The ultimate, pivotal question: Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people if He is capable of stopping it?
The question that lacks a clear-cut answer, leading many to turn from all matters involving God. The question that leads to wonder about whether He doesn’t hear our prayers, or whether He just isn’t listening to them. The question that makes many question whether He even is able.
Understanding the answer to this question would be to understand the full nature of God–an impossible task. To attempt to comprehend the full nature of God would be to attempt to count every star in the sky. The nature of God to its fullest extent is left a mystery until His redeemed are called Home, but looking into His Word and the story He has written since Creation reveals at least a glimpse of His character.
Genesis 1: perhaps the most familiar chapter of the Bible, at least for me, as I’ve set out to read the entire Bible multiple (shamefully, too many to count) times (it will happen one day) (the genealogies are just SO HARD to get through) (okay, side notes cease…now). In the beginning, there is…..dirt. But out of the dirt, God created trees, and then His greatest creation of all––man in His own image. He breathed His own breath into the dirt and formed the first member of humanity. The only part of the Creation story that wasn’t yet “good” was the lack of Adam’s counterpart. But when God put Adam into a deep sleep and created Eve from the his rib, all was temporarily good in the world. The goodness ended with the entrance of evil into the story, in the form of the serpent, and Adam’s failure to guard and protect his wife from deceit. He stands and watches her eat the fruit of the tree, disobeying God’s command, which resulted in consequences from God by His justice. At this point, the sinful, worldly nature of man enters the story and changes everything to come.
The story of Cain and Abel is the first story of, what seems to be, complete injustice––the same injustice that causes so many to doubt God and question His role in their suffering. The death of Abel, the righteous brother, marks the first blood spilled in the history of humanity, and yet, even still, God protects the murderer. God places a mark on Cain, the villain of the story, protecting him and warning others that He was his defender. An action that deserved ultimate punishment was, instead, reciprocated with ultimate protection and true mercy.
Noah’s Ark, perhaps the most common children’s bible story, is often overlooked as a provider of insight into the brilliant nature of the Author of the universe. Men had filled the world with so much wickedness through their sinful natures that, if given time, they would have self-annihilated humanity. However, God intervenes in the story and puts an end to the evil by flooding the earth and giving Noah, the only true and righteous follower of Him, the responsibility of packing up what would later become the beginning of a new world. While the rest of the earth was terminated, the drying of the flood marked the beginning of a new man and woman, and a new world. Out of tragedy was rebirth. Out of tragedy was a promise in the form of a rainbow. Never again would God use water to flood the earth.
Finally, the day came that changed the whole story forever, and redefined suffering. Jesus–God in perfect human flesh–took on the punishment for the sin of all humanity to come, and died the most gruesome death in history on the cross. Talk about the ultimate injustice–the ultimate “bad thing happening to a good person”. However, by God’s Grace, this is not the end of the story. Death did not win. Suffering was not victorious. Rather, Jesus altered the concept of death forever by dying for His enemies and defeating His own grave. Empires at this time had been founded on killing their enemies and, consequently, gaining power. However, out of His agape love, Jesus came and laid down His life for those who, most certainly, did not deserve it. He redefined death by defying it, and demonstrating that death on earth is merely a beginning of true life for those who follow Him. Jesus’s death made it so the funeral was no longer the finish line, but rather the beginning of a victory lap.
John 12:24 states:
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
Those who walk the narrow path here on earth and follow our Savior will grow at death and enter a whole new world–a world fully devoted to worshipping our beautiful and perfect Creator. ((eeeek so excited!!!))
While looking into these key points in His story doesn’t provide an answer to WHY we experience suffering, and why God doesn’t prevent it, we are able to better understand His intentions and unshakably loving character. God is not a God that sits on His Heavenly thrown, watching the world from afar. He is a God who physically stepped into the story as human flesh, endured all of the suffering, pain, and darkness of the world, and left His Spirit to be with us every day since Jesus’s departure. He is a God who, despite having every reason to abandon humanity, mercifully provided for and protected Adam, Eve, and Cain. He is a God who, only by His grace, gave new life to a wicked world. In stories that we know so well, it is easy to overlook details that ultimately complete them. It is easy to get caught up in the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the serpent, the expelling from the garden, the paired animals entering the ark, and so-on. But, most importantly in these stories, God is demonstrating His patience, His love, His mercy, His grace, His care, His kindness and His protection. And because of His trials and experiences on this earth–the same earth on which Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah, and you and I live–the God that is FOR us UNDERSTANDS exactly what we are going through, even in our darkest times. The worst tragedy in all of history happened to the only perfect person to ever step foot on the earth, and it turned out to be the GREATEST event the world has seen; God brought the greatest news, the Gospel, the salvation to the world.
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:10
“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
The Word reveals that our suffering is carefully orchestrated by God for the purpose of bringing Him glory, and for our own good. His purpose is unstoppable, and though we may question it, it is always what is best for us. When we stay focused on Him, commitment and confidence in His power, that can only come through trials and tragedy, develop. An unshakeable faith is gained, and our hearts are flooded with compassion for others so that we can be a light to them when trials come their way. If we remain steadfastly focused on God when we face tribulations, what is created out of our hearts is a very reflection of His own heart.