Faithful Questions:Why do Bad Things Happen?

Meredith Bee

I was very curious when I heard the chapter title “Why do bad things happen?” because I have wondered this question almost every time something bad has happened to me. Pondering this question, I would usually settle on the answer that good could not exist without evil and that they balance each other out so evil is somewhat necessary. And I can’t help to think how boring life would be if everything was good, and there was no danger or uncertainty in the world. In this chapter of Faithful Questions, they discuss seven different answers to the question “why do bad things happen?”

The first answer they propose is that God causes people to suffer because they have done bad things. This answer still leaves me wondering about natural disasters and diseases, surely not everyone stuck in a hurricane deserves that disaster and not everyone who has cancer deserves it. The second answer they propose expands on the first one by stating that even if someone does not get what they deserve on earth they will get eternal punishment or reward in the afterlife. The idea of eternal punishment is hard to swallow with the idea of a loving God for me. These first two answers leave me feeling like I need a more adequate answer than just punishment and reward.

Another answer they pose is that God presents us with adversity in order to teach us, and help us to grow into the people God calls us to be. This answer makes some sense to me, I do think that through adversity we can find our calling and become better people. On the other hand, I agree with the authors when they state that this answer does not let someone suffering acknowledge their pain, but rather directs them to view their suffering as helpful and good for them. This idea that suffering make us better seems to be good motivation when you want to improve yourself but it’s doesn’t seem comforting to say that to a starving child. The last answer that they produce is that evil does not come from God but from some other source. This answer I can get behind, although it brings up other questions. Like the authors state “If God does not cause evil, does God allow it?” And if God is all powerful and allows evil is that not the same thing as causing it? At best all of these answers they provide seem slightly flawed, so can we ever truly understand why there is evil in the world?

In the later part of the chapter the quote from Rabbi Greenburg really struck me. Rabbi Greenburg explained his trouble reconciling the events of the holocaust with his understanding of a loving God. He then explains how he realized that he didn’t need to ask why, but needed to ask where. Rabbi explains that when he started asking “where was God during the Holocaust?” He concluded that God was with his people suffering. By sending Jesus to live amongst us and then to be crucified we know that God will always be with us through pain, death and all adversity because he has already experienced them. I really appreciate the call to action at the end of the chapter for us to not question why there is evil but what we can do to counter the evil we see. This is a great motivation to me when I feel like the world is against me, to instead focus on what I can do for the world makes my attitude much more positive. This chapter didn’t really change my theology but it definitely reinforced my attitude towards the evils of the world.

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