When Evil Pain and Suffering Pound Your Life, One Thing You Should Know
Flu season is gearing up again and another new highly virulent strain of Covid is upon is. In the midst of that, I met Denise. She is a 15 year-old high school Freshman. Denise is seeing me because she’s in foster care; and she’s in foster care because she reported to her School Counselor that she was being molested by her mother’s boyfriend. Denise, and her two sisters, are now in foster care, in three different foster homes, in three different cities!
“I feel like my life is basically over,” she told me. “I mean, why did this happen? I mean, if God is supposed to be so good, then why did my mom get with this guy and why did this happen to me, to us?”
I just sat there. Speechless, and with tears in my eyes. What could I possibly say to her that would make it alright?
The Most Common Question
Denise asked the most common question that keeps people from becoming Christians. Even the most secular-minded person still has a deep sense of what’s right and wrong, and we all want and we all need life to make sense. But in our sin-soaked world, bad things do happen to good people; and, for the majority of the time, we have no idea why.
We reason that bad things must happen because either God is all knowing and not all powerful, or God is all powerful and not all knowing. We can’t fathom a life where God knows about and is cool with what happened to Denise and her sisters. But, the truth is—at the same time—disturbing and comforting. God is not “either, or”, but, instead, He is both! God is, at the same time, all knowing and all powerful, which means that God is in complete control. God either purposefully sends things or He allows them to happen. Either way, He’s in control.
I’ll let that truth sink in a moment…
I find it absolutely amazing that the Bible, written by so many different people, in so many different places, so long ago, is still relevant and able to effectively answer the most complicated and difficult questions we have about life. It’s almost like God knew that we would be tripping over ourselves about this issue, so He did what He does best: He met our need; and not just with any story. God gives us a story of a true super man, but not in the way that you expect him to be. Job was a super-sufferer.
The Oldest Question
In the Old Testament of the Bible, the book of Job asks the question: if God is so good, then why do bad things happen to good people?
This book will blow you away! Yes, it’s a fairly long book (42 chapters), but, I promise you: if you take the time to dig into it, your life will be forever changed! Bible scholars are convinced that Job was a real person. Furthermore, they believe that this book was written by Moses, and this book is also the oldest book of the Bible. I find that last fact particularly poignant, and it tells me that people struggling to make sense of this issue of evil, sin, and suffering isn’t anything new.
Here’s a quick breakdown, the Cliff Notes version. Job was the richest and most successful person around. He was rich, and had a thriving business, and a wonderful family. But Satan blames Job for only being faithful to God because He’s blessing and protecting Job. Satan further chided God: if God removed his blessings and protection, Job would curse God and lose faith in Him. God and Satan use Job as an object lesson in Job’s faithfulness. The book of Job, then, basically examines (and tests) not Job’s goodness, but God’s. In the process, Satan used (as he does today) other people and nature to do his dirty work. As Job lost all his children, stuff, and his health, his friends and wife question him. They blame him for all the problems that he is having. Job goes through a lot of soul-searching trying to figure out why all this horrible stuff is happening to him. God then responds to Job ,and the book ends with Job’s life and blessings being restored. Job found himself even more blessed at the end than he was at the beginning.
But, when it’s all said and done, Job never figures out why all this bad stuff happened to him, and the book of Job ends with his specific questions never being answered.
God basically told Job that he will never understand why the bad things are happening to him, but the more important issue is that God gets it. God knows what was happening to Job—and to Denise and her sisters, and to you, and probably someone whom you know and love. But, even in the middle of all that bad stuff happening, God wants you to know that He only and ultimately, wants good things for your life, and He can use all the yuck of life to give you yummy things.
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38, 39, NLT).
The book of Job still would have been a powerful lesson, even if Job would not have been restored. Because, on this earth, the reality is that bad things will still happen to good and godly people.
“For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us” (Romans 8:19-23, NLT).
Sin = Death
Bad things happen because we’re on a sinful earth. There will always be negative consequences because we are all born sinful (Romans 5:19) and the devil is evil! The story of Job is a true story about a real person who lived a real life and dealt with real problems. Job struggled with faith and belief and asked God tough questions.
When we question God and ask “why did this happen?” we’re not sinning—it’s natural and normal to question, even to wonder and doubt. The problem comes in losing faith in God, altogether. At the end of the day, when we can’t understand why bad things happen, we need to have faith in God’s character, to know that there are three ultimate truths that we can have:
- God is ultimately good
- All will ultimately make sense
- All will ultimately be made right
Thank God, that Job figured that out. And because of Job’s experience, Denise and her sisters can have that same hope. I hope that you choose to believe this as well. Trust me: believing God is better than the alternative.
- Book of Job Summary: A Complete Animated Overview
- The Book of Job’s Wisdom on How God Runs the World
- If God is So Good, Then Why Do Bad Things Happen?!
- Soul War
- Salvation and the Great Controversy
- Why didn’t God just destroy Satan and his angels?
- Conflict of the Ages Companion Books