A few weeks ago, I wrote about the question of why good things happen to bad people. In the end, we discovered the truth that God just loves people (ALL people) even those who don’t deserve His love. We also saw that NONE of us really deserved God’s love – that His undeserved kindness extends to all sinners (and that includes all of us!).
At that time, I mentioned that I would probably write about today’s subject. I ran across a story, today, that helped to solidify my thoughts on this vital subject…
I think one of the most difficult questions faced by many people is the issue of why do bad things happen to people who are trying to be good. You know the kind of people I’m talking about: they do their level best to treat people right. They are honest, giving, caring, selfless – and they do their best to live decent, moral lives. And yet, seemingly out of the blue, a tragedy occurs – or something terrible touches their lives – and they are shaken and devastated by that horrible circumstance.
This really bothers us. Bad things happening to good people shakes us to the core. It’s mostly because we have this notion that good people deserve to have good things happen to them. Conversely, we believe that bad people deserve to have bad things happen to them. Every person should get what they deserve. This seems right to us. This seems appropriate and fair. This is how things really ought to be.
Then we throw an all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful God into the mix – and things really come unglued for us…
If we believe in God (and most people still do), we believe that He is good – that He loves us, and He wants to show us that love. We also tend to believe that He is in charge of all things – in fact, we tend to think that He is behind all things that happen. And this is where the wheels begin to fall off in our thinking. If God is behind all things, then why would He allow bad circumstances in our lives? If God is in control, why shouldn’t we expect Him to ward off all tragedy, all suffering, all pain, all brokenness? What’s the reason for being good, if God can’t even bring His divine assistance to watch over and protect good people from harm?
We have all wrestled with this issue (to varying degrees). Why does suffering and pain effect good people? How can God be so callous and indifferent to the pain that can so easily overwhelm our lives? Good people deserve good things.
Many people have lost their spiritual way over this issue.
I could give you many theological reasons behind why bad things happen to good people. These reasons are intellectually helpful, but not very satisfying to our hearts. In the midst of our pain, we really aren’t helped by someone talking about how “the rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous.” When we are suffering, we really don’t find much comfort in the idea that “all things work together for good” or “there’s a reason for everything.” These things are true (our minds know that!) but the tears, emanating from the depths of our hurting hearts, keep our hearts from hearing our minds. It is so hard to hear, or see, in the deep and deafening darkness of our pain.
That is why we need other people. Not to counsel us, or advise us, or shower us with truth. We need other people to come alongside to help us find our way. We need someone to lock arms with us, hold us with a loving hand, and walk with us through our dark hour. We need them to just be with us – and love on us.
But not just anyone.
What we really need, in the midst of our pain, is for someone to come along who has also felt the precise pain that we feel. Someone who can not only sympathize with us – but can empathize with us – every step of the way. Someone who has felt exactly what we feel – someone who has gone through “the valley of the shadow of death” and made it safely to the other side.
And that’s just what our “bad” circumstances give to us. An invaluable experience to share – a powerful way to connect. An indispensable means to be that guide that is able to help someone else make it to the other side. Our pain, our suffering, (if we allow it to be) can be the all-important link to a hurting heart. It can be the lifeline for someone else in intense pain. Our suffering becomes the precious gift that offers help to other people who, because of their own pain, just cannot find their way. Only our shared pain can be the opportunity to take that terrible walk – and do it together. Only shared suffering can really provide what is needed in those darkest of hours.
I just recently read the story of a young woman who was raped by a “friend.” As is so common in these cases, she carried shame, guilt, devastation, and suffering for years – afraid to tell others (even those who surely loved her) about what had happened. The sense of ruin was just too great. The pain was just too overwhelming. She was forced to walk through the valley of the shadow, and the darkness was just too great. Suffering, and feeling all alone, she found no hope or joy in living. She wanted to end it all – just to make the pain go away.
But then, she had a “chance” contact with another young woman who had gone through the exact same horrible situation. She had felt all the same things – but had made it to the other side of the valley. And her openness about her own suffering and shame provided a link – a connection point – a voice of true empathy and hope. And that voice spoke of the power of love and forgiveness – that can only come from one Source – the heart of God.
Without the link of suffering, that voice just cannot be heard. But in the connection that can only come through shared pain, the voice touched a place in the heart that enabled her to find hope, life, and peace again.
Sometimes we forget the power of shared pain. Sometimes, when we are “walking in the valley,” it can be our last resort. Sometimes it provides the only way out – when we just can’t seem to find our way.
And God knows that.
This world is a mess. It is filled with people who are selfish and cruel, who are heartless and indifferent. How can any of us expect to go through this life unscathed? Hurt will come. Pain will touch our lives. Jesus told us, “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33). Suffering is a part of the human condition.
Because this is true, we have a choice to make. We can choose to be mad at God for all His “failures” to protect us from all discomfort and pain. Or we can choose to seek His help in the midst of our pain – knowing that He is providing us with an invaluable resource to help others who need His help. Through our pain, we become His means of helping someone else that He loves.
And that’s just it. Everything we have gone through in life is our opportunity to help someone else in their hour of need. We can’t help them with our platitudes or our sage counsel. We can only help them because we have been where they are, and we know the way out of the darkness. Our shared pain provides a means of trust that can only come because of suffering through “bad” things.
Here is the miracle. “Bad” things become good things when they help someone in need. And when God is involved, those “bad” things become the source of miracles.