Why do bad things happen?
Oh gosh, where do we even start with this question?
Because it’s huge, right?
I mean reeeeeaaaaaaally huge.
We have been asking this question since the beginning of time, and I doubt we’re about to stop anytime soon. It’s one of those questions that has a thousand answers while also having zero answers.
But, nevertheless, we’re gonna go there.
But first, I want you to know that as you read this article, you’ve been prayed over. I know that this question is not only huge, it’s deeply personal. It’s not only mind-blowing, it’s truly heart-wrenching. It’s not only complicated, it’s utterly emotional. And so- I prayed for you. I prayed that as you clicked onto this page, and as you read these words, and as you process them in your own way, that God would wrap himself tightly around you and be with you, moment by moment, word by word.
So, there’s that. He’s right here with you, wherever you find yourself. You’re not pondering this mighty question alone, not anymore.
So, with that in mind, here goes.
Here’s the first thing to know- suffering, evil, darkness, the bad things that happen, they were never a part of God’s design for this world of ours. They’re an invasion, they’re not supposed to be here, and they won’t always be. In the very last book of the Bible, God gives us a little glimpse of what his plan for our world was, and what it will look like one day. God tells us that one day he will ‘wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain’ (Revelation 21:4).
In other words, the bad stuff won’t be welcome. It’ll be shut out for once and for all and it won’t be able to touch us anymore.
And that gives us a clue about what God thinks about suffering, he hates it. He doesn’t shrug his shoulders, he doesn’t just look the other way, he doesn’t pretend he can’t see it. It’s the opposite, he plans to kick suffering’s butt for good.
So, there’s that. But there’s more to this question, isn’t there? If God hates evil, why does it exist?
Well, the bitesize answer is- our world is broken.
We’ve mentioned the very last book in the Bible, now let’s head to the very first- let’s take a pit stop in Genesis. The Bible tells us that God made the earth, and it tells us time and time again that he made it good. And then, he made us.
God made us and then he gave us freedom. You see, God loved us (still does, by the way!) and he wanted us to love him right back. He made us to be in relationship with him, to walk and talk with him. To know him, to love him, and to know that we’re loved and known by him more than we could ever get our heads around. And that kind of love can only be possible with freedom. Think about it, if love is forced, is it really love? If you have no choice but to love someone, do you really love them? Love was, is, and always will be a choice. God doesn’t force us to love him, he gives us freedom.
And here’s the thing- the freedom that we have, it can be used for love, but it can also be used for harm. The possibility for good always leaves open a possibility for suffering. The choice to do the right thing is also the choice to do the wrong thing.
And time and time and time again we’ve chosen ourselves over God, we’ve chosen harm over love, we’ve chosen suffering over good. And that’s left our world broken. Here we are, less-than-perfect people wandering around a less-than-perfect world. And it hurts us.
The Bible never shies away from this, it never ignores this reality.
In fact, as soon as humans messed it up, the very moment that they chose harm over love- Heaven went into planning mode. Jesus came into this broken world of ours- he lived here, he loved here, he suffered here, and he died here. Trust me, God gets suffering. He knows it well.
I can’t lie, there’s a whole lot of mystery to suffering. We will never fully and completely understand the darkness in this world in a way that will satisfy our confused hearts. God sees things we don’t, knows things we don’t, understands things we don’t- and this is one of them. When he’s speaking to a guy in the Bible called Job (Job is another guy who knows suffering better than most), he says…
‘Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell me, if you know so much.
Who determined its dimensions
and stretched out the surveying line?’
In other words- ‘Look Job, I was there when this world was made, and you weren’t. I know things that you don’t. You’re just going to have to trust me’.
Sometimes I think it’s a gift that we can’t quite figure it all out, I often think our little minds wouldn’t cope.
But here’s one thing that God will NEVER allow to be a mystery- his presence, his closeness, his nearness.
Suffering can’t keep him away.
Pain can’t separate us from him.
Darkness can’t hold him back.