As humans, we can’t stand to not know the answers to questions. That is why we have science. That is why billions of dollars or more are spent every year on research. We want to know why and, generally, as soon as possible. We like for everything to fit in our labelled boxes. One of the greatest and mysterious questions of all time is, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
You know the question. You’ve probably asked it yourself. You’ve seen or heard or know some great people that have suffered badly. So what have they done to deserve it? After all, they are good people. I’ve thought a lot about this myself and in my own attempt to answer a question so it will fit in my nicely labelled and organized box, I’ve come across some reasons that I believe answer that question. Here are five of them:
1. That’s just the way it is. Part of life is, well, life. Things happen in life and that’s just the way it is. You can’t fight it, you can’t even contain it sometimes. Life happens and we have to deal with it. Sometimes I think, “why shouldn’t that have happened?” Sometimes we think that we should be immune from bad things but that’s just not how life works. I don’t like the uncertainty of life but I can’t do much about it sometimes. It hurts to see someone die “before their time.” I’ve seen it many times.
2. It is deserved. Everyday we make choices. Most of those choices don’t have much of an impact on our everyday life. But sometimes we make decisions that have profound impacts, whether positive or negative, on our lives. Some of those stupid decisions can cause bad things to happen. I’ll never forget hearing the moans of a mother crying for her teenage son who died in a car accident. The son died in a tragic rollover that could have been prevented by better choices. You hate to say someone deserved to die but sometimes our poor choices have inevitable consequences that we must face.
3. It is God’s will. Sometimes this is the toughest one to understand: what is and what isn’t God’s will. Entire books have been written about determining God’s will. God does have a plan and we aren’t always privy to the details. Sometimes, bad things happen to people because that is part of God’s greater plan. When our daughter died at 7 months, that was the toughest thing that had happened to us. As hard as it was, we’ve been able to see God work in many people’s lives. We’ve also been able to know and experience God in ways that many people never have. I don’t know what His entire plan and purpose is but I trust in His will.
4. It is a way to build character. I’ve often heard that when something bad happens, it either makes you better or bitter. How we respond to the bad things in life have a lot to say about who we are and have a lot to do with who we become. That often is where we find who we are. That is our character. I think of going through a tough time like going through a fire. It’s not so much who you are before something bad happens but who you are after something bad happens. It’s easy to be happy and joyful with a great attitude when everything is just as we want it. But the deeper issue of who we are is often defined by the trials we experience in life.
5. Bad things happen so we can be better prepared to help someone else in a similar situation. All of us go through life. We go through life together. As we experience certain events and troubles, it puts us in a better position to help others deal with similar situations. I can’t stand to hear someone say, “I know how you feel,” when they have absolutely no idea. But if someone else has walked in the same shoes, who am I to deny their feelings and experiences? Having gone through difficult circumstances and come out okay, I’ve been able to help others in certain circumstances. Seeing and hearing of someone’s triumph over disaster has a great effect on you and a way of encouraging you. You can’t argue with someone’s personal experiences.
When something bad happens to us, there often is more than one reason why and I have found that several of the above can be true for a single bad event. Accepting what happens to us and making the most of it is a great challenge. Whether it be for the building of our character or the encouragement of other people, may God grant us strength to face life and all the joys and trials that it brings our way. Time to eat two cookies and call me in the morning.