Why Does God Let Bad Things Happen?

Just because things aren't perfect on Earth, doesn't mean God doesn't exist. It doesn't mean He doesn't love us, and it doesn't mean He isn't watching out for us.

Introduction

Tuesday, I was all in my feelings about the mistrial in the Michael Slager case. I tried to make myself remember that only one of the twelve jurors seemed to think it was OK to shoot a fleeing man in the back, not once, but multiple times (side note: in my opinion, the black police officer who saw that the taser was nowhere near Walter Scott's body should be on trial as an accomplice). Of course, that doesn't ease the hurt of knowing that one person can halt the delivery of justice when a black man has been shot by a police officer. Meanwhile, 2 million more people voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump,[1] but the man who ran a campaign that incited racial violence is our president-elect. Seems like in both cases the system is working against black people. That's why it didn't surprise me when I saw so many comments and responses to the mistrial on Facebook when I logged on.

One of my friends posted the beautiful response of Walter Scott's mother, a proclamation of her faith in God and her strength to continue on. The comments on the video reflected a sentiment I've heard all too much it my life. They all boiled down to rage against God for letting bad things happen. So many people lose faith, or never gain faith, because they don't believe a good God would let these things happen. In the "woke" black community I see an even stronger aversion to God, with people blaming God for the enslavement of our ancestors. Reading those comments, I was moved to speak on the issue.

The issue is basically a cake made up of three layers: false doctrine, confusion of good and evil, and a sense of entitlement. Now bear with me, because we all fall into these traps—this isn't an indictment on people, but an attempt to show how what we are taught and how we feel create this disbelief, and an answer to some of the question broached.
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False Doctrine

People seem to think God is a fairy godmother waiting for us to wish on a star so He can grant our wishes. People quote "ask and ye shall receive" (Matthew 21:22) or "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13) so much, that our image of God is that He just wants us to have what we want. When someone dies, we are quick say God has failed us, because we asked for them to live and for Christ to help them survive. We totally neglect John 11:25: "Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die." It's just another instance of picking and choosing what verses we want to believe and how we interpret them. If you believe the whole of the Bible, death isn't the end. Further, unless we live to see Jesus come back, we're all going to die some point; that's the price of sin.

We also tend to link sin with "bad people." If I say someone has sinned or is in sin, people assume I'm calling them a bad person. When a person like me says we're all going to die a first death because of sin, people are quick to talk about how good of a person the deceased is, but I'm not suggesting otherwise. We all sin. Abraham sinned, Moses sinned. David. Peter. Everyone in the Bible sinned (except Jesus). It doesn't mean we're "bad" people. The notion that because we haven't committed what we consider "major" sins, such as murder, give us a false sense that we aren't sinners so we should live long, healthy lives and reap the benefits of our "goodness."

Lots of preachers today are known as what has been dubbed "prosperity" preachers. They talk about all the great things that will happen if you follow Christ and stay true to God. According to them, life is a cake walk if you trust God: your bills will get paid, you'll find the spouse of your dreams, you'll be successful at whatever you do, and everyone around you will build you up...

Is that what happened in the Bible? Does the Bible not say that in the last days God's faithful won't be able to buy or sell (Revelation 13:17)—if you can't buy or sell, how do you pay bills (that's buying a service), how do you get paid (that's selling a service)? Was Jesus married? Paul? I'm not saying you won't find a spouse, but if the Bible were a Disney movie Christ would be the prince and the Church would be the princess, any other romance would be considered a subplot and likely not get a lot of air time.

Speaking of Disney movies, our society has us believing the good guy always wins in a triumphant victory, and then rides off into the sunset with his girl. We forget that Christ is the victor, not us. Most of the disciples ended up in jail or crucified. They weren't "successful" by the world's standard and they certainly weren't accepted by the world. So, why are people convinced that because Mr. Scott's mother (or anyone else) has strong faith, God will stop every bad thing from happening in their life? 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that God won't let us be tempted by more than we can handle; notice that He doesn't say He won't tempt us at all...

Job is my go to guy, for almost every thing in life, and is a perfect parallel for this situation. Job was a righteous man. God loved Job, and Job loved God, but the devil thought Job only loved God back because God gave him favor. As much as I hate to play devil's advocate, the devil's point of view makes sense. I'm sure if I'd lived during Job's era, I would have thought something like "yeah, sure, it's easy to be all righteous when you're being fed with a silver spoon."

