This is the age old question to stump the most astute Bible scholar. There’s no simple way to answer the question. With all of the hurricanes, earthquakes, and typhoons along with all the wars, corruption, and crime, it’s hard to comprehend how a loving God would tolerate pain, evil, and sorrow.
The question really comes from two different groups. The first group asks it as an attack on the nature of God. The second responds with honest doubts. The first is not just questioning the character of God, but His existence and involvement in nature. Their sole purpose of asking this question is to undermine any theological position that would suggest that there is a personal loving being who has power over creation. “Look around you, and tell me if there is a God.”
The second group is often the well meaning believers who want to believe in a great God, but when questioned about tragedy they don’t have a good answer to respond and they are left with doubts and fears. There are those who have been taught to believe in God, but they have suffered loss or personal tragedy and their focus has drifted off of God to the circumstances and caused them to fear and doubt. “God, why would you allow this to happen to ME?”
When I was child…
To the first group I say, “That’s a very childish view of God.” I don’t mean to be a jerk, but to point out that it’s not a very fair or balanced view and it’s not the same criteria we would use for anyone else. Even the worst human beings are heralded as saints at their funerals.
When I was child I knew God was a loving God. I had heard it my whole life. But when I came to a saving knowledge of His grace I had to understand that He is also a just God and He couldn’t tolerate my sin. Maturity is the ability to hold two complex truths at the same time. When we suggest that God can only be one or the other, we show how novice our understanding of Him really is.
Asking the wrong question
To the second group, I remind them that they are asking the wrong question. It’s not, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” but “Why do good things happen to bad people?” If we start with an accurate analysis of God – He is holy- and then we move to an accurate analysis of man – We are sinners – we will be able to conclude that only God is good, and we are all bad.
Karma is built on a humanistic premise on what we think we deserve. This past weekend my girlfriend lost her wallet at the mall: with her phone, license, credit cards, and cash. Later that same evening I found a license on the ground at a restaurant and returned it to the hostess to make sure it got back to the owner. At the least, karma dictates that Kristen should have gotten her license back. But she didn’t.
When something bad happens we are tempted to think, “I don’t deserve this!” This idea is built on a false premise that we are really the center of our own universe and bad things are reserved for the bad, but we’re pretty good.
Others are trapped into the counter response of this where they wonder what they did wrong whenever something bad happens to them.
God is Good
Nobody likes going through tragedy, but I guarantee you that if you didn’t have difficulty in your life, it would be meaningless. Looking back, it’s the struggles that made my life enjoyable. I would never have chosen to go through the circumstances of my worst moments, but I have learned more from them than any of the other moments in my life.
Never is the character of God seen so complexly and clearly than in the Old Testament dealings with the nation of Israel. One second He’s punishing them, the next He is rescuing them. Through the journey they learn of God’s character and particularly His holiness. It’s Isaiah who has a vision of heaven and falls down to proclaim, “Woe is me, for I am undone!” If we were to see ourselves in the light of the presence of God, we wouldn’t be asking why bad things happen to good people.