How could a good and powerful God allow bad things to happen?

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Bart at the cross

Bart was having the horror of his life. For this moment in his life, he wished his eyes would fail. He wished his blindness returned. He was still getting accustomed to the visual life of colour and the beauty of trees, buildings and the faces of people. He looked at the man hanging on the wooden tree mere meters from him. His skin was punctured severally and was leaking torrents of blood. His face was stripped with falling drops of blood from a wreath of thorns on his head. Not long ago, he was begging on the streets, blind as a bat. He had seen the best doctors until he had no money to spend. Until this man came. He remembered how he unashamedly called out to him that day on the dusty streets of Jericho. He recalled how he was commanded by the crowd to be silent as the Son of David was passing. But he couldn’t keep silent. How could he? He had heard of a relative of his whose leprosy was healed. Poor man had been cast out of the family. One encounter with this man and the family received him. He wasn’t taking chances. He was believing. His believing gave him his eyesight that day. The man healed him. The Son of David restored him. He opened his eyes and the blur cleared to see the man who healed him.

Right now, his eyes were blurred again with tears as he saw the face of the same man that cured him. Marred beyond recognition and his body limp, nailed to death.  This was a good man. This was a healer. He deserved nothing short of love, honour and prestige. Bart turned to walk away and muttered bitterly under his breath, “How could a good God allow this to happen?”

You and I at the cross

Do you ever get to a point when you ask yourself, “How could God allow for bad things to happen?” Many times when tragedy strikes we turn away from God. He becomes our adversary because we just can’t see justice in the whole picture. The syndrome is greater when you haven’t received Christ. The general reasoning sounds like this for the unbeliever. If God is good and powerful yet evil is roaming, he should stop it, right? If he can stop it and doesn’t then he can’t be good. Or if he can’t stop it, then he’s good but he’s not powerful. Ever thought about those things? Many times when tragic evil happens we do not understand the reason for certain things? You may ask questions like these:

Why did God allow that man to rape me and get away with it?

Why didn’t God stop the bad guys from winning that court case from the property they stole?

Why doesn’t God just send a squadron of Angels to overcome all the bad dictators in the world?

At times, the questions even tend to be funny.

Why is Paris Hilton rich?

Well, I am not called to defend God. No one ever is. We may defend the gospel, defend our loved ones but not the Almighty. The Lord speaks for himself. He is who he is whether half the world accepts or not. However God does not just respond like this to this issue. He speaks to the heart issues of men and women. I put it to you that when you feel like that, you don’t need a defence and attorney from God. You need to understand that there is a heart issue at stake with us and once we deal with that, we can understand far much more than asking how could a good God allow bad to happen. How? Read on.

Right and wrong

One of the biggest predicaments of the 21st Century is the fight over right and wrong. Societies have evolved (for the worse, I might add) and almost every human with breath in them demands a right. The multiple social fights today are because ultimately someone thinks horizontal and the opposer speaks vertical. Horizontal says abortion is wrong. Vertical says it’s my own body. Horizontal says capitalism rules. Vertical says communism for the win. Horizontal says capital punishment is okay. Vertical says it’s murder. There is a sea of issues. Human societies cannot agree 100% on what is right and wrong.

I have spoken to many people about sexual purity and the word of God. I try as much as possible to address the issue to believers/followers of Jesus first because there is a unanimous agreement on God’s stand. However, I have met professing believers and some unbelievers with whom I have tackled the case differently. Why? Because if you imply that sleeping with your boyfriend is wrong, the generic response would be, “I don’t think it’s wrong. It works for me.”

