If God Exists and Is So Loving, Why Does He Allow Bad Things to Happen?

9/11 memorial - why does God allow bad things to happen?

If you’re a Christian who has been sharing the Gospel long enough, you’ve probably encountered this question numerous times. If you’re not a Christian, then you’ve likely asked this question to a Christian friend or pondered it at least a time or two. There’s no doubt that life can sometimes seem like it’s full of tough breaks, heartache, and people with downright evil intentions. We’ve all lost jobs, seen marriages fall apart, buried loved ones, and watched terrorists fly planes into buildings. But God is supposed to love us, right? So, why does He allow these things to happen? Does He even exist?  

I certainly don’t profess to have the answers to all of life’s questions, but I do believe that God loves us and wants us to have a happy and abundant life. That may seem crazy, considering the ground that we just covered, but if you understand the truth of the Gospel then maybe it’s not so crazy after all. In what follows, I’ll attempt to give you my thoughts on why bad things happen and what part God plays in it, based on years of pondering this question myself and returning time and again to the main source of all truth for the answers. Let’s start with a question that we must answer first to bring the whole thing into perspective.

What Are Bad Things?

I may have already lost a few of you with that question, but I promise that there’s a purpose in this pondering. Of course, I’m aware that murder, rape, human trafficking, and all other varieties of human suffering exist, but the question is more about what makes these things bad. In order for a thing to be bad, there has to be an innate sense of good, right? Put another way, there must be a universally agreed upon idea of what is good before we can understand what is bad. Where does that come from? It’s certainly not based on science. Science is merely the study of why things in the universe exist in the way that they do. Science is a dispassionate, impartial, man-made set of theories that attempts to explain the natural order of things in an already created universe. If we consider science to be the source of all truth, then we must dismiss this idea of good and evil. In fact, if we believe that evolution by natural selection is the source of all life in the way that it exists today—that all variety of life originated from some microorganism living billions of years ago that evolved to meet the ever-demanding challenges of life—then we must dispense with any idea of bad things, altogether. If that is the reality, then survival of the fittest rules the day. We’re all just acting out the code of our DNA, and if someone gets murdered, it’s just evolution weeding out the weak in favor of the strong. We can’t have it both ways. Either we believe that life is some cosmic accident and there is no meaning or purpose, or we believe that life has intention and is the handiwork of a loving and personal God. To me, the existence of evil is strong evidence of the presence of God.

The Greatest Lie The Devil Ever Told

Did you know that the devil doesn’t want you to believe that he exists? And if the summary by Megan Brenan of a recent Gallup poll, titled, Belief in Five Spiritual Entities Edges Down to New Lows, is any indication, he’s doing a pretty good job of achieving his goal. The poll shows that only about 58% of Americans believe that the devil is real. Yet, if you turn on any network T.V. station or streaming channel, you’ll find hundreds of shows about ghost hunting, the afterlife, or any number of other programs concerned with spiritual matters. So, why is it so hard for people to believe in the actual existence of the devil? Because that’s just how he wants it. If you don’t believe in the devil, then you have no one to place the blame on for the evils of the world, except an imbalanced universe, bad luck, or God himself. In the same Gallup poll, we read that 74% of Americans believe that God exists. This means that 16% of Americans believe in God but not the devil, and that 26% of Americans don’t believe in God or the devil. That’s about 54 million and 88 million Americans, respectively. So, when bad things happen, who gets the blame? Given these numbers, and the lack of belief in the devil by nearly half of Americans, it would seem in many cases that people are inclined to blame God or use the existence of evil as an excuse to not believe in anything at all.

In the previous section, we already established that if we believe in bad things, then we must believe in some representation of good. Let’s suppose for just a moment that we all agree that God is that representation of good in our universe. If that’s the case, then why would God be both good and bad? Why would He be meticulous in every detail of your creation, set you apart from all other living creatures, put love and hope in your heart and then rain heartache and hopelessness down on you? Why would He send His only begotten Son to die for your sins and then set about attempting to destroy your life. And who would want to serve a god like that anyway? No, God is not the source of your troubles in this world. There’s a very real counterbalance to God’s goodness, and that is the devil; the one who tempted Adam and Eve in the garden and brought evil into the world. In 1 Peter 5:8-9 it says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” He’s not the cartoon creation that we’ve seen in movies and T.V. shows, walking around in a red cape with horns and a pitchfork, but something much more sinister. He was once one of God’s mightiest angels, but then he challenged God and fell from heaven like lightening, as scripture tells us. Now his goal is to create challenges in your life and convince you that God only intends the worst for you. But though he should take most of the blame, is he the only one responsible for the evil that exists in our world?

