Know God First, Ask Questions Later
The older I get and the more I experience, I am coming to the realization that reliance on God is an everyday matter. Not a "good day vs. bad day" choice. I have found that the more I get to know Him, the more I need Him. I'm at the point in my life where that "need" is not really a choice for me anymore, even though I will always be able to choose whether I include Him in my daily life or not. Christ in me the hope of Glory (His) reveals a level of clarity in me that I am destined for something greater than this world. And therefore the issues of this world; the cares and concerns of this world - become less important to me. The best way I know to describe this "heightened sense" of awareness would be to say that I am realizing the truth about The Matrix. The world we live in is not where we belong. It is ultimately with Him.
The more you know Him, the less understanding you require. I could stop here, as that is the punch line. And with that in mind I want to take a stab at answering the age old question "why do bad things happen to good people?" - or - "If God is so loving and good, then why does he allow so much pain and suffering?" etc.
I want to disclaim that this is my answer only. And I admit up front that there are probably other people more qualified to give a better "intellectual" answer. However, I am qualified to give you my personal experience answer. There are books too numerous to count that have been written on this subject. So my answer will certainly not fill in all the gaps that the human thirst for understanding requires. We are, in essence - creatures of understanding. And understanding brings a sense of security and closure. If we can solve the mysteries of the puzzle, we can have peace on the matter. And I have suffered greatly from the need to know in my own life. And looking back over those moments in life, I almost feel that the need to know and understand caused more distress in me than the tragedy itself.
My goal in writing this is to preach to myself first, and offer "us" peace in the midst of our storms. For true peace - peace that surpasses all understanding - can only be received from Him. So please bear with me as I take a shot at this.
God is good. A phrase ive heard my whole life. And one I deeply and sincerely believe. The very conviction of that statement lives deep within me. However, I live with the reality and confrontation of a world that is less than sympathetic when it comes to handing out pain, suffering, and tragedy. A world and life that offers plenty of hurt, disappointment, confusion, and darkness. With even less understanding as to "why". If you watch the news for five minutes you will be reminded of plenty of the above. I personally refuse to watch the news anymore because it is too overwhelming for me. I don't need to know any more (than I already do); how broken and messed up the world is. I just want to stay here knowing God is good. And that is what I hope you will come to know in your own life.
So why do bad things happen? Part of the answer will probably be too simple to accept, but it remains true. God created mankind, none-other-than to have a deep relationship with him/her. But He also did not create zombie robots. Because the only thing God cannot give Himself is worship and selfless love. The Bible says man was created in the image of God. Which would reveal that God has a desire within for relationship that is based off the same principles we desire and pursue in our own lives - the desire for relationship. In order for God to have true relationship and receive genuine adoration and love, He had to give humanity the choice to not choose Him. He gave mankind freewill.
At the beginning of the relationship (the creation of man) God provided perfection. The world was void of pain, suffering, death, disease etc. And God established one principle with man: I am good, trust in me always. The goodness of God was. There was no need to earn it or find it. He gave it up front because it is who He is. It may be hard to wrap your mind around that fact at first, but everything in this world that is not good (and far less than perfect) is just the absence of God's residence here with us - in His entirety. That place (now) is what we would know and call Heaven.
So once God gave freewill to man, we had the choice to choose Him or not. But let me take it just a hair deeper and paraphrase the story I've been referring to (Adam and Eve in Genesis). When mankind chooses God, he/she is saying that God is who He says He is. And His principles, His ways, and His wisdom/commandments are best. Period. When mankind rejects God, he/she calls God a liar. And establishes them self as their own god. And takes their freewill right (given by God) to live as they please. And all of that to say - this is why we live in a world with "issues". So when people think God should be held responsible for tragedy, or at the very least, held responsible for not taking action to prevent tragedy - He is being accused of not making you a robot. And forcing you to love Him. It would be similar to a criminal breaking into your home and stealing all your stuff, then you being irate with the President for not utilizing some of his power to surround your home with military protection. And to make the illustration a tad better; you didn't even vote for that President. Oh - and the President should force us all to live in a prison where no one can exercise their freewill (even when it is for bad) so no one's house gets broken into.
You cannot live in a world where freewill reigns and not have consequence. The effects of freewill are global. Everyone (those who believe in God as well as those who do not) are all under the same umbrella of potential tragedy. Let's say a man who does not believe in God (therefore operating as his own god) decides to drive drunk. He crashes into me head on and I die. Why didn't God stop him from killing me since I am one of "His"? Because that would be God violating his own principle (violating Himself). God cannot take away the drunk man's decision to be his own god. Which gives him power to do as he pleases in this world. Without going all the way back to the beginning and forcing us all to be robots. Again, the effects of freewill are global. The outcome of everyone's decisions (good or bad) are affecting the world we live in daily. You could ask a thousand more questions but essentially it will always go back to the fact that man was allowed freedom to be his own god. And therefore we all live under the same umbrella of freewill and the consequences of the choices made by that freewill. If anything, a better question to be upset about would be "God why didn't you just make me with freewill on this planet by myself". If you were all alone and no other human existed, then you could do as you please without the fear of someone else's bad decisions affecting you. But you would also only be able to blame yourself and not Adam and Eve for when you got sick or a disease. That might sound harsh but that is reality.
