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Why Does God Let Bad Things Happen?

January 18, 2010

Recently, a friend of mine had a discussion with a doctor about a patient who was terminally ill.  It was a young man who had a family seemed to have a full life ahead of him.  To the doctor it seemed like such a waste for him to die.  He asked my friend, “it seems so senseless for a man with so much going for him, many people who loved him, and so young, to die. What’s the point? You believe in God, why would he allow this to happen?”  I think this is a tough question that most Christians will be asked at some point (if they share their faith).  It is certainly worth our time thinking about how to answer such a question.  It is also crucial for our own spiritual walk to understand why bad things happen, so that when we go through them, our faith will not be shaken.

There are probably at least a hundred different ways one could respond to the question “Why does God let bad things happen to people?” Depending on who you are talking to and what they are going through you could choose one of many different approaches.  If we were to boil this question down to its core I think there are some flawed assumptions here. Here are three:

1. We Can Judge God

At the heart of this question is the assertion that God is wrong for allowing “X” to happen. This assumes that humans can judge the rightness/wrongness of their creator. The reason why this isn’t possible is that in order to call something right or wrong you must have a standard to measure against. If there is no God and we are the product of random chemical combinations, then “right” and “wrong” have no meaning. If we are to hold this view then in this situation the young man is just the product of nature eliminating the weak. This man had no purpose except to exist. If one holds this view, the “purpose” for this mans illness is not a relevant question.

If we reject this idea, and hold that we do indeed have a purpose and there is such a thing as right and wrong, then we must attribute it to a source that is outside of the effects of this natural world. There must be something/someone outside giving purpose to life, and defining right and wrong. We refer to this person as God. Since it is only God that exists outside the sphere of influence of creation, it is only God that can establish “right” and “wrong”. Since humans are inside creation, we have no basis to set right and wrong. Remember, without God we are left with the theory that everything is the result of random chemical reactions.

So, it is fundamentally flawed for the created being, man, to point the finger at God and tell him that he defined right and wrong incorrectly. We would have no knowledge of right and wrong apart from God’s standard. So, when it seems to us that God is acting “wrongly” we must reassess our view of what is wrong. God is always “right”. What else is there to judge to?

“But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Romans 9:20

This argument is particularly relevant to people who say “I don’t believe in God because He allows evil to happen”. This statement is fundamentally flawed because without God there is no such thing as evil (or good). If there is such a thing as “evil” then you must have a standard for defining it. That standard is set by God. So my return argument is, “the very fact that you KNOW the difference between good and evil, proves that there is a God!”

2. If Bad Things Happen, It’s God’s Fault

The second flawed assumption is that evil in this world is the result of God. It is not fair to blame God for bad things that happen. Yes, God is sovereign and in control, but His wrath is upon this world because of OUR sin. After man chose to rebel against God and go our own way God cursed this earth (Gen 3:17). This world conspires against us. The very soils resists cultivation and requires hard work. There are constant plaguing diseases that steal our health and our lives. This is part of the curse that came when man chose to rebel against God. Adam and Eve did it, and each one of us does it every day! We are all copious in this.

Most people in this life think they are basically good people and that God owes them a nice, long, comfortable life. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth. We deserve nothing except fiery hell this very moment! Jonathan Edwards states this so well:

“The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up.” (From “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”)

What people should be amazed at isn’t that God allows someone to die young, but that he allows an unregenerate, unrepentant, rebellious enemy to ever live, enjoy His creation, breath His air, have a family, or wake up this morning. He owes us nothing. We take His unbelievable mercy and common grace, thumb our noses at it, and turn around and accuse Him of wrong doing.

Sickness is in this world because of man, not God. Someday Jesus will come back and abolish all sickness and disease. The real disease that is of concern between now and then is the terminal disease of sin, and everyone is infected. God is much more concerned with curing us of this condition. We all are in dire need of a cure. God in his love and mercy provided a cure in the form of Jesus who took it all upon Him on the cross.

3. There can’t be Any Purpose in This Happening

We cannot know God’s purpose in everything.  He sees all ends and knows everything. Who knows how he may use this situation (or any other bad situation) to work and accomplish His secret purpose. It is clear from scripture that God works through all circumstances, even bad ones. He even used the murder of Jesus to accomplish the redemption of those who believe!

As a mere man I can see some things God is doing in this specific example.  Out of this circumstance He has already, provided one of our church Elders the opportunity to speak into the lives of these individuals and share Christ with them. He also provided my friend an opportunity to have discussion about God with this Doctor. Also, He is growing my friend and helping train her how to grow in these discussions. We can be sure He is at work. We must rest and trust in His sovereignty and know that even when it looks bleak He is in control.

As Christians, we have the unique promise from Romans 8:28 that God works all things together for good for us. Remember it is only the believer that doesn’t remain under the wrath of God.

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