What Part Do Humans Play In The Existence of Evil?

Why is it that when something truly evil transpires, and our newsfeeds are full of the resulting suffering, we are so apt to shake our fists at God and ask Him how He could do this? Is He truly to blame? What about the actual person who committed the heinous crime? Are they owed any of the blame? If the Bible is to believed, and I believe that it is, then God has given us free will to live our lives as we so choose. Like a loving father, He doesn’t want us to love Him by way of coercion or mechanical predetermined submission, but rather in the same way that any father who loves their children and wants the best for them would desire their love. I have three small children, and of course I want what’s best for them. I want them to love their mother and me, to have a great life full of joy and happiness, and to find much success in their chosen path, but I cannot help them achieve all those things by locking them in the basement and forcing them to obey my every command. I can only set parameters around their behavior, try to steer them down the right path, and love them with all the love that my heart can muster. The path that they choose is ultimately up to them. Furthermore, if in the end they choose a life of crime or commit some heinous act of their own, are their mother and I to blame?

No, the truth is that each individual is responsible for the life that they live. Some choose to live lives of service and kindness toward others, while some choose a path of evil and destruction. God’s original intention was for all of humankind to live in peaceful serenity with God himself and all of creation, but with Adam and Eve sin entered the world and never left. In the book of Genesis, it tells us that “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” God has the power to intervene, of course, but then all of mankind would be stripped of their free will and the right to choose the course of their life. God loves you too much to take that away from you. So, what we’re left with are a group of bad apples who attempt to spoil the whole bunch. But we direct our ire toward God when these things happen. Let’s begin to put the blame where it belongs and not let the person off the hook who actually committed the terrible act.

The Father's Love

A great example from the Bible is the story of the prodigal son. Many of us have heard it, but it parallels our discussion and is worth repeating. The son in the story is not content with the life that he’s living under the father’s tutelage and decides that he’d be better off on his own. We never find out the exact reason for his leaving, but we realize that he has no trust in the father and he thinks that he can do life better on his own. In a sense, he blames the father for the condition of his life. So, he asks the father for his inheritance—which the father gives willingly despite his betrayal—and the son sets off to live life his own way. Eventually, he finds that life is not better apart from his father, and he ends up broke and down on his luck. This is the point in the story where many people would have blamed the father for their misfortune, but to the son’s credit he does not do this He realizes his need for the father, humbles himself to the point of repentance, and returns home where he belongs. But does the father turn him away or receive him with contempt? Not at all. Scripture tells us that, “…while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” The father gave the son his freedom. The son’s choices led to difficulty and heartache, but the father was always right there waiting.

Bad things happen in life. That’s a fact. God loves you. That’s also a fact. And because God loves you, He gives you freedom and choice. When something truly awful happens, and you feel the pangs of sorrow and heartache, God’s heart aches too. In the story of Lazarus, from John 11, we see Jesus rush to the grave of His deceased friend. As he greets Mary, Lazarus’s sister, it says, “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” And when they led him to the gravesite, it says that “Jesus wept.” His heart breaks for those He loves. God created you, He numbered the hairs on your head, and set you apart from all other created things. He put faith, hope, and love in your heart, for what would the world be without those gifts. Sometimes people do bad things, but that doesn’t change the fact that we have a loving God. His greatest act of love was when He sent His perfect Son to die on a cross so that you may have life and have it more abundantly. That one act of mercy and grace took you from the grave, like Lazarus, and put eternity in your heart. It changed everything.

Maybe you’re a Christian, and this is just a good reminder of the love of God. Or maybe you don’t know Christ, or you’ve been far from Him because of some pain so deep that you haven’t wanted to face it. The story of the prodigal son ends with this: “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fatted calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” Are you feeling dead inside and you want to truly live? Have you been lost for a long time and you’re looking to be found? Your loving Father wants to clothe you in majesty. Just turn and start to make your way home, and I guarantee He’ll come running to you. He loves you that much!


3 Responses

  1. This a great piece of work, Michael. I have a son who was once keen on building a relationship with God, but he began to drift in college as he pursued a degree in environmental science and forest resource management. All that science heralds, including evolution, chipped away at his somewhat entry-level faith. What you’ve written would be excellent for him, although I’m not sure he would take the time to read it. In any case, thank you for what you’ve written here. The thoughts you share in your blog are AWESOME. You have a real gift and a calling. Thank you!!!

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