Think about it: we are the bride of Christ, so you should always think about faith as a relationship between you and God. Love comes easy when the other person gives you everything you want and need. However, we know that men can get irritated with their wives because they talk through the football game and women can get irritated with their husbands because they don't want to spend 4 hours in the mall picking out the perfect towels. I know both of these are overly stereotypical; I'm exaggerating to making a point. The truth is, you're never going to be 100% satisfied with your spouse; they're going to do something you don't like at some point. That's the price of having free will and independent thought. What keeps people together is the fact that you're choosing to love the person (this applies to any relationship really). God doesn't want us to be gold diggers, claiming to love Him simply because He gives us everything we ask for. He wants us to choose Him. That's the whole point of Him letting Satan screw up Job's life; He proved that Job would trust and choose Him despite his pain and misfortune.

God knew that Job had done nothing to deserve the misfortune that befell him. God knew that Job loved Him, but He wanted to prove to the world what that love meant—that's why we know the story today. In the end, Job ended up with more blessings than he'd had before his trial, but people often forget that he still had to live through the trial. Do you think that just because God gave Job more children he forgot all about the children that died? Satan thinks that by wreaking havoc in lives of God's children, we will leave God, that's why he wanted to torture Job. Satan's goal is to steal as many from God as he can—even if you aren't joining a Satanic temple to worship the devil, the simple fact that you turn away from God is a victory in Satan's eyes. The easiest way to do this is to get you to question God's love.
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Confusion of Good and Evil

Let me ask you, how do you define a good person versus a bad person, and how do you assess a good action from a bad action? Right or wrong, some people in the country believe Micahel Slager was the good person, and Walter Scott was the bad person. Clearly, one the jurors believed killing Walter Scott was OK. We don't all have the same definition for these things, so who is right? Will we ever agree?

An Evil Guy

Most of us will agree that Hitler was a bad person; bad is an understatement. We feel this way because of what we know he did. Would we have felt this way in say, 1930? Would it have been a good action for someone to have killed him before he rose to power? Perhaps instead of outright murder, an illness claimed his life, would that have been better? If Hitler had died before he became the infamous murdering maniac he was, it would have been considered a tragedy and there would be absolutely nothing to make us say "he deserved to die." His mother would have felt the same pain that Mr. Scott's mother is feeling now.

I'm not suggesting Mr. Scott could have turned into a murdering machine later in life. I gave this example to remind you that how we view an action is completely relative to what we know. As humans, we have limited information. No matter how many different news sources we keep up with or how close to the victim/murderer we may be, our opinion of good and bad is based on biased information. God on the other hand knows all the information, that's why He's the only one able to judge good and evil in the end. The jury may acquit a murderer, but God will handle the final judgment. For all we know, God has an even worse fate lined up for Mr. Slager.

With the knowledge we have, it's easy to say what we think would have been a better outcome. Yet, we don't actually know how changing an event alters our current realty. Remember, if an event never happens, we loose every thing we learned from it. Now think, what did we learn from Hitler and World War 2?

Hitler didn't invent anti-semitism. He didn't even invent the idea of eugenics (the process of weeding out undesired genes to create a "superior" races of people). Had Hitler not shown the world the damage these ideas could cause, would California still be a hotbed for researching eugenics?[2][3][4] Would someone else have picked up that torch? If the US hadn't bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, no one would know the harm radiation from nuclear bombs does after the initial explosion. We may have seen nukes fly back and forth across countries, resulting in even more people dead, before anyone realized the danger if the weapons had been delayed for the next war.

I'm not saying these things are good—they're horrific moments in humanity that should bring shame and saddness—but everything happens for a reason. We can't see what would happen if different events had played out over history. We don't know if it would have been better or worse. God does. I choose to trust He took us down the best path, despite our subconscious determination to do as much harm to one another and the Earth as we possibly can. Outrage over the death of our black men is going to serve a higher purpose, you can believe that.

An Evil Time

Since the issue and the comments were more specific to black people, I want to address the issues brought up about God and slavery while I'm talking about the ambiguity of how life works. One of the commenters said slavery (assumably the enslavement of Africans in the Americas) was proof that God didn't exist. Really? Were the Israelites His chosen people? Were they not enslaved for 400 years? Interestingly, we too were enslaved for around 360 years (roughly 1503 to 1865[5][6])—history has a way of repeating itself... Of course the same logic goes for slavery that goes for what I said about WWII... What would the world look like today if slavery had never occurred?

