I’m sure you’ve asked, “why would a good God let bad things happen?”
I’ve asked it many times in the last 20 years and here’s what I found… (I am sure there are other resources better than mine, but here’s a small insight.)
It’s easy to play the blame game for anything. Something or someone doesn’t meet our expectations so we blame them for the unhappiness we feel and the limited perspective we have. It’s easy to take your emotions out on anyone who doesn’t fully satisfy the desires of your heart. When we ask “why does God let bad things happen” I always refocus my mind not on the fact that God didn’t meet my expectations, but that He Himself came down to Earth to experience the world’s greatest suffering and is present in my own. Everything Jesus went through, we go through. His perfection and presence on Earth didn’t take away anyone’s bad decisions and evil behavior, rather He rose above it’s ugliness. He had to live at the expense of it — and so will we.
And if we want to go deeper into this truth, this sacrifice of the entire Christian faith, we can, but we can sum up the whole point of the Christian faith, and Jesus dying on the cross in one sentence;
Suffering is real. Suffering is unavoidable. Suffering is life.
Suffering is real and many people won’t let you believe it is. People can assume God is sunshine, rainbows, a “cute” message, and a genie. Parents tell their kids the world is theirs and everyone will love you and protect them from all evil. People tell each other to just, “think positively,” and “no worries!” and, “good vibes only,” when really, it’s not that easy. To repress emotions, and to bottle them up — in a petri-dish with the lid sealed on — only let’s the sadness and hurt multiply and mold up. Jesus Christ was the only man in history to show us the realness of life and that God works in the suffering — not running away from it. Jesus showed us that suffering is real, it hurts so bad, it is far from rainbows and sunshine, and it is painful, but we must not be afraid of it because God is stronger than it.
Jesus could have ran from his cross. He could have repressed it, puffed up his chest and said, “no biggie I got this!” No, He asked God to take it away from Him.
He could have fled the country, in fact, way before it happened he knew that his friend would betray him and his followers would leave him, but he didn’t run from befriending them, he still befriended them and shared memories with them.
Like, if he knew it was all going to happen, why wouldn’t he just avoid it, run from it, flee the country and get on with his life in safety like Simba did in Lion King?
Jesus knew this wouldn’t solve anything. He knew running from the suffering wouldn’t fix the suffering. And He didn’t repress the sadness, bottle it up, but cried, sobbed, wept, and felt it all for what it was. He knew facing it head on, with all the strength he could have (even he fell three times during it) was the only way to tackle what life threw at Him. He didn’t make his followers go to battle for Him and start a war over it, he said, “this is my body given up for you” and did it all Himself as a leader for us all.
If anyone knows what it is like to be an innocent victim of suffering, it’s our boy, Jesus.
The misconception of suffering can come from the lack of realization of this. If we don’t know the truth about who Jesus is, there is no way we could fathom the suffering in the world. There is no way we could try and begin to understand death, violence, hurt, and bad things if all we’ve ever heard our whole life is that, “God is perfect and omnipotent.” It’s only until we contemplate the depths of Jesus’ entire life, and the savagery he lead with, that we get a taste of the meaning of suffering.
Jesus didn’t tell us it would be easy, and He’s one of the only people in history to lay out that truth that we don’t want to admit is true and who promised to never leave us when we need it.
WHEN they insult you and persecute you because of me, you will be blessed in my eyes. (Mt 5:11)
“Truly, truly, I say to you, you WILL weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you WILL be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.” (John 16:20)
“And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.” (Mark 8:12)
It’s about the relationship.
God is not out of tune with the laws of nature. In creating the world He gave us free will, He gave the nature of life and gravity and science the power of their own “free will” too. In His efforts to be non possessive, respectful, non-invasive, not controlling, and freeing (such a gentleman). He shows that every accident has a result, and He can’t go back on that law (unless He chooses to perform a miracle in us with our prayers, asking, and cooperation.)
But, He DID promise to always be there and in whatever happens He will not leave. Some of us will encounter God by means of suffering, which is better to experience than to never experience Him at all. God himself suffered (as Jesus) in ways we all will — and that much more. Jesus was perfect, and still physically suffered many, many injuries and emotional turmoils like betrayal, mockery, and hurt. What did He do about it? Endured, strengthened his faith and communication with His Father, and fought the good fight. He asked why, and for strength in his weakness and anxiousness. He didn’t sulk and do nothing, he fought hard. And if our humanity is anything like Jesus’, which it is, we will always fight hard. To be like Jesus is the goal, and when we have to fight hardships, we meet grace for what it is. We are introduced to things we see as “our worst fear” and realize how small our fears really are in comparison to God’s grace at work in us.
What kind of people would we be without suffering? WIMPS.
