If on Sunday I find myself full of hope, high on Jesus, fridge stocked with healthy ambitions, heart full of good intentions, and believing the best in all people, there is always Monday to crush my spirit in case I’m getting too obnoxious on optimism.

Today I am hopeful though. I had my young adult meeting last night with my homies from church, and we tried to tackle the question “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Its a heavy one, to be sure. And it doesn’t sound like one that would leave you with a hopeful feeling. But hear me out.

Why does this happen?

When I talk to people about Jesus, if they don’t believe in God, they often ask this question. We think about bad things on a global scale, like the sex trade, slavery, the Inquisition, hurricanes, etc. Why DO those things happen? I thought about these things..

  • I think bad things can happen because we have free will. God created us to have free will so we could be in a loving relationship with Him, not just little robots. He’s got plenty of reasons not to love us, but He does anyway. And when you love someone, you give them choices and desire to know them personally. And so we get to chose whether or not we want to love or follow Him.
  • This free will means that there are bad choices that can be made. And bad things can happen when you make a bad choice, OR someone makes a bad choice and you are affected by it. For example, when someone is drunk but chooses to drive, they can get in an accident, hurting themselves, innocent bystanders, mother nature, etc. People can choose to abuse power, like the recent sex scandals with football coaches, or Catholic priests, or powerful CEOS, or senators, etc. All your stereotypical abuses of power. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
  • Sin has a trickle effect. I don’t necessarily think that we’re constantly paying for the sins of previous generations, or that it gets inherited; I think that is a mostly Old Testament thing. BUT take for example a child that suffers abuse, who becomes more likely to abuse others, or drugs and alcohol, as they grow older.
  • God can use all things to His glory. I’ve made some terrible decisions in my life, and others around me have done things that have affected my heart and mind. There has been pain. I can get angry about it and feel sorry for myself forever, or think I’ve been cut a bum deal, OR I can use that to reach out to others that are hurting. I can have empathy and love on people in a special way. For example, I can identify with my students who face divorce more than most of my colleagues. I often speak into their lives about my own experiences, and how to push through.
  • God is all-powerful, so technically he can make bad things happen. But He doesn’t. People do. Even big things like world hunger and child soldiers….we want to shake our fists at the sky and shout “Why aren’t you doing something about this?” when really God must be shaking His fist at us and saying “Why aren’t YOU?” We have the resources to end world hunger, cure all kinds of diseases, clean up our oceans, and educate our children…but ultimately people let their greed for money or power or possessions get in the way of so much good that could be done.
Ultimately, I come to the conclusion that…I don’t know anything. I don’t know why bad things happen to good people who I think don’t deserve it, or to bad people who do. I’m just glad I’m not in charge. And that is incredibly freeing. I can’t understand God, or His design and purpose…if I could, that would be terribly frightening.
I need you, buddy

Our pastor reminded us tonight that when we live in the longterm hope of Heaven, everything that is terrible and fallen about this world makes us uncomfortable, and we can long for the next one. If life was always peachy here in Earth, would I bother seeking out a Savior? Would I even think I needed one?

And so I am hopeful. Hopeful even on this Monday, that despite any “bad things” that may come into my path, I can have a better perspective on this fleeting mist of life…I can use it all for God’s glory…I can love and love and love. And that’s what it’s all about.