Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Why do bad things happen to good people? And my answer is....

I don't know.

I know that sounds like a cop out to a question that everyone asks at some point, but an answer like that is less an answer and more of a submission to the One who does know why. But since it is asked over and over, let me attempt to shine light on it.

First of all, you have to look to see if the question is even a valid one to ask. What are bad things? Who are good people? Does this question really even make sense?

What are bad things?

How do we characterize what a bad thing is? This may seem obvious, but when you dig a little deeper the answer grays quite a bit. Losing your home to a foreclosure seems like a bad thing. But is it still a bad thing if, before, your life was full of constant stress because you couldn't pay your bills and the foreclosure caused you to move to a smaller house, get your finances are in order, and for the first time in years, relax? Losing a job seems like a bad thing. But what if it frees you up to take a risk and you end up doing something more fulfilling than before?

Now, I'm not saying that you don't experience grief and struggle when these things happen. These things are stressful and emotional things to go through, especially when you get to things like death or abuse. They can take months or even years to work through. The truth is, though, the event is not what makes something good or bad. It's our reaction to it.

God says in Isaiah 55:8, "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD." While some people attribute bad things to Satan, ultimately, everything passes through the hand of God. God allows bad things to happen sometimes to strengthen us, sometimes to purify us, and sometimes to grow us. We learn who we truly are in times of struggle. We also learn to rely more fully on the Lord in those times. God gives us pain so that we are qualified to do His work on Earth. Without experiencing pain, we cannot empathize. Without feeling lost and alone, we feel no urgency in serving and loving on others. Without being neglected, we don't understand the need for unconditional love and acceptance. God uses our pain to spur us on to do greater things for Him and each other. The only way a bad thing can really be a bad thing is if we sit in our grief and don't submit to the lesson it's trying to teach us.

Who is good?

This one trips up many people, even lifelong Christians. What is a good person? What is good?

If you asked twenty people to make a list of what makes a good person, would everyone's list be the same? What if among those twenty people there were an evangelical preacher, a neo-Nazi, a man starving to death in New Delhi, a suicide bomber, a stay-at-home mom, a gay activist, a militant feminist, and someone that works as slave labor on a Chinese assembly line? How would you tell which list was right? How do you tell which list is more or less valid?

So who out there is good? Jesus spoke on this in Luke 18:19, "'Why do you call me good?' Jesus answered. 'No one is good--except God alone.'" So even Jesus didn't consider himself good!

But you say, "wait a minute...I'm a good person. I have a job, I pay my bills, my kids turned out okay, I stay out of trouble." You may even say, "I give money to charity. I volunteer in my kids' classroom. I visit my grandmother in the nursing home once a week."

Those things are great. But let me ask you, have you ever lied? Have you ever had sexual thoughts about someone you're not married to? Have you ever broken a copyright law? Have you ever hated someone? Have you ever gossiped? Have you ever hurt someone's feelings? God knows every tiny thing about you, better than you know yourself. If Jesus wasn't "good", then how can anyone else be good?

So the only valid question is...why does stuff happen to screwed up people? And the ultimate answer to that is to grow us toward Jesus. God lets nothing happen that can't bring Him glory in some way. We have to be open to learning, growing and surrendering. Which can be hard in the middle of a crisis. But we have a God that will never leave us, nor forsake us. If you keep your eyes on the cross, good comes out of every situation.

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