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Why Do Bad Things Happen? An Attempted Explanation

January 24, 2012

The one really rousing thing about human history is that, whether or no the proceedings go right, at any rate, the prophecies always go wrong. The promises are never fulfilled and the threats are never fulfilled. Even when good things do happen, they are never the good things that were guaranteed. And even when bad things happen, they are never the bad things that were inevitable. You may be quite certain that, if an old pessimist says the country is going to the dogs, it will go to any other animals except the dogs; if it be to the dromedaries or even the dragons. … It was as if one weather prophet confidently predicted blazing sunshine and the other was equally certain of blinding fog; and they were both buried in a beautiful snow-storm and lay, fortunately dead, under a clear and starry sky.

– G.K. Chesterton

Bill does not believe in God. He believes that all life began randomly from a single-cell organism. Bill believes that the human race is the height of all existence and that there is nothing greater than the human will. He has always been a very moral person, striving to make the lives of those around him more pleasant. It is important, according to Bill, to take care of your fellow human in order to make this world as pleasant as possible for everyone in it.

Larry believes in God. He believes that God created all existence and that everything, both good and bad happens according to God’s plan. God, to Larry, is the ultimate puppet master, only stepping in for good if asked to while allowing bad for punishment for not asking. Larry raises a good family, strives to show kindness to those around him, and knows that, if he continues to pray, everything will work out for him and his loved ones.

Once, while driving in traffic, Bill got a terrible case of road rage after another driver cut right in front of him, causing him to slam on his breaks only barely avoiding a crash. Bill flipped the other driver off.

Larry caught his son, Sam, with a stack of Playboy Magazines underneath his bed. Larry took the magazines away, had a stern talk to Sam about the consequences of porn addiction and he grounded Sam from friends for three weeks.

Bill’s wife just died in a plane crash because of a miscalculation by the pilot. He finds himself asking the question, “If God was real, why would he allow such bad things to happen? If God really loved us and really cared for us, he would not allow such terrible circumstances to emerge.” Therefore, he thinks that God, particularly a loving God, cannot logically exist. This causes Bill to blame the pilot for not doing his job properly and resentment builds. Other people’s imperfections become more and more glaring to him causing him to act frequently in bitterness. He does not know what else to live for. He’s not sure he can put his trust in other humans, even if they are the height of existence, which only adds to his bitterness.

Larry’s son just died in a freak hunting accident. He finds himself asking, “Why me? Why Sam? Why did God choose Sam to die this way?” He tries to stay faithful to God though, trusting that God wanted Sam to die for a larger reason, but then becomes bitter toward God for placing this burden on him. “I don’t deserve this,” he says. “I am faithful to you and this is what you have done in return?” Larry no longer has anyone or anything to have faith in and therefore no motivation to overcome hardship and temptation.

Bill and Larry are not unlike each other. Bill and Larry, along with all other creation, are flawed.

Neither of them, because of their views toward God, understand that bad things are simply a part of life. There is more meaning than what Bill believes, but less meaning than what Larry believes.

God did not choose Sam’s death. The dropped shotgun did that.

The pilot made a mistake which resulted in the death of Bill’s wife. But he made a mistake that probably any pilot could have and has made. It just so happened that it amounted to a crash and Bill’s wife was unfortunate enough to have been on that plane.

God made the world in a specific way. A way that is inherently broken. And all life is broken.

But this is where will comes in and this, to me is the motivation behind life. To overcome brokenness.

Plants such as cacti have evolved to live through long droughts of water, bears have evolved to survive long winters when food is scarce, and humans have evolved and continue to evolve to overcome temptation.

Sure, some people experience far more difficulties and temptations than other people.

A lot of really bad things happen to a lot of undeserving people.

A lot of really good things happen to a lot of underserving people.

But the ability to overcome what ever situation a person is placed in, results in greatness and inspiration.

A rich person with the ability to give and remain humble.

A poor person with the ability to feel grateful when he or she receives fortune as opposed to bitterness when he or she does not.

These are the most inspiring people in existence and they are found on any class level.

God gave us all free will and included in that free will is the will to overcome.

Why does an alcoholic turn to alcohol? Because he or she does not know how to cope with whatever bad things have happened.

Why does a rich business owner exploit his workers for his own personal gain? Because he feels entitled to it and does not want bad things to happen to him. He wants his money and his possessions to secure his happiness.

Instead, the alcoholic should overcome the temptation to try and escape reality by facing reality head on, no matter how painful it may be.

Instead, the rich man should get rid of his excess and learn to appreciate the necessities in life.

Perhaps the two most dangerous questions in the world are, “Why not?” and “Why me?”

