the path of Jesus isn’t the easy path, but the best path?

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” -James 1:2-3

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” -Romans 8:28

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” -John 16:33

What is that? God has overcome the world? Why doesn’t it feel like it when I’m hurting or sad?  Why does it feel that things are out of control down here, and no one is admitting it!?

It’s at these moments we have to understand that our rage and anger does nothing. All of my yelling didn’t stop the storm. All my fist waving didn’t make the rain consider ceasing. The storm continued and outlasted my energy. The pain of this world is not only a reality, but as we just read, a promise from God. We will never be free from pain, until we are free from this world.

There is another part to the promise though. Did you catch it? God has overcome the world. Its when we take that pain, anger, frustration, fear, and give it to God, that we are free from it. Sometimes it’s an easy thing to hand over. Sometimes we are only able to give it up in bits and pieces. Some hurt takes a while to give up. As your faith in God grows, it will become easier for you to hand over the pain this world brings you to a God who has overcome the world.

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” -Isaiah 40:31

When you feel that there is no hope, there is no reason, there is no God, there is no good, only chance and whatever luck you make, hope in the Lord. What’s the worst that could happen? Your personal agenda or pity party gets put off for a few moments? Whats the best that could happen? God could reveal His awesome plan for your life? He could teach you through your pain how you could be come a greater person, lacking in nothing? You come to a divine realization or epiphany about your place on this earth? You renew your strength?

When you are hurt, when bad things happen, do not instantly dive into despair. Consider instead that this moment of discomfort is a gift from God. A moment of ripping something out of your life so that the good can become whole. Just as we prune a plant, so that the fruit bearing limbs can have the most nutrients, God prunes our lives so that the parts of our character that will bear fruit can be more successful.

 When we experience bad things, we have two options:

  1. Hold on to that hurt. Focus all our attention on it. Shake our fists at God, and allow our hurt to simply be a part of who we are. Allowing tragedy to define us. This creates bitter, hateful, hurt people.
  2. Admit we are hurt. But believing that this is not God’s plan for our life, handing that hurt over to God. Allowing God to deal with the effects negative events have in life. Waiting on Him to bring about the Good he has planned for us. Have hope that He is at work for the good.

But, hey, what do I know…

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4 thoughts on “If God is Good, Why do bad things happen?

  1. Thanks for sharing this post. It was an honest and helpful encouragement to teens or anyone who doesn’t know what to practically do with their hurt. I especially loved when you were talking about how God gives freedom from pain as we give it up. I love that hope in my own walk. Keep up the great posting!

    Tasha, The Bridge Chicago

  2. Well you did a great job. In a sense, I’ve had some of the teens I work with at THE BRIDGE ask me for help for the awful circumstances in their life. They have to deal with a lot of awful realities that come from living in an environment of crime and poverty. A lot of them have been victims of terrible things and have seen things you and I wish they could un-see. A couple of things come to mind when helping them with this question. God wants to hear from them and be their Dad in that situation. You did a great job of being honest in your post and this is essential for teens and anyone walking with God. He can handle all the honesty in the world and they will not be able to offend Him. That’s one of the things that makes Him Almighty. He wants this intimacy from us and can handle whatever profanities, anger or sadness you vent to him. Again, you nailed this in your post.
    I also love the “Hope” portion of your post and this is something I make sure my kids walk away with. God hasn’t forgotten them. He’s sorry for their pain. He shares in their righteous anger over the things that were unjust. These things aren’t OK with him. I let the teens know they have a team of people who have their back who they can talk to. This is the key thing because they can take part in the family of Christ we provide for them. I can let them know that they are not alone or special in their pain, that everyone on earth goes through hard times. But having a person walking along side them, listening and granting some hope, that is huge. Lastly, really, I don’t know how to answer the question: “If God is Good, Why do bad things happen?” That’s something God is working with me on. I know that he has changed my life drastically and that’s where the love comes from. The freedom from emotional and spiritual struggles I get from walking with Him is what I know, and that’s what I try to pass on to the teens. Your post was great, keep it up!

    -Tasha, The Bridge Chicago

    • Wow. This is so great. Thanks for your input. Invaluable. It’s evident that God has you in a place where you are on the front lines in dealing with hurting, desperate teens. We are going to cover the “Problem with Evil” in the near future. I know a lot of teens can believe in God, but have a hard time with rationalizing the evil in this world. I don’t claim to have any of the asnwers for all this, and I think it’s crucial that people who work with teens are honest on this front, but are (like you) pursuing truth. It’s all about faith seeking understanding. Keep up the pursuit, and thanks again!

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