Saturday, September 29, 2012

Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen

My wife & I were watching what seemed like a two-hour-long movie on TV. We didn't know until about three-quarters of the way through it that it was a movie sponsored by a purportedly “Christian” organization. The storyline focuses on a male teen about ready to graduate from high school with full scholarship to the university of his choice. He was a likable youth, popular in school, star athlete, highlight at every party, and easy going. He was not the least bit religious and thought of religious people as emotionally “needy” and just plain strange.

Then, in quick succession, his life takes a number of bad turns. He finds out his girl friend is pregnant and his parents are getting a divorce, and some of his close friends turn on him (I wasn't quite clear on the reason for that.) Through a series of events, he finds himself willingly talking with a religious youth counselor. The young man says he isn't religious and feels very uncomfortable in the setting. But after a while he lets his guard down and pleads to understand why all these bad things are happening in his life. (At this point, I had to chuckle--he in effect tries to shirk his own responsibility in the matter of his girlfriend being pregnant and implies that God should have stopped it!)

But the real “stick in  my craw” (aka, annoyance) was what the youth minister said in response: “Nobody knows why God allows bad things to happen to people.” What about you? Have you ever heard a reasonable explanation as to why God allows bad things to happen, or have you also resigned yourself to the answer that there is no answer? It really is not that big a secret but apparently people are not being taught it by their religions. And no, this is not based on mere personal interpretation. It is based on solid research and reasoning and simple scriptural principles that anyone can understand.

The springboard scripture I like to start off with is 1 John 4:8,9. There, John, a man who personally knew and spent extensive time learning from Jesus, said that if we've made any other conclusion about God except that he loves us, we really do NOT know God at all. Then he goes on to talk about one tangible way God demonstrates his love--by allowing his son's life to be put in harms way to provide a ransom for us to live. So God (Jehovah) went to great lengths to demonstrate how much he cares. To illustrate: Imagine you have an adult son whom you treasure and love as much as your own life. You both are on a fishing boat when you notice a large ship sinking. You both are skilled fishermen and very adept swimmers. You want to throw a lifeline but your son dives in the water to save as many as possible. He is able to save many, but stops breathing in the process. You drag him aboard and after several tense minutes, you successfully resuscitate him. Although he willingly gave his life, you had the knowledge and power to bring him back again. But it doesn't negate the sacrifice you both made to save others.
That is what God and Jesus did.

some might say: "But if Christ’s life “saved” us, why are we humans still suffering? The human condition hasn't changed before or after Jesus came to earth.” Part of the reason that may be true in their lives is that they still haven’t found the true global brotherhood of believers that are unitedly living in peaceful co-existence amidst a world in chaos. For the time being, that Christian brotherhood is source of real peace and comfort. They also have not yet discovered just how concrete and tangible a benefit it is, to have an accurate understanding of the Bible. Having those two things helps people finally make sense of what is happening in this world. But what about the fulfillment of Jesus’ words at Matthew 5:5? It reads: “Happy are the mild-tempered ones, since they will inherit the earth." That time will come but in the meantime there are issues to be resolved--and these are the big reasons why God has allowed bad things to continue on earth.

There are two lies that Satan told that needed time to be addressed. The first issue is a lie Satan told the first humans (Adam & Eve). He said that God was selfish and wanted all power, knowledge and control to himself. Satan told Eve that there was a way to enlightened freedom--by disregarding the direction God had given them.
Have we humans successfully, happily set our own standard of good and bad and been able to have human rule that truly satisfies everyone? No, instead, mismanagement, unfair treatment, adamant disagreements, oppression, war, and much more have gone from bad to worse. Yet mankind still insists they can work out their own ways. Just look at the promises being made by politicians and world leaders today. In lands espousing democracy, each successive political candidate promises to “fix” what the prior administration hadn't fixed--and yet it never gets fixed. What conclusion are more and more people coming to realize from this? Just as the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah wrote: “"I well know, O Jehovah, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step." (Jeremiah 10:23)

The second lie that Satan said is mentioned at Job 1:8-11. This time, he attacks mankind as a race, claiming in front of God that the only reason some people are faithful to Him is because of the personal benefits they receive. Satan claims that humans are basically selfish and have no pure motives for trying to befriend God. Yes, Satan taunts God every time we selfishly pursue a wrong course. This is the reason God encouragingly reminds us: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me.” (Proverbs 27:11) So Job, and others like him down through history, have proven that even in the severest of trials, they will not disown God or compromise their integrity.

There is much more that can be said about this, but those two main points help to answer the reason why God has continued to allow wickedness to exist. First, it has taken all these centuries, all the different forms of human rule, all the individuals with their new ideas, to come forward and prove Jeremiah’s words as true--we really cannot rule ourselves successfully. Second, it also takes time for generations of people to come and go in order to build up a mound of testimony that there are indeed people that would go so far as to sacrifice their own life in order to prove that they unselfishly love God and humbly obey his direction.

In the meantime, because mankind has chosen and continues to choose an independent course, God allows the suffering we incur from our own choices to affect us. However, as mentioned, He provides the both the Bible and the true Christian brotherhood to help us cope. So now the question comes back to you (each one of us). God didn't make the provision of his Son’s sacrifice so that only a few people would benefit. The apostle Peter, another close associate of Jesus, wrote: “Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) This is yet a third reason why the conditions in this world continue--God is patient with us collectively in the hopes that some individually will come to a realization that they need to get their lives right with God. Does seeing the issues Satan raised make you want to take a stand on God's side? What can you do besides living a "good life"? If you'd like to know what is expected of us, I'd be happy to discuss that with you. But please note, just as in the past when God has acted against disobedience, at some point his patience will run out for this world. At some point, loyal ones deserve and will receive the benefit mentioned at Psalm 37:10,11.

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