Well, for one, I doubt the United States of America would have ever existed. Part of what made America financially stable was the fact that it had a free source of labor. The ideas of freedom of speech and freedom of religion (albeit, only for white men at the time) would have never gained popularity, because America wouldn't have existed. The Catholic Church would probably still be torturing people who dared to disagree with them. Would Europe have relinquished the colonies in Africa, Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Americas? Would they have ever been inspired to lead a revolt, or would Europe still be greedily consuming these countries resources while decimating their people? If the US never grew in to a super power, what would have happened when the world went to war?

Another obvious consequence would be the erasure of most of our own existences. Let's face it, as black as we claim we are, African-Americans are, on average, about 20% white.[7] Chances are, most of us wouldn't exist because ol' massa wouldn't have been able to rape our great-great-great-great-grandmother. Sure, she might have still had a child, but it would not have been the same the child. Furthermore, all of the inventions by slaves would probably not have been invented; why invent stuff you don't need?

We're so content to focus on one detail, we forget there's a bigger picture. Regardless of whether you look at our lives from a religious point of view or from an atheistic point of view, we are but a speck in the grand scheme of things.
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Entitlement

I know, I know, you still want to know why so much bad stuff happens on Earth. It isn't satisfactory to simply say God is providing us with a choice or that these things happen for a reason. It doesn't really make us feel better that the Bible clearly shows bad things happening to good people, either, does it? Why can't we just be happy?

3But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 4In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.2 Corinthians 4:3-4
Well, have you ever stopped to think about who's running the show here on Earth, and why?

We've been taught to think in terms of black and white, not just racially, but for good and evil too. Good always wins, and evil always loses. Yes. In the end. But it isn't the end yet, is it? We're in the middle of the story! Right now Satan is the ruler of this world; that's why bad things happen. The world rejected God when they crucified His Son on the cross; the message was "we want to do it our way."

We want to tell God what we will and won't do, but expect Him to swoop in and save us every time the world plunges into chaos. We don't want prayer in schools. We don't want "In God We Trust" on our money. We don't want "under God" in our pledge. We don't want to take the whole Sabbath for rest and worship. We don't want to give up the things God has said were bad for us. Yet, suddenly, when tragedy strikes, we feel like God has wronged us because He didn't intervene. That's entitlement...

Like I said earlier, we all sin. I may not be a cold-blooded killer (or even a warm-blooded killer—does that exist?), or an adulterer, or a thief, but I'm not perfect. Therefore, I do not deserve a perfect life. Adam and Eve chose to eat the forbidden fruit. Now, we're all born with the knowledge of good and evil and the freedom to choose. If I choose wrong, my actions don't just affect me, they affect everyone around me. Eve's choice affected Adam. Together, their choices affected Cain and Abel. Cain's choice to be jealous killed Abel. Could God have put a bubble around Abel to protect him? Sure. Could God have struck Cain dead the moment the idea crossed his mind? Sure. Of course, then we wouldn't have free will. If we had no choice in the matter, that would make Him an evil dictator. If you could make your spouse stay with you forever and only do what you wanted, but on the inside, they though to do differently, and you exercised your power over them, would you be a good person? Conversely, if you gave your spouse the freedom they deserve and they chose to betray you, are they entitled to your forgiveness? Do you owe them anything?
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The Battle Isn't Over

Just because things aren't perfect on Earth, doesn't mean God doesn't exist. It doesn't mean He doesn't love us, and it doesn't mean He isn't watching out for us.
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References

  1. Wolf, Richard. "Clinton's popular vote lead surpasses 2 million". USA Today. November 21, 2016
  2. Black, Edwin. "The Horrifying American Roots of Nazi Eugenics". History News Network. September 2003
  3. "Introduction to Eugenics". Genetics Generation. 2015
  4. Cherney, Isabelle. "The History of Eugenics in the United States". Crieghton University. 2016
  5. Adi, Hakim. "Africa and the Transatlantic Slave Trade". BBC. October 5, 2012
  6. Wickham, DeWayne. "Wickham: Do you know when slavery began and ended?". USA Today. February 10, 2014
  7. Gates, Henry Louis. "Exactly How ‘Black’ Is Black America?". The Root. February 2013

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Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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