One of the subjects that people frequently discuss when things go wrong in life is, ‘why do bad things happen?’, or ‘why do bad things happen to good people?’ In this life we can experience tragedy, innocence destroyed, grief, and pain – it happens every day. People want to know why, want to believe that there is a reason for the things that happen, but can’t find a satisfactory answer to help them understand the purpose for what they are going through.
Many people believe that we should accept the tragedy and pain of our circumstances as being God’s unfathomable will. However, the Bible tells us that God is good (Psalm 100:5) and that He loves us (John 3:16). So if He is good and he truly loves us, how can bad things – terminal illness, pain, suffering, loss etc. – be a part of His will for us? To put it simply, they aren’t – sickness, pain, suffering, loss – none of these things are God’s will for our lives. He doesn’t cause or desire the bad stuff to happen, but he does promise to work every situation for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).
Do you remember the classic children’s tale, Pinnochio? To summarise the plot, Geppetto creates Pinnochio, a small wooden puppet because he’s lonely and wants someone to keep him company. However, Pinocchio can’t feel love, he can’t experience true intimacy in relationships, and he has no free will – because he is a puppet. So, Geppetto wishes that Pinnochio could become a real boy, and the blue fairy brings Pinnochio to life. Once he’s alive, and has free will, the deluge of bad decision making comes, along with all the terrible consequences. He listens to the wrong people, heads down the wrong path, is separated from Geppetto, and causes Geppetto a lot of pain and worry. Free will for Pinnochio meant that he was free to do as he chose, whatever the consequences, and that his creator could no longer control him like a puppet.
When God created humankind, he loved us and desired an intimate relationship with us (Leviticus 26:12). He created us in His image, so that we would desire intimacy with him as well. Of course he couldn’t create us as puppets that only did what He wanted us to do, because that would mean we couldn’t have an intimate relationship with Him or anyone else – that kind of relationship has to be entered into freely, and can’t be forced. So, he gave us free will; the freedom to choose to do what we wished; to have a relationship with him or even to be disobedient and separated from Him if that was the path that we chose.
When God created the universe, He put in place many laws. He created physical laws, such as the law of gravity, and spiritual laws, such as the one that requires payment of death for disobedience (Romans 6:22-23). Another set of spiritual laws that were put in place in the beginning had to do with authority. God is all powerful, and authority is derived when the one with power delegates his power to someone else. So, when God created us, he delegated his authority to us to rule over the earth (Genesis 1:28-30). We were in charge, and we were in intimate communion with God as the source of everything we needed. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve exercised their free will to act in disobedience to God. This was when sin entered the world, and along with it came death. What is often not fully understood is that when we disobeyed God and instead obeyed Satan, we also gave or delegated our authority over the earth to Satan. He became the ‘prince of this world’ (John 14:30), and because of that he has been able to cause havoc ever since with the authority that we delegated to him.
When we experience something tragic in our lives, it is not a result of our own personal sin, or something that we have done or have not done (e.g. karma), but is a consequence of the very existence of sin in the world; the sin that transferred our authority over the world to Satan. The people who suffer in this life, and the way that they suffer is certainly not fair. Often the greatest suffering seems to be borne by the least deserving. This is not God’s will for us; it is a consequence of sin in the world. The Bible tells us that ‘the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’ (1 Peter 5:8), and the destruction he sews is not part of God’s will or God’s plan for us.
There is good news, and it is this: when Jesus came to earth, he overcame sin and death by being made perfect in His obedience (Hebrews 5:9) and then dying as a sacrifice to cover the death payment that was due for the sin of the world – for all of us (John 3:16). His death returned things to their rightful order, so that if we receive him as Lord of our life, and return to an intimate relationship with God, we can have our original authority over the earth restored to us (Matthew 28:18; John 14:12). This means that we, as children of God, now have authority over Satan and all of his destructive plans. In order for authority to be meaningful though, in any situation, it must be understood and used appropriately. Jesus was our example of how to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth, allowing God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven now – his good and perfect will. Our world will never be perfect this side of heaven, but if we exercise our authority in Christ, we can overturn the machinations of the enemy and experience victory in our everyday lives, and in the lives of those around us.
It is not God’s will for bad things to happen; it is a result of humankind exercising free will to be disobedient and bring sin into the world, handing our authority over the earth to the enemy. However, God loves us so much, and so desperately wants to restore our relationship with Him, and return us to a life of authority, freedom, abundance, joy, peace, hope, and love - the way that he originally intended for us to live - that He has given us a way to defeat sin and death, and bring heaven to earth now. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He is the only way, and through him we can follow his example in exerting our restored authority on the earth to reverse the work of the enemy. God is good, and He has good things planned for each and every one of us. In Jeremiah 29:11 it says, ‘“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”’.