Again, there are more questions you could probably ask me that I may not have the answer too. But I feel that ultimately the foundation of "why do bad things happen" is rooted in freewill. We chose that option, not God. But I have other points to make so I have to move on.
Know God First
There are thousands of people who have suffered through immense tragedy as a follower of Christ (or not). Their stories could fill more books than the earth has room to hold. But ask most any believer in Christ how they made it through; and why they are not upset with God - and how their hope is even greater than ever before. And they will likely tell you that it is because God is good. Or something similar to that effect. But how can that be? How can people walk through such adversity and come out the other end with the greater understanding of: God is good. I believe that many people ask for answers regarding issues they are not willing to invest the time (or experience) in acquiring the answer too. Let me say it as forth coming as I can: Are you questioning God regarding tragic experiences that you are not willing to go through yourself to find the answer too? Anyone can want to be a millionaire but not want to do the work in starting a business, or invest assets, to become one. Anyone can want a perfectly sculpted body but not want to earn it through hard work and a strict diet. Sometimes we demand answers for things that can only be discovered through the experience itself. And you may not like that answer. Here is a good illustration. I know that child birth is a painful experience without the proper medication to make it less painful. So as a man who absolutely cannot ever experience labor; I could ask: Ladies, if it hurt so much when you had the first one - why did you want more? And the truth is, no answer a woman can give me will suffice because I did not carry the child for 9 months. I did not birth it and feel the pain. And I did not experience the emotions of holding the life I created in my arms for the first time. All the time, work, pain and labor for that child cannot be made known to me. It is through the experience alone that the knowledge exists. The same is true for understanding God's goodness despite walking through tragedy. And as someone who has done just that, I can tell you that God is good. You have to know Him, and have Him walk with you through the fires of life to fully understand that statement.
Ask Questions Later
Some would say that Adam and Eve's disobedience in the Garden of Eden was the first sin ever committed. But there was one that was committed before that. And that sin was pride. I'm not going to hash all of that out here, but the pursuit of understanding (among other things) is greatly hindered by humanity's pride. For some of you, it doesn't matter what the answer to all of this is. You simply don't like the idea of serving someone greater than yourself. And therefore, pride becomes your prison. Pride will always blind a person from understanding that God is good - period. Let's look at two different stories from the Bible that seem to contradict each other (one person experienced difficulty for doing well in his life - the other experienced difficulty for being disobedient) and pride was the root issue in both situations. And yet the goodness of God's character is revealed in both instances.
The story of Job is one that most people are familiar with. And I will paraphrase it here. Job was a godly man that obediently lived his life for The Lord. He lived so well that when the devil approached God, God asked him if he had taken notice of Job. I want to stop here and let you ponder the fact that God could have mentioned anyone. But He mentioned Job. Well it turns out that the devil was indeed aware of Job's "godly" lifestyle but could do the man no harm because God had some form of protection around him. In his pride the devil thought he knew better than God (the same thing he thought when he committed the first sin and was thrown out of Heaven). He challenged the knowledge of God by saying that Job would surely curse Him if he (the devil) could bring disaster upon him. The Lord knew Job would not curse him, and allowed the devil to afflict him. And as the story goes, Job lost everything but his very life. Long story short, Job never did curse God and was blessed back with twice as much as he had before. It must be noted that Job did not understand why all the bad was happening to him. But he knew God is good. And for that reason he never cursed Him, despite the fact that he admittedly didn't understand why all the bad was befalling him when he couldn't find any wrong he had done. If God thought as highly of me in light of everyone else alive on the earth, it would be an honor to suffer so that the devil could be reminded he will never win. You still don't understand? Know God first, ask questions later.
The second story is also well known. It is about a man named Jonah who was appointed a prophet by God to go speak to a very evil sect of people - the Ninevites. I won't hash out all the details of their cruelty but you can look it up. These people were as godless as they come. And they did things to people that would make a "Saw" movie seem like Disney. Jonah was very aware of this and in his pride decided he was not going to go deliver the message God had instructed. So he fled in the complete opposite direction. Long story short, God ultimately got Jonah to the city of Nineveh where he spoke God's warning to them. Telling them to turn from their godless acts and ways or destruction was to come. So the people of the city listen and turn from their ways, and God spares them. And Jonah is so upset over the whole ordeal he tells God "This is why I fled, because I knew you would spare them" (my paraphrase). And God's response was: "Should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left - and also many animals?"
God knew the condition these people were in. He understood their ignorance. All Jonah knew was that the people of Nineveh did horrible things. God's understanding about anything is greater - always! God is good - always! He even mentioned the fact that there were many animals in the city (yes God loves animals too!) No one cares more than God, trust me.
When you know who God is - when you know God first - you can ask questions later. Because when you know Him, you know He is good! And all I can really say as someone who has walked through a valley or two in life is: Know God first, ask questions later. By then, chances are - you won't need to ask questions anymore. Knowing the goodness of God is an experience. Not an intellectual feat.
God is good!