Thursday, October 8, 2015

Why Bad Things Happen To Good People

For years, I have been trying to bring one of my best friends to Christ. I have not been forceful and have not shoved it down his throat. It's been lots of spontaneous deep conversations when the subject arises, lots of bible references, and lots and lots of prayers. He is a textbook Christian. He knows all the answers and he's rehearsed all the lines, but when it comes down to placing his faith in Christ and truly giving his heart to God, he can't.

He was abused by his mother as a child. “She was a severe alcoholic who would force me and my brother to be her personal slaves until my dad got home,” he told me once, “She never wanted dad to find out.” This went on for years before his dad returned home on a Christmas Eve night and witnessed her passed out drunk on the couch with the boys hiding in their closet. “I just have a hard time believing that the God you describe would cause all that,” I remember him saying, “And if He does cause such things, I have an even harder time understanding why.”

I didn’t say anything because I didn’t know. And I still haven’t completely solved the mystery, but I’ve been thinking about it since that day.

A few nights ago, one of my friends started reading a book for her religion class entitled When Bad Things Happen To Good People. The book touches on a few theories that are commonly used…the same clich├ęs we accept as answers today.

1) God gives us what we deserve.

I find absolutely no truth to this. Any Christian believes that Jesus died a brutal death on the cross for our sins so that we may live with Him forever after our Earthly death, and that He is working to prepare a place for us in Heaven. The whole point of this concept is that He is forgiving, merciful, and loving. We do not deserve the grace that He gives us, but because He loves us, we are able to receive it. If God gave us what we deserved, we would all rot in hell where we are doomed. But He isn’t heartless. He is a loving and gracious God that will save us from eternal misery. And all we have to do is believe in Him and attempt to love Him the same way He loves us.

And even if He did give us “what we deserve,” what child ever deserves abuse from their own parent? What child, what woman, what person deserves any type of abuse at all?

Whether it’s abuse or not, many of us have experienced pain so deep that we would not wish it on our worst enemy. If God wouldn’t wish that type of suffering on His enemy (THE enemy), how could we think that God would cause the same suffering to His own children? Why would our loving Creator make bad things happen to us to show us that we are unworthy and undeserving? That goes against literally everything that we Christians say He is. It is the complete opposite of love. It is also the complete opposite of Christ.

2) God has reasons for making things happen but we cannot understand those reasons. 

This can be comforting to us, and there may be some truth to this, but I can’t help but think it was just the easiest answer to the ever present question. No, God did not design us to understand everything He does, but it isn’t very humble and loving to throw tragic curveballs like child abuse into our lives to demonstrate His power and show us our lack of understanding. That couldn’t be His purpose. It is easy and convenient to say that it’s all a part of a bigger picture that we can’t see, but in the moment, we never care about the big picture. We are angry, frustrated, and torn apart by the pain we are experiencing now, and have very little interest in what He has in store for us later. And He knows that. Patience may be a lesson He’s trying to teach, but He wouldn’t use something like abuse to teach it. He would use something a bit more temporary or find a better way, like any good teacher would.

3) God causes suffering because it is educational. 

I don’t even know what to say to this one. To me, there is nothing more screwed up than this theory. Studies have shown drastic changes in teaching principles over the years, including ways to teach patience and discipline to young children. None of these ways involve suffering. Teachers are not even allowed to spank their students anymore, even privately, and new parenting techniques have stopped teaching the “appropriate times” to spank. They have actually begun to discourage it altogether. Because suffering is a scaring mechanism, not a teaching mechanism. Does spanking work? For some, yes it does. It sure worked for me. I was so scared of my parents being disappointed in me, I never even threw a temper tantrum. But looking back, I am aware that I was only well behaved because I was afraid of getting caught, not necessarily because it was the right thing to do. So now, instead of spanking and other forms of “discipline,” children are taught to “use their words.” Teachers are now trained to encourage children to talk about what’s going on, discuss what was wrong with what they’d done, and discover the various consequences on their own. Communication is key. This causes them to learn discipline and become aware of what might happen if they continue doing wrong. This teaches patience and self-discipline rather than using pain and suffering to drill it into their minds.

When I first read this theory of suffering, it was like reading about the effects of spanking. It didn’t make any sense. It still doesn’t really. Just as spanking arguably does nothing but defend a teacher’s impatience and rage towards a disobedient child as a disciplinary technique, it only seems like this theory is meant to defend God when bad things happen, not to explain the consequences or even to comfort you in your time of need. It seems like it is nothing more than a sorry excuse for shielding God’s plan. First of all, God’s plan stands on it’s own. Second, it certainly needs no defense from us. What’s ironic to me is that God made an entire universe, all the Heavens and the Earth, and made humans last. I sincerely believe that part of that reason was so we wouldn’t get in the way. We think we know everything! And the truth is simple. We don’t. God doesn’t need our help. He never has, and He never will. It’s best for us to accept this now.

