Rabbi Harold Kushner’s classic book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, looks at the age old problem of evil. Let me borrow his title, and make it contemporary by bringing Hurricane Harvey into the mix. “Why DO bad hurricanes happen to good people?”
We all have times of questioning, complaining, doubting. Sometimes we bottle these feelings up, especially when it comes to matters of faith. We don’t want to look like we’re not trusting God.
Yet if we are ever to grow in our faith, we need to stretch, we need to push, we need to wrestle with the hard parts of life and faith. And evil is definitely hard.
With Charlottesville uncovering havoc in our society and in our souls, with the chaos in Washington threatening our whole world, and with Hurricane Harvey drenching and destroying Texas, the biggest questions loom in our minds. Where is God in all the mess around us?
Why do bad things happen? Why do they happen to me?
Folks have a million “why” questions. They always have. The Bible is full of these inquires. The book of Psalms is loaded with “whys?” Job asks why he is clobbered with all kinds of suffering. Even Jesus asks if it’s necessary to drink the cup he faces. Maybe the stories in the Bible show us that God is big enough to listen to our questions…and to handle our gripes and complaints. God is not going to zap us for getting honest with him.
I could give you a detailed personal testimony of all the times I have asked God “why.” Facing the problem of evil is one of the things that drove me away from Christian faith for a time in my life. I still ask God about it, but now I ask from within the framework of faith. So do I have a good answer for why bad hurricanes hit good people? My honest answer? No, I don’t understand why bad things happen in the world. But I will know someday.
Theologians and other smart people have developed good responses to the problem of evil, but all their responses have been incomplete. The most common explanation is “free will.” Basically that says when God created us, he created us as real, living, thinking and feeling human beings. He didn’t make us robots. God wants us to love him not because he programmed it into us, but because we choose to love him. We have free will, and can say “yes” to God, or we can reject him and say “no.”
We can use our free will to do great, creative, kind and loving things, but we can also use it to do bad things, like hurting, hating and destroying others. The white supremacy fever infecting our nation is a vivd reminder of this. The same hand that draws a cross can also twist it into a swastika.
Free will is not a complete response to why bad stuff happens. There are evils beyond those we humans cause. Natural disasters. Disease. Death. The Bible teaches that we live in a beautiful world that has had its pristine beauty broken by sin. God originally created a Garden. When evil came to Eden everything changed. All that was positive developed a negative side.
That’s why Christians come to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. He is the center of life changing redemption. He is the hope of the world. Christ is also the one who has the answers to life. He is the answer to evil. His death on the cross defeated it. His resurrection confirmed his victory over it.
I firmly believe that one day Christ will come and bring the kingdom of God to completion, revealed in all it’s glory. All questions will disappear. And the possibility exists that even before that great day, I will see him as I transition from here to heaven, and everything will be made clear. No longer will I question why bad hurricanes wipe away homes and lives, for I will be in the presence of the One who calmed the waves by saying, “Peace. Be still.”