Making Sense of “Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People”
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the
Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting
The first draft of my latest devotional, Pain as a Starting Point, is currently being read by several different pastors and theologians. I wanted their input about its context and feedback about its theological soundness. So far I have heard from two individuals. This process is both scary and exciting as I read the incoming responses. Both gave thoughtful feedback with excellent theological points. One noticed that I didn’t include a discussion in the book about why bad things happen to good people. He’s right. I avoid this thorny issue in the devotional, although it has been a question that has bothered me over the years.
I experienced severe trauma as a young child. It was brutal and nearly shattered me. For many years I cried out to God and asked why he allowed this to happen to me. I often wondered, “Was God there?” And, “Did my pain matter to him?” For a brief period of time I avidly read World War II novels. I felt a kinship with those in the stories who experienced suffering or loss. There were often examples of God’s heroic saves which made me wonder why I didn’t qualify for his intervention.
As I have wrestled with why any of us suffer, and in particular why I experienced this traumatic event, I have to come a conclusion. God never meant us to experience sin and evil. The lovely paradise he created for Adam and Eve was intended to be our home. Humanity’s rebellion caused us to be cast out and forced to live east of Eden. Now all of earth groans with longing for God’s redemptive work (Romans 8:20–21). As my dear friend, Dr. Kevin Baird of Legacy Church, points out, the better question is: “Why does good happen to any of us?” Maybe it is God’s goodness that is the intruder in this fallen world, not the bad stuff that happens to each of us. He finishes his point by reminding me that our “good” moments are evidence of God’s amazing work in a fallen and desperate world.
I shared this thought with friend who took it one step further. She pointed out that God is in the business of “trade-ins.” He takes all the terrible things in our lives, including our sinfulness, mistakes, disappointments, pain, and losses, and exchanges them for something wonderful. Then my friend began a beautiful list of examples: love instead of hate, justice instead of injustice, joy instead of sorrow, mercy instead of punishment, living instead of dying, and salvation instead of damnation. As I contemplated her list, I was moved to tears. I am so grateful for God’s amazing trade-ins!
God was with me when I experienced evil all those years ago. And, he is with me now, no matter my circumstances. I constantly experience his “trade-ins” as he brings healing to my heart. His love is so large; I cannot grasp its height, depth, width, and breadth. It is undeserved and unearned.
Thanks to God’s amazing business of trade-ins, I have a comforting reassurance that one day all of creation, including my heart, will be completely healed of its brokeness and restored from sin.