What We Believe

Why Do Bad Things Happen?

An age-old question

A young child with leukemia… a mother struggling to make ends meet with no-one to help her… people caught in earthquakes, tornadoes… the innocent victims of injustice, at school, at home. These are just some examples which might suggest that God lets people suffer pointlessly. We could think of many more similar instances.

And it’s a good point … surely a good and powerful God would not let all the bad things happen? If God is who he is supposed to be (all-powerful, all-loving), then why is it that life is so hard and even unjust at times? It makes no sense!

The honest truth here is that ‘the problem of evil’, as it is called, remains a mystery.

That’s not a cop-out though. A mystery is not something that is incomprehensible; rather, it is something that cannot be explained on purely rational grounds. “Life is a mystery”, Madonna (as in the singer) once sung. She’s right. But that doesn’t mean that life is not worth trying to understand. Including the seemingly-irrational ‘problem of evil’.

We have the choice

Now, natural evil (earthquakes, sickness etc) and moral evil (sin) both exist in our experience, but were not there at creation.

Adam and Eve’s taking of the fruit really messed things up. And God allowed it to happen! That is both the cause and the solution of our problem. God’s gift of free will to us is so great because it makes us great. You can read elsewhere about what it really means to be free. Through our freely-chosen responses, we can mature and actually come closer to each other and to God.

And so: we don’t know why natural evils occur when they do, upsetting lives as they can do. Indeed one must never underestimate the great suffering that many people go through on a daily basis – unanswered prayers, untimely deaths through car accidents or illnesses, broken relationships, hardships at work or at home. In faith, we are able to grasp that this life is a kind of pilgrimage back to our heavenly home. Through the sufferings that we encounter, we can become purified in preparation for the life that really matters (heaven). Sufferings can produce opportunities for the greatest expressions of love. Take the huge earthquake in Haiti in 2010. A tragedy for sure. But literally millions of people mustered in response to the disaster. And they came together, in all the various ways, to bring help, support, love to this crushed people.

How Christ helps

Without going into too much philosophy, we can say that the apparent failure of God to do anything about evil is actually overcome by the death and resurrection of Christ on the Cross. So if we try and stay close to Christ, by getting to know him and imitating him, he will show us the way through all our problems. That is because there is nothing that we suffer which Christ has not suffered first. We are not alone because Christ carries our sufferings even now, on the Cross!

God does not want bad things to happen as such. He simply allows them to take place; we have the opportunity, if we freely choose to do so, of ‘offering up’ our sufferings – whatever they are – to Christ. In turn, he uses them for his own good purposes.

Don’t forget – Christ is just as much God as is the Father, since he is a divine person with a human nature. Somehow, through his own loving acceptance of his Father’s will, in the power of the Holy Spirit (who is also fully God) He overcame all the sin in the world, and as a result brings us with him to salvation, if only we will accept him.

To find out how to accept Christ more personally, it would be worth reading about the power of prayer.

And sin too: even sin can be used to good purpose! This is not a reason to go out and bash your best friend or worst enemy over the head. But the point is, we can learn from our mistakes. Learn what? When we recognise how we have sinned, we experience remorse. But we can in fact use this painful experience to make a decision to do better next time. Gradually, we realise that a much better way is to choose to follow Christ, who heals the deepest divisions of all – those within our very selves.