Do you know what the generic response would be when I ask, “Is murder right?” The answer would be, “Of course not! It’s evil. It’s wrong!” However, If I asked that same question to an Italian mafia whose family was killed when he was a six year old boy he would say, “There’s nothing wrong with murder. Revenge is a game. Maybe you die. Maybe you live.” Why would murder be okay for a man like that? The answer is that it works for him. Why would sleeping with your boyfriend be okay for you? The answer is that it works for you. Do you perceive the similarity between you and the mafia guy? Is there a difference? You may say, of course there’s a difference. He’s a criminal. I’m a citizen. That’s may be factual on the surface but dare I say that both your thinking of right and wrong is similar and in consequence this makes you the same? Dare I say that internally none is lesser than the other? Your perception of right and wrong is similar but your tastes and preferences differ. You may be surprised that the mafia guy believes sleeping with your boyfriend is wrong and that you should wait to get married. And he may be surprised that you think murder is wrong even if it’s for revenge’s sake. Your thinking may be “innocent people will get killed in the mafia’s killing spree.” On the other hand, the mafia’s thinking may be “innocent babies will be aborted in your sleeping spree.” Whether the mafia takes protective measures to ensure nobody innocent is hurt or whether your boyfriend takes protective measures to avoid a pregnancy, the picture speaks the same. Both are fighting to protect their definition of right and wrong. Both are fighting to make it work for them. Both the boyfriend and the mafia are avoiding shooting bullets in the wrong places. Today a lot of definition of right and wrong is generically based on what works for people. There’s a big problem with that.

The problem

The problem is that as we debate on such issues, a greater evil sneaks into our lives. The evil is an anger that boils within us when things don’t work for us. The evil is blaming God. When the mafia is cornered in a street with his adversaries ready to kill him, he will say, “How could a good God allow this to happen to me?” When you find out your boyfriend is also sleeping with your best friend you too hurtfully ask, “How could a good God allow this to happen to me?” But it gets worse doesn’t it? When the terrorist blows up a building and kills thousands, we not only question or blame the “good and powerful God.” We get angry at him. Somehow we feel he is responsible because he was the only 100% sure chance to stop it from happening.

Our responses

Our response to pain and suffering reveals a lot about our hearts. There’s the unbeliever’s response and the believer’s response. The unbeliever in his/her hurt may shoot out and say, “There is no God! If God exists he would have done something!” If the unbeliever is right then there is a bigger problem. Not only is there no higher authority on morality and life but is no right and wrong at all. Why? Without God, all you have is humans on the planet. Since humans can’t 100% percent agree on vertical and horizontal beliefs, then there is no absolute right and wrong. Right will be passed as acceptable by the most powerful not the most truthful. Right and wrong on a personal level will even be based on what works for the particular human and the moral decision becomes a matter of majority wins. But you and I know that might does not make right. Might has never been a proof of right. Majorities are simply majorities not truths. In such a case, all you would need is for a majority vote and rape would be legal. You may say, “Ernest that’s impossible. Humans are not dumb! Rape will never be voted as okay. It’s evil.” Okay, but are you aware that humanity said the same thing about abortion a few years ago. A few years ago the same thing was said about marital infidelity. People said humans are not dumb and there is no way marijuana would be legalized. The same thing was said about war and violence and many other things. Look at it today and tell me whether we are receding or not. Legality is not legitimacy. Dare I say that give humanity a few years and the most bizarre things will be law?

Withdrawing our belief in God during pain and suffering is therefore not only dangerous but it’s impractical. Why? Because whether you accept it or not, humanity has thrived best when there is a clear sense of right and a clear sense of wrong. When there is a supremacy that gives godly, beneficial, wholesome guidance and not a legal framework that simply works for my tastes, preferences and habits, true peace prevails.

The believer’s response I believe is the hardest. This is because the believer is placed in the economy of an all-sufficient God who requires us to trust in him in not only during good times but painful times too. Because all over scripture God says that all things work for His ultimate good. That requires both maturity and humility to accept.

Colossians 1:16-17 “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

God tells us that all things work FOR him.

Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

God tells us that not only do all things work for him but they also work for good. For whose good? For the believer (who have been called according to his purpose). The unbeliever would grasp this only through the eyes of faith through a relationship with Christ. If you’re an unbeliever and the blog doesn’t make sense from here, I guess it’s okay. If you’re a believer, I hope these words can find solace.

Introducing Diagonal

There is a multitude of issues that humanity cannot agree 100% on what is right and wrong. Horizontal and vertical will forever be. But, take heart beloved, we are about to discover diagonal. Horizontal says God is good but not powerful that’s why bad things are happening. Vertical says God is powerful but not good and that’s why bad things are happening. Diagonal presents novelty. Diagonal says God is not only both good and powerful, he is also Holy plus all humanity is sinful and that that is why evil is happening.