Bill fails to see living and nonliving things as part of something. Instead, he sees all living and nonliving things as the something.

Larry sees humans as nothing in this world, and God as everything.

“I was chosen by God to have been born into wealth,” the rich man says. “So why not spend it on an unnecessarily large yacht?”

“I was chosen by God to have been born into extreme poverty,” the poor man says. “So why not turn to drugs? I was doomed to begin with, so I might as well find happiness where I can.”

“I earned this wealth on my own accord,” another rich man says. “So why not spend it on a new jet? I deserve it. It’s my money.”

“I wasn’t blessed with wealth to begin with,” another poor man says. “Why don’t I have the things I want? I will steal it from others because I deserve just as much as anyone else.”

Think of the most inspiring stories you have ever heard.

Every single one of them center around either a poor man refusing to say, “Why me?” or a rich man saying, “Why not?”

Both are tempted equally and both have the ability to overcome the temptations no matter how difficult and painful it may be. We do not give ourselves enough credit. Each one of us is built to fail and to overcome. It just depends on how we handle it. Overcoming is just the more difficult option, which is why, unfortunately, it seems to almost be a rarity.

I do not believe that God micromanages. He does not trigger earthquakes as punishment for our disbelief in Him.

He created the food we grow, catch, hunt, and herd, so that we have to work for it. He created childbirth to be painful so that we can appreciate what we went through to give life. He created temptation so we can overcome it.

The Adam and Eve poem was created to show us that God made the world to offer temptation. Adam and Eve had temptation right off the bat: to eat from the tree of knowledge, something that they failed to overcome. And God punished them to show them that giving into temptation is wrong and overcoming temptation is right, just like Bill flipped the other driver off to show him/her to drive more carefully, and just like Larry grounded his son to teach him that porn is not something to be taken lightly.

Without temptation and experiencing the bad that comes with falling to temptation, there is no good.

There is no ability to overcome. Because there is nothing to overcome.

God punished us initially, by sending us to an imperfect world. To show us what is good.

Now, we punish ourselves by failing to overcome temptation.

An earthquake will occur, killing numerous people in its wake, not because God commanded it to do so, but because God placed us in a world where earthquakes occur and death and suffering is a part of life.

God did not choose the situation that you were born into or what parents you were born from. Your parents chose that when they had sex. But He did choose you.

God created beginnings. He created the world to be imperfect and to a certain extent stepped back from that world. And then He created people to live on that world with the capabilities to do both right and wrong. And then He stepped back and said, “I gave you the ability to overcome and I love you and trust you enough to do just that.”

What bothers me about Larry is that Larry does not have faith in himself or the people around him. He only has faith in God.

But God has faith in us. God gave us free will and left it up to us to do what is difficult. To overcome the temptation of what is bad. To not ask, “Why not?” and “Why me?” So like God, we need to have faith in us.

What bothers me about Bill is that he does not have faith in God.

He only has faith in himself and in others like him. And because we are broken people living in a broken world, our faith in ourselves and in each other quickly becomes disrupted.

So, to answer the question, “Why me?” I say, that’s beside the point.

All you can do is try to overcome. To find a passion that contributes to the world and follow that passion with all your being, with all your will, and with all your ability, no matter how seemingly big or small.

To answer the question, “Why not?” I say, that’s beside the point.

You are not entitled to anything. You lucked out with ease and excess. But at the same time, you did not luck out at all, because the easier life becomes, the less meaning life has. What should you be grateful for when you do not have to work for anything? You have to work for gratefulness and humility.

You have to overcome the temptation of saying “Why me?” and “Why not” because every time you overcome these questions, you pump good into this world. You live up to God’s trust in you. It is your responsibility to God and to everyone around you on this Earth and all of its living things, to overcome and to make the most of the situation you were thrown into, whatever that may be.

Jesus, in a sense, had it the worst of anyone. He lived in poverty, He was homeless and he had to struggle and overcome just for a good meal. But He never said, “Why me?”

And Jesus was also God. He had to overcome entitlement and to struggle for humility. He never said, “Why not? After all, I am the Son of God.”

And that is why He did not write down His message for us to read word for word. That is why He left it up to human mouth.

Because He trusted us. He trusted our ability to see right from wrong. To see what is unhealthy about the lifestyles we were pushed into and to overcome as many temptations as we can and bring a glimpse of heaven to earth, rather than submit to them and bring a glimpse of hell to earth.

It is our choice and our life because God trusts us.

It is our choice and our life because God loves us.

It’s silly to say good people don’t know what temptation means. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is.

-C.S. Lewis

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