It’s about being there. It’s about leaning on Him. So often we want a quick sign, and a tangible answer, and the stars to be written with our names on it, and to know what our horoscope will tell us about how we will feel today and tomorrow, and if it is right we have security and peace in that. But God is not asking us to seek other solutions besides HIS peace and love. In his wisdom and creative power He knew those things could never compare to walking with Him.
A lot of people will say, “why did God do this to me?” and it breaks my heart. He didn’t do it to you, the world did it to you. The bad choices and sins of others did it to you. We blame God and give “the universe” the love He deserves when “the universe” is actually the enemy.
The laws of imperfect gravity did it to you. The imperfect humans did it to you, and their locked up hearts. The world has fallen nature to it, no ounce of perfection lies anywhere in this life except in God’s spirit of overwhelming love which is stronger than anything else this world has to offer! Period.
God knows that what we go through will shape us as strong fighters, and lead us closer to His heart. When people say “why did God do this to me?” I imagine God seeing what hardship is coming our way and saying, “my daughter/son is so strong, and I will help him/her get through this. It is not what I want for him/her and it is not the end.”
Friends become best friends by sharing in their stories together and by being vulnerable and intimate we grow. If we spend our whole lives running away from that vulnerability with God – whether in anger, frustration, sadness, misunderstanding, and more – we will never understand the question of, “why is there suffering in the world.” Marriages suffer immensely and if spouses chose to ignore the emotions and hurts with each other and never hash it all out then the beauty and relationship dies. It would never mold the two into awesome, strong, and virtuous people.
“We must be touched by the Father in order to experience, as the prodigal son did, that no matter how wounded we may be, we are loved. And not only are we loved, but we too are called to heal and to liberate. This healing power in us will not come from our capacities and our riches, but in and through our weakness. We are called to discover that God can bring peace, compassion, and love through our wounds.” -Jean Vaniver
Suffering unites people together
I know intellectual answers fail to answer the pain and confusion we feel at the expense of suffering, and even worse, to admit that we think God doesn’t even care about us. But pain does not equal bad. Pain can equate to good. Do you think that it’s at least possible that God permits pain and suffering for a good reason?
The gym, working out, and personal training.. painful, no doubt, but permitted because it brings about a healthy and strong body.
The dentist, surgery, and giving birth… painful, no doubt, but the results are excellent and beautiful and healing.
Think of authors and directors of big movies and books. We never shun them for making movies with “bad” things. It would never make for a good story. While they are not literal characters in their stories, they write knowing the power of suffering will make for awesome, heroic, and loving characters who we look up to.
When it comes to other things like hurricanes, tsunami’s, and more, there is room for the community to come together. Heroic leaders can impress us and change us and give us hope. Friendships can form the moment the two bond together over sorrow. Coming together as a family in mourning the loss of a loved one. Spending money on relief efforts and charities to open our own hearts, and to allow our own self to grow. These things, at the expense of sufferings, shape the people who express them, making them more faithful, compassionate, and merciful human beings.
God is outside of space and time and see’s the long lasting effects of Earth. A hurricane can have lifelong good that might arise from it for the future. So sometimes we can’t see the effects, we can’t know the change, but we wonder, practice patience and trust, and ask God to show us.
Death. The worst suffering of all.
We suffer deaths everyday via breakups, shows ending (RIP The Office), friendships ending, the day ending, and obviously; literal deaths. Ripping our heart into 1,000 pieces, where do we turn for comfort to fill the void the emptiness in us?
When it comes to literal death, I am comforted in knowing the ONLY solution and hope the world hears when it comes to death is that Jesus rose from it. He died, and resurrected. DEATH… that thing that means, “the end,” could NOT end the God of the Universe. It was NOT powerful enough to remove Him from the world. The Christian faith reminding us to have faith and hope in the fact that Jesus’ death is not the end, and that we WILL rise again, is the most comforting message wounds of death can hear. Like, these things HAPPEN to us, but they don’t have the last word. And if you are baptized in the grace of God’s power He shares this gift with you. It is YOURS.
But, I know, that doesn’t remove the pain it leaves for the rest of your life. So, feel it, cry in it, breathe in it, talk about it, experience it. You will know it by it’s seriousness and face it with the hand of God guiding you. It can never be said enough, “faith doesn’t make suffering easier or take it away, it just makes it possible.”
Again, Christianity is the only institution in the world that will, IN FULL HONESTY, tell you that suffering is REAL and serious. That it’s own leader new it and overcame it. That it is unavoidable and has a powerful remedy; God. Experiencing Him touch the wounded crevasse of your beautiful heart is far more astonishing than seeing Him cure the world of all suffering. Why? Because God is a personal lover who wants to love YOU over anything else. Life is not to avoid pain, but to know the God of all our heart’s longings.
In no way, shape, or form am I God, so I really don’t know the answer to all of this fully, but I do know that He is there, He is real, He is wise, and He died to show you how much He loves you and wants to remain with you in that love forever.
Your friend praying for you.