Believers must understand that in this world we will have trouble. Jesus himself said it (John 16:33). The false notion that if I’m a good Christian nothing will happen to me is overdue beloved. God does not promise freedom from suffering but he assures us the he will be with us and ensure we make it despite pain and suffering. Jesus said in this world we will have trouble but he also said something else in John 16:33. He has overcome the world for us already.

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

I want you to look at the first attribute of God. GOOD. A good God is not like your good uncle Charles. He isn’t like your good class prefect who became teacher’s pet. A good God can only be witnessed in his most superior quality. The quality vertical and horizontal often miss. A good God is first a Holy God. HOLINESS. A holy God is so holy that checking out the attractive lady’s bum is as bad as adultery. A holy God is so holy that hating someone is as bad a murder. A holy God is so holy that not standing with him is standing against him. A holy God is so holy that even the most moral of human beings deserves nothing short of hell. But you want to know what makes him good? This is it. A Holy God is so holy that he should have killed all humans because they are all tainted with sin but he didn’t. The punishment that every human deserved he took it out on himself and gave us his presence and peace. That’s a good God.

Now if a good God should spend all your lifetime stopping bad things from happening to you at the expense of your soul, where would that take you? God is not a butler. He is not your assistant. He is your God. When pain and suffering occurs, we should remember that it could be worse (not just currently) but eternally if God hadn’t stepped in. When pain and suffering occurs, believers should remember two things. Firstly, the pain and suffering that the Lord took for us and secondly, the result of Christian pain and suffering. The pain that the Lord took for us humbles us. We deserved to be on that cross but he chose to go knowing he’s be crucified. The pain and suffering of today if it reminds us of the pain and suffering of our God, then we will be humbled out of our false sense of morality just because it doesn’t work for us. We will also be strengthened not to lose heart. Look.

Hebrews 12:3 “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Then secondly, the result of Christian pain and suffering is so beneficial and worth it that it can be endured with joy.

1 Peter 1:6-7 “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

 

So will evil just continue hoping the believer will endure? Won’t God still do nothing?

Humanity by influence of the enemy has conjured up new kinds of evil. Together with God’s gift of free will, humanity has used this for evil and diabolical plans. Can God stop it? Yes. Will he stop it? He already has.

How, you ask. He stopped it at the cross. Remember Bart in paragraph one. Bart is short for Bartimaeus as you may have guessed by now. The story of Bart coming to the cross isn’t Biblical. I created the analogy to show something. Bart, like many others stood at the foot of the cross and never understood why God would allow a good man to be treated like that. All Bart knew of God is that he was blind but now he saw. God was a doer of Good. However Bart like you needs to understand that the greatest goodness of God is only through a purging of the greatest wrong (sin). God has done something about evil. From a human point of view, wrong is when I am hurt. From a Godly Holy point of view, wrong is when God is hurt and humans are lost. A human soul that experiences pain and suffering but is headed to the arms of God is far better than a human soul that is shielded from evil and ends up in the arms of evil when he/she dies. You need to see beloved that before God addresses temporal pain and suffering (for all worldly problems are temporal), he needs to deal with ultimate eternal pain and suffering (which is forever). God showed that he is good when he took your whiplashes and hung on a wooden post instead of you. God saved your soul before your soul even hurt. God showed that he is powerful when he overcame the greatest evil (sin, death and the devil combined) and gave an opportunity for eternal life to humanity.

By God’s holy standard, all humanity is wicked. He would love to see wickedness die but it would mean the destruction of humanity (which he loves). Listen to what God says about the death of humans in Ezekiel 33:11 I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!

Look at what Peter wrote again.

1 Peter 1:6-7 “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

During this time, the people in question were about to be fed to lions. Yet somehow in their predicament, they overcame. Why? Their real security was not in insurance from pain and suffering but in assurance of life everlasting. Is your real security in the fact that your life is hidden with Christ in God or is it from the fact that you live in a secure neighbourhood?

