Why Does a Good God Allow Bad Things to Happen?


Today is Martin Luther King Day here in the United States, the day on which we remember this great Christian leader and his incredible contribution to justice.  It seems such an appropriate day to grapple with the question Why does a good God allow bad things to happen? Most of us are still reeling under the impact of what has happened in Haiti and are probably remembering other incidents in which we have struggled to understand the goodness of God in the midst of tragedy and heartache – both personal and societal.

I have been thinking about this ever since Eugene Cho asked the question If there were a God, would he have allowed this to happen, on his blog a few days ago.

And I think that a good place to start is with this video of Martin Luther King’s last speech.

Unfortunately there are no easy answers to the questions about evil, maybe partly because it is nor really the question we should be asking.  I think that a better question to ask is How would God have us respond in the face of evil?

Asking the question Why does God allow evil? tends to let us off the hook.  It puts the responsibility on God and not on us to respond or to prevent the eruptions of evil that are constantly breaking out in our world.  It also gives us a place outside ourselves to focus our anger without feeling personally involved.  

There are many bad things that happen in our world – some of them we are more aware of than others – like the earthquake in Haiti and the death of Martin Luther King.  But others, equally bad things happen in secret – the biggest killer in our world is still poverty, often contributed to by the injustice of inequities between rich and poor.  Even the death toll in Haiti has been contributed to by the poverty of the nation which does not have the high building standards of wealthier nations.  Evidently because of lack of resources and the high cost of building safe structures, poor nations mix a lot more sand with their cement and so the resulting building materials are weaker and the buildings more vulnerable.

Other evils occur in even more secret places.  Children are sold into sex trafficking, women are raped, men, women and children die of disease and war.  All of these are equally as bad as the situation in Haiti, yet they don’t always get the publicity or the compassionate response from our hearts.

I think many of us live in comfortable bubbles in which we are unaware of or untouched by the brokenness of our world.  Either deliberately or unintentionally we shut ourselves off from the evil that distorts our own lives, the lives of our loved ones and even the world in which we live.  So when that brokenness is thrown in our faces as seems to have happened with Haiti, we do not know how to respond. Or we can brush it off with pious platitudes – God’s ways are not our ways or God is judging people for their sins.

Confronting evil in our lives and in our world should draw us deeper into the heart of a loving, caring God who wants to respond and who has chosen us as instruments of that response.  God grieves, with us, in us and through us.  God also responds with us in us and through us…. if we will allow that response.

This morning I watched as 4 people were pulled out of a building alive – after most people had given up hope of any more survivors.  I watched the rescue workers renewed  to new efforts in spite of their tiredness and their own grief.  I thought what a wonderful image of a loving God who will never give up as long as there is the possibility of rescuing one more human being from the rubble of our broken and fallen world.

What, I wonder would this world look like if we lived constantly as instruments of God’s love and compassion?  Perhaps so much of the evil we struggle with would be transformed into love and the suffering of our world would be transformed into God’s joy.

What do you think?

One Response

  1. What a beautiful and insightful post. I agree with you. God’s love is a powerful force, and as we radiate His love to others through service, generosity, and loving kindness, we can do much to heal the world–and, the process, experience peace amid sorrow.

    God does love us and watch over us, but often we experience His love through the loving acts of others. As we serve others–even the least among us–we are truly serving Him. And that is one of the secrets to happiness.

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