"Bad Things" - Part I
Okay, so in previous blogs, we’ve realized that bad things do happen to people. And I think that we can all agree that if there was one single answer as to why bad things happen to people, that one single answer would be so simplistic we’d have to reject it in search of something more relevant to the situation that we are, at the moment, thinking of as a “bad thing.” I mean, the answer can’t possibly be the same for everything, can it?
I like to think about the standard answer a parent gives to a child who whines, “Why do I have to put up my toys,” (or whatever the instruction has been): “Because I said so.” While that answer does establish the order of authority in the home (a good thing for us to teach and to remember in our families and in our relationship with our good God), it does little to address the child’s specific complaint at the time.
“Because I said so,” or “Because stuff just happens” is not sufficient answer for the situations of rape or abuse (which includes being bullied); imprisonment for committing a crime; losing possessions in a storm or fire; getting cancer or other terminal illness or having a family member do so; or to being discriminated against, persecuted, imprisoned, or killed as part of a religious, racial, or ethnic persecution.
I just listed five categories above. Though I’m tempted to deal with the first category last, I’m going to go ahead and address it first. In this category, I include rape, abuse (sexual, physical, emotional, mental, and psychological), being bullied, and any other crime against an individual.
Recent statistics show that in this nation, one out of every four women will be battered or sexually abused at some time in her life. In foreign countries, women are treated even worse: some are forced into sex slavery; millions suffer mutilation and so-called “female circumcision” (the old term for what is now known as female genital mutilation); many are raped as part of an ethnic genocide; and yet others face so-called “honor killings.” Why does a good God allow this? Or, even if you reject God, why do these bad things happen?
The key to understanding this is to realize that God has given each of us a free will—the capacity and permission to select our own behavior and beliefs. Even the unbeliever recognizes that humans have free will. Having a free will is an essential part of human nature.
And God will not interfere with the free-will choices that people make, even those choices which harm other people. He is not pleased with such choices; such choices are abhorrent and evil to him; they are sins which Christ bore upon the cross. But for those who reject Christ, their behavior, being their own choice, will be allowed by God, even to their own destruction if they do not repent. God does not make robots of people—believers or unbelievers.
So then, the “bad things” that happen to people, with respect to personal injury and abuse, violation and degradation, trauma and victimization, those “bad things” are not God’s doing, but instead are the doing of people who insist on their own behavior. We cannot blame God for the deeds and behavior of those people. To do so is as unfair as the abuser saying to the battered woman, “You made me hit you,” or the rapist saying, “You wanted me to rape you,” or the bully saying to the smaller child, “You asked me to bully you.”
So, obviously, if these personal attacks are not God’s fault and not the fault of the person who is attacked, whose fault are they? Well, the attackers’ of course. The ones who batter, rape, bully, devalue, denigrate, and otherwise victimize the innocent and, often, weaker person.
Though not forbidding these “bad things” to be done by people who have free will, God does stand ready and able to comfort and heal the victim, to soothe away the violation and heal the body and soul, and to, within the working of the legal system, bring about justice—punishment of the criminal and restitution to the victims, where applicable.
We might ask why God doesn’t intervene in behalf of one who believes in him. Why doesn’t he supernaturally stop the perpetrator from committing that personal crime to and injury of that person who believes in him? Sometimes he has. And sometimes he does. But God, in his infinite wisdom and knowledge, knows when such intervention is essential from an eternal perspective.
I think of the student at Columbine, Cassie Bernall, who was asked by one of the shooters, “Do you believe in God?” Her reply was, “Yes. Jesus Christ is my personal Lord and Savior.” We might think that such bold confession of faith should have earned divine protection for her. Her life should have been spared—right? And what of the life of the other Christian girl, Rachael Scott, who was also killed?
Their lives were spared, when we look from the grander, eternal perspective. Though the shooter shot them and took their temporal lives, they stepped into eternity with a martyr’s crown, as surely as the first century Christians who, at Nero’s hand, faced lions or were burned as human torches or were beheaded, as was the apostle Paul.
As for the martyrs at Columbine, we may never know, this side of heaven, how much their testimonies accomplished in this life in causing their peers and others to seek God. What an accomplishment in a life, for these high school students to stand as a testimony to the reality of God, who welcomed them home in that instant.
There are other times when God may intervene. I’ve heard stories of missionaries who were divinely and miraculously shielded from ungodly attackers and, thereby, preserved to continue their ministries.
But even when one is not rescued from the assault, whatever kind it is, God is always there to heal the wounds and bring the wounded one through to live a full, productive, and blessed life.
The next blog will consider the second category of “bad things.”
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