Bart stood at the cross that dark afternoon and didn’t understand how could a good God allow that to happen to this man called Jesus. Yet what Bart didn’t know is that the dying and bleeding of that man was the best thing God ever did. Look at your pains and suffering. If God could use an injustice as great as that of a blameless man flogged, beaten and crucified, be assured he can use the injustices around you for good too. Crucifying Christ was the biggest injustice of all history! It was the pain of every rape, defilement, lying, murder, witchcraft, abomination, adultery, craftiness of every human being that walked, was walking, is walking and will ever walk on the planet earth put together and coupled with the worst pain, the abandoning and rejection of the Father. An innocent man was not only punished for the entire world (what he didn’t deserve) but he received the rejection of the presence of God (what he deserved i.e. the presence).

Beloved you experience pain and suffering too, but not as that which Christ did. And even if you were to experience exactly or worse what Christ did, it wouldn’t reach his still because God the Father would never and will never reject you (despite deserving that rejection on account of your sin). He rejected his Son so that he would never have to reject you. He can heal the murder in your family and use it for good. He can heal the heartbreak of the divorce and use it for good. He can heal the death of your loved ones and use it for good. He can heal and use the rape for good. He can. He is good and he is powerful beloved!

However, you must know beloved that God protects us from so many other terrible things that I doubt we even know about. If we did, we’d be more thankful! Also you must know that God is truly seen as Good in the midst of pain and suffering. You may never know light until darkness draws. A friend of mine once said, “At times God takes us through the darkness for us to realize that He is the Light.” The world may never see that their eternity is wanting and that Jesus is the way the truth and the life if all their wish list for pain and suffering was equated to an idyllic life. Also, you must realize that there is a time coming when God will wipe every tear from your eye from the pain and suffering that breaks your heart. He will wipe other people too from the moments you broke theirs. You’re part of the heart-breaking list you know. Lastly, you must know that God never slumbers and like Jesus said “My Father is always working.” (John 5:17) Good will triumph over evil on the final battle as the Lord promises. Good will reign on the day when all Asians, Caucasians and people from every nation will kneel before his majesty. Long live the good, powerful precious God!

 

Comments

Ernest Wamboye is a disciple of Jesus Christ, a husband, a father, an author and a speaker. He has been married to the lovely Waturi since September 2012. They have a passion for youth ministry. Together they minister to young adults on the gospel and pre-marital relationships. Ernest has authored two books, The Human Temple, a novel, and Lust and the City- a guide on sexual purity.

Discussion26 Comments

  1. Considering my busy schedule, I've tendency to ignore or scan through many literature but with this one, its worth my time and attention to invest hrs studying and meditating on it. I'm really humbled to read your masterpiece Ernest!

  2. I like how you’ve handled the theodicy in this piece, but I wonder if sometimes the question “how could a good God do this?" still remains e.g. when a parent loses his or her child. Though I wouldn't know much, I feel that true comfort/some answers can only be found in eternity. I also have a problem thinking that someone died because I needed to learn something from it. Isn’t that promoting an elevated sense of own importance in light of God’s plans? Perhaps we could learn something from such instances, but not be the direct cause and effect.

    Also, have you read the Shack by William Young and/or The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky? Most well-read Christians I know have read the Shack, but the Brothers Karamazov also deals with theodicy. The author famously said that if someone proved to him that Christ didn’t exist, he would rather have Christ than the proof of His inexistence.

    • Thanks for your input Miriam. The SHack is a masterpiece. Haven't read The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky yet. Will search for it. I normally break down the issues in the blog at times to reach to both the believer and non-believer. It may sound a bit simplistic if you've been in the faith for a while. However there are some who need apologetics (accompanied with love) I might add. I love what you said on the author "if someone proved to him that Christ didn’t exist, he would rather have Christ than the proof of His inexistence."

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  5. Great thoughts, great strokes.. I couldn't help but smile as I read through the issue of absolute right and wrong. Dare I ask, do we know such a code? To the point where we can assert to live by it? Perhaps for another blog. Great apologetic here!

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