"Why do bad things happen to good people?" It's one of the most common questions asked of Christians by non-Christians. Many people of faith hate answering that question. They feel like it's a dead-end question that people only ask to challenge believers because they know there's no solid answer. Personally, I love this question. I think it's a fascinating thought experiment. More importantly, I feel like it is one of the best ways to teach people to see things in a different light. The way I've learned to think about situations from trying to address this question has helped me cope with less-than-ideal circumstances time and time again. So, let's answer an unanswerable question.
The most important part of addressing this question is understanding that we never have solid, factual answers as to why God does anything, or why he allows anything to happen. "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9). God knows everything. With this in mind, we can't assume we can understand why He does what He does when He knows so much more than we do. He knows what the effects of every event and decision will be, and He always choses the best one. He's often looking to bigger and better things in the future that we can't see from our position. So, the simple answer is, "Whatever bad situation you may find yourself in now is always for the greater good of either you in the future, or for other people around you." As true as that is, it's not much of an answer. Instead, this is the alternate mindset that I alluded to.
God loves to use positions of weakness as positions of strength. How many stories in the Bible are about people fighting from underneath? What would we learn from David if he had never been challenged? If Saul hadn't betrayed him and then tried to kill him time and time again? If David hadn't spared Saul twice? If he hadn't sinned with Bathsheba? What would we learn from Job if he hadn't had his life ripped away from him by Satan? What would we learn from Joseph if he hadn't been sold into slavery by his own brothers? What would we learn from Jonah if he hadn't refused to go to Nineveh? What would we learn from Paul if he hadn't persecuted the church before joining it? If he hadn't been thrown into prison for years on end because of his faith? In every one of these scenarios, these good people suffered. And yet, today, we can look back and see how big of a difference they made and how incredible their faith in God was. Why did bad things happen to them? Look at all the good that came from it!
So, here's the thought experiment. What good can come from less-than-ideal circumstances?
To those who are sick or hurting, first I pray that God gives you a speedy recovery. He really does work miracles. We came up with the word “miracle” just to be able to describe the incredible things that God does. Secondly, if you stand up for Christ in spite of your condition, that's so much more impactful than any “normal” testimony. Your pain is to help people, I promise (John 11:4).
To those who have been mistreated or persecuted, know that it's not for nothing. God sees your struggles. He has a purpose for them, whether it's a lesson for you, or maybe for someone else who sees your struggles but sees you stay strong in your faith anyway. And, in the end, God is always watching out for you. (Isaiah 35:4)
To those who are young and feeling ignored or neglected and feel like they're struggling to make an impact on others, how much bigger of a deal is it when you stand up for Christ? (1 Timothy 4:12-16).
To those who are stressed or worried, go read my blog on comfort! In all seriousness, though, know that we all struggle. However, God will never push you past your limit. Lean on Him. You can't ask for a better person to share your load. (Matthew 11:28) When you struggle and choose to lean on God instead of away from Him, it builds faith like nothing else.
To those who have stumbled in their walk with Jesus, know that it happens to all of us. It teaches us valuable lessons, as long as we choose to listen and repent. It also gives us the experience to help others who struggle with the same things. Our struggles and failures can open doors to helping so many other people who you never would have been able to reach or understand otherwise. (Romans 11:11)
There are so many things to put into this category. Why didn't I get that job, raise, scholarship, invite, or acceptance letter? Why did I lose all of that money? Why did my investments or my business fail? I hope you see where I'm going with this. It's not just the idea of a "silver lining." Everything that God allows to happen has a greater purpose. It's often hard to see in the moment, but it's always there. You just need to be willing to see things that way. Once you are willing to see things from that perspective, it becomes so much easier to tolerate unfortunate circumstances, because you know that God has bigger things in mind for the future. If this is how we have to get there, then fine. God will make it worthwhile