On Easter Sunday I asked our congregation and guests to submit questions they had about God, church or the faith that they would want me to address in a new message series. Of the many topics submitted, one that kept coming up again and again was the problem of evil. This is often sighted as the number one reason given why people walk away from the faith. It was asked a few different ways by church members, all a variation of the same question:
“If God is good, why do bad things happen?”
“Why do bad things happen to good people?”
“How can a good God allow bad things to happen to good people?”
If you want a specific example of evil to use as a reference, how about the church bombings in Sri Lanka? Easter Sunday 2019, as Christians worldwide gathered and celebrated the beauty and wonder of the resurrection of Jesus, Christians in the South Asian country of Sri Lanka were mourning because on Easter Sunday morning eight bombs went off in Christian churches in a coordinated attack, killing and woundings hundreds upon hundreds of innocent people. So, if God is all-loving and all-powerful, how could He let that happen?
We need to address this issue on two levels, the theoretical and the personal. On a theoretical level, the question itself (how can a good God allow bad things to happen to good people) has holes in it. Bad things – bad for whom? What you curse as a defeat someone may be thanking God for simultaneously as a victory. Good people – who is really good? Are you comparing yourself to Jesus or to a brutal dictator? Who is really good? The assumption behind this phrased question is that God’s chief aim is our happiness. If we’re not happy or if things aren’t working out for us, therefore something must be wrong with God.
But this issue is not just theoretical, it’s personal: why did God allow my parents to get divorced? Why did God allow him to abuse me? Why did God allow my child to die? Why did God allow me to get cancer?
Several years ago I conducted a funeral for a young man that was shot and killed in a nearby city. His sister went to my church, it was a mix-up of some bad characters, but he was literally in the wrong place at the wrong time. As I sat with the family trying to process just how to try and make sense of any of it, let me tell you, the last thing they wanted was a theoretical discussion on why God allows bad things to happen. It was personal for them. And it’s personal for you.
It’s why so many people leave the faith: they can’t reconcile the evil in the world, the pain they’re personally going through, with a good, loving, Heavenly Father that they read about in the Bible. The pain and evil are there, they can’t deny it, so in their minds, it must be God that’s a lie.
In upcoming blogs I’ll share my response to this question, but I wanted to give you the first crack at it (yes, even my faithful band of atheist commentors who will use this as an opportunity to proclaim your disbelief in God). How would you answer this question: Why do bad things happen to good people?