Dealing With An Intimate Encounter With The Bad Things In Life
In a world equipped with an abundance of medical awareness, unsurpassed technological resources, and instantaneous powers of communication many people wonder why bad things in life keep on happening. To answer this question, Christians quote John 10:10, and then blame all bad things on the “thief,” the “deceiver,” that old serpent called Satan. However, the unbelievers are more likely to quote Colossians 1:16, and then claim that a sovereign God must by default be responsible for all things that happen “in heaven and on earth, both visible and invisible.”
No matter which answer you accept, the primary problem continues to exist: Why is there so much pain and suffering, and how can a mere human being come to terms with the power of an intimate encounter with bad things in daily life?
Surrounded By Bad Things
If you examine the daily news, you must also ponder the evidence of incalculable hurt in a world that is equipped to eliminate the causes of the hurt. Our medical marvels surpass the imagination, yet the offspring of the human race passes away at the hand of diseases already defeated. American technology can reach the planets, yet territories exist in which people continue to reside in rat-infested tents along septic-clogged waterways. The power currently placed in the hands of Americans orders the structure of our cities, the epoch of our times, and the entirety of the earth, yet adolescence gangs keep on robbing, raping and killing old and young alike – even at our own front door.
Where lies the answer? What is it that so significantly holds back our triumph over desolation and hopelessness?
Is it because God is responsible for the bad things in life? If so, there is nothing we can do to change the outcome of our efforts. If anguish in the human race is the will of God, our lot is settled. The bad things shall not end until this phrase of creation has run a full course. Even Jesus said that the poor would be with us always. In an imperfect world, it is sometimes difficult to comprehend how it can be under the management of a perfect God.
So how do you convince a man, woman or child, saved or lost, who is in great pain due to one or more of the bad things in life that “…all things work together for the good of those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose,” (Romans 8:28 KJV)?
You say God rules in love. You say God only wants what is best for us. And then you say to that hurting person that God’s sovereignty compels mankind to bow down before him even as you quote verse after verse of promises as yet unseen. The message is loud, but the works of the church and the world lack effectiveness, efficiency, and any restorative value. After such watered-down help, the person in need may find it easier to believe that a sovereign God must stand responsible and therefore accountable for the agony of daily life on this planet. In deed, that suffering soul may become resentful toward God.
And why should they believe our promises. We turn our heads from the poor. We build new barns for storing our wealth while all around us the hungry, and the cold, and the broken continue to multiply? We speak words that we do not honor. We make promises and then we break them. We preach a pretty message, but even our own hearing is hindered by the nature of the flesh and the nature of the world around us.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world,” (James 1:27 NIV). And then we offer nothing to ease the pain.
Why do bad things happen in life?
I don’t know all the answers. I could give you pages of theological verbiage. I can tell you how time heals all wounds; of a place we going to go when we die; of the necessity of permitting wickedness a time of free reign. But… If you are among those currently “feeling the pain,” such explanations do not provide solutions. And a promise of what is to be does not ease this temporal pain.
Theory does not return life to the body of a dead loved one. Doctrine puts no food in an empty belly. Words pay no house payments. And blaming it all on Satan merely relieves mankind of any responsibilities in the matter.
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
They say that if someone has the power to prevent an evil but chooses not to use that power, then the decision not to use the power applied application of the power. In simple terms, it means that if you could have done something but choose not to act, your lack of action is an action. But can mankind “box” God into such a concept? Do we even have a right to question his decisions? And if we do question his decisions, can we really expect an answer? And if we do receive an answer, can we really expect to comprehend the mind and thoughts that produced the action or inaction?
In the days of Nineveh, Jonah wanted God to punish the Ninevites for the harm they had inflicted upon Israel. Thus Jonah was displeased when God forgave their sins. The bible reports that Jonah went out of the city, made a booth to shadow his head, and then waited there to see what would become of Nineveh. And as he waited, God brought forth a gourd and grew it tall to give shadow on the head of the angry prophet. Yet the next day, God smote the gourd and it withered. The sun rose, the ease wind blew, and without the gourd to protect his head, Jonah wished himself dead.
“And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, [even] unto death. Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and [also] much cattle?” (Jonah 4:9-11).
As sovereign ruler, God is responsible for all things in life. Yet this must be considered in the sense of a God who permits mankind to have free will. Although he always makes decisions according to his own purposes, he typically limits himself to working through the often selfish choices made by the creatures whom he created to become his children.
Thus God is always in control of the events in both the physical and the spiritual world. We may not understand his plans or his purposes, and we have not right at all to call him into accountability. But know this: If we are to get through the bad things in life, we must trust in his goodness, his grace, his mercy, his wisdom and his love. And, although we cannot control the choices made by others, we can and should seek to align our own decisions according to the words recorded in Scripture and according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
You may not be able to end the suffering of these days. But let us each strive to add to our faith a “helping hand” to those in need.