This week we share in one young person’s cry for help and see if we can offer some advice, and perhaps in the process we’ll see if we don’t find some help four ourselves as well.
Katrina writes, “Why do bad things happen to good Christian people? I have been in church all of my life (I am 17) and have been saved since I was about five. I have ever so slowly been drawing away from my faith simply because it seems as though bad things keep happening and when I pray I seem to get no response. In youth group we were discussing why God doesn't always answers our prayers and by the end of the night the conclusion that I drew from the teacher was that it’s because I don't believe enough—I have to have faith. But how am I supposed to have faith when I pray and nothing seems to happen? It seems like in the last year or so several major things have happened in my life (i.e., I moved, my cousin died, my new best friend moved, my brother got his g/f pregnant and now I am an aunt and they live in the basement of my house) and it is kind of like, where is God? Everyone thinks I am this spiritual giant, but I am crying out inside, because it feels as though I have no connection to God. My friends ask me questions and I have no answers. Possible because I have no faith myself.”
It’s been the perennial question through all time: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Nearly every scholar believes that’s what the biblical book of Job was written about. It’s related to the question the disciples asked Jesus when they came upon a man born blind: “Is this man blind because he sinned before he was born or because his parents sinned?” (John 9.1-2). And it’s been asked ever since.
It seems to me, in most cases, that when the question is asked there’s an unspoken expectation that faithfulness to God equals good things happening and bad things held at bay. Unfortunately, that’s as far from biblical truth as you can get. A quick read through the stories of the Bible makes this more than evident. Abraham was told to leave his home and go to some unspecified land (Genesis 12.1). Joseph was sold into slavery (Genesis 37). Moses ended up in exile for forty years (Exodus 2). And let’s face it, even Jesus, the son of God, wasn’t spared difficulties and sufferings—right up to a most horrifying execution.
But that speaks of a reality—and Katrina is apparently well aware of the reality of suffering. Her question is, “Why?”
The first thing to remember is that many of our difficulties are really only a matter of perspective and attitude. Katrina’s best friend moved away, which may seem like a bad thing; it may even feel like a bad thing. However, the reality is that the relocation itself is a neutral event that Katrina experienced as loss.
On the other hand, some difficulties are indeed “bad things” that happen us and there is a simple reason for most of it: sin. The vast majority of our difficulties are self-inflicted from lousy choices we make, or from bad choices someone else makes and we become a victim. For instance, if I lose my temper at work, I lose my job. Then I run out of money and I can’t pay my bills, so my power gets shut off and I end up evicted—all because I lost my temper. My sin, my consequences. Then there are the sins others commit that impinge upon us. Someone drinks and decides it’s okay to drive home “just this once” and they hit and kill a five-year-old on a bicycle—the five-year-old was innocent, but someone made a bad choice.
And finally, another reason bad things happen to good people is because life happens. For instance, if it doesn’t rain much and the recreation industry flourishes, then the farmers suffer drought. If it rains a lot and the farmers get a bumper crop, then the KOA campground is empty and the owner looses her home because she can’t raise the money for the mortgage. The farmers pray for rain, the campground owner prays for sunshine, and God gets blamed either way.
Someone once said that difficulties are lessons that we’re destined to repeat until we learn—and when we do, another lesson comes along for us to learn. Paul wrote that “All things work for good” (Romans 8.28), but he also wrote that suffering produce perseverance, and perseverance produces character, and character produces hope (Romans 5.3). In other words, every bad thing can work to our good if we’ll use it as a lesson to develop our character.
Which doesn’t make it any easier to endure.
So, what is God’s part in our suffering? Scripturally,
except in the rarest occasions, it isn’t to
take it away or even to lessen it. Instead,
we are called to trust that God is walking with us
and that if we’ll listen and learn, we can
be assured that our character and our spirits will
grow and mature, just as God has planned all along.