Let’s go back to a point I made earlier. Communication is key. Just as children must talk to their teachers and one another to learn and grow in integrity, we must also talk to God and our brothers and sisters in Christ to learn and grow in our faith.

All these theories fall short of an adequate answer. When we are told that “God gives us what we deserve,” our instant thought is “What did I ever do to deserve this?” When we are told that God causes suffering because it is educational, we want to know what exactly we are supposed to be learning from our pained experience. And when we are told that God has reasons for making things happen, we want to know the reason; we want to know why we can’t understand, and why He won’t reveal it to us. After all, that would make things easier, right? If we could see the light at the end of the tunnel, it wouldn’t make the darkness seem so dark.

The problem with all these theories is that they assume that God is the source of our suffering. That is an absolute lie.

Earth is not a perfect place like God designed it to be. Inevitably, bad things are going to happen. And while God is all powerful, He does not sit up on a cloud in Heaven dictating what heartbroken woman will get ovarian cancer and what precious child will die of SIDS in order to preserve the mentality that “God only gives you the struggles you are strong enough to handle.”

After the fall, God was no longer in complete control. The world became a mess of total chaos, and another force entered the scene, demanding control and fighting as hard as he could to get it. Satan. God is not responsible for suffering. Satan is. And why does God allow it? Because He took a chance. When He created Adam and Eve, He took a huge risk in creating men and women to have free will. Could He have made us without free will? Of course. He could be in control of everything if He wanted to be, but if He was in control of our emotions, we would be physically and emotionally incapable of loving Him. Love requires a selfless devotion, not forced affection. He is in control, but we are in control, too. And because we are not perfect and we are vulnerable to Satan’s attacks, He must find silver linings in every bad situation to attempt to show us that His love still exists and He is still there. That’s where the mentality that “God causes suffering and painful situations to show how deep His love really is” comes from. God does not cause suffering, so for as long as it exists, He must work with what He has. The bottom line is that Satan is delusional and actually thinks he has a chance of winning. If God always had complete control, Satan would’ve given up a long time ago. Adam and Eve would not have sinned, and the world would still be perfect. It would’ve been foolish for him to continue. But no, he won’t give up because he believes he has a chance. We, as Christians, cannot give him that chance. We must not allow him that victory. And it starts with not doubting and blaming God for the wrong done to you in this life.

“But you still haven’t answered the question completely,” you say. I know I haven’t. I’m getting there. You don’t just want to know why bad things happen, you want to know why they happen to good people. Why does suffering happen to those who don’t deserve it? Why do you work so hard to obey God and live for him and you're the one with the diagnosis or the major financial problem, when people who don’t serve God at all have nothing wrong with their life?

My friend and I got to thinking. If bad things are going to happen, why doesn’t God prevent them from happening to his children and direct the suffering to bad people? Well, think about it. If Christians were not tested, we would not grow. There would be no relationship built on trust, love, and surrender. If suffering never happened to Christians, there would be no faith. There would be no hope in Heaven, no faith in Christ, and no waiting for a happy ever after.

Not to mention… Why would Satan target the ones he already has? This is the biggest thing to remember. Satan isn’t here to make his followers’ lives miserable. He is here to take us down. He is here to ruin a Christian’s love and desire to serve, and make us faithless. He can do this through many, many ways, but the major things are sin and suffering. Suffering causes us to lose faith and demand answers from God that are not always His to give, and sin is the most powerful way because it requires forgiveness, a mercy that is not so easily given out. And you don’t just need forgiveness from one person… One sin always requires at least two acts of forgiveness (God, and the person your sin directly affected), and often many more.

The good news is… If God is not responsible for our pain, we can skip being angry at Him and run to Him for comfort. Like a father with a broken child, He is there to soothe our woes, mend our hearts, and dry our tears. And we have all experienced pain. It makes some people bitter, but it makes most of us sensitive and compassionate toward one another. So if we would just stop blaming God and handle things a little differently, pain can even bring us closer to one another. And it can bring us closer to God.

Maybe you’ve lost a child. Maybe you’ve been forced to file for bankruptcy. Maybe you’ve been diagnosed with a deadly disease, lost your job, or just had a traumatizing breakup with that guy you actually thought it was finally going to work out with. Whatever you’re going through, I know it feels like failure. But it isn’t.

The first thing to remember is that it isn’t your fault. The second thing to remember is that it’s not God’s fault either. And the most important thing to remember, is that it is Satan’s fault. He has targeted you so that you will fail; so that you will give up. He has targeted you because he is jealous of you, because of how beautiful you are and how much wonder you bring to this world. He has targeted you because he is afraid of you. Yes. Afraid of you. With God on your side, you are stronger than he is. And that’s just more than he can take.

We have to stop running from the source of our strength, the creator of our beauty, and the Lord of the universe. The sooner we stop pointing fingers in the wrong direction, the sooner we become even more powerful than ever before. I know it’s hard. I’ve had as much heartbreak as the next young lady. But I also take peace in knowing that pain is only temporary, and love will last forever.

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