How Could A Good & Powerful God Let Bad Things Happen?
Byron Howell 9/19/2001
When a tragedy happens, whether it is a natural calamity like a hurricane or a sinful act resulting in death and destruction, it is not usual to hear the following, agonizing question: How could a good and powerful God allow this to happen? It is not just the atheist that asks this question. Sometimes Christians struggle with it as well. If God has the power to stop it and is compassionate enough to want to stop it – why does He not intervene?
First, let me note that the God of the Bible is all powerful and full of goodness. He is not lacking in either of these characteristics. We must not attempt to resolve this issue by denying either the nature of God or the integrity of the Bible that describes Him. Instead let us consider some important scenarios where bad things happen.
I have been through a tornado and a hurricane. Some of you have, too, I suspect, and you have seen the devastation they can cause. Physical disasters and natural calamities happen in this world. But we live in a world of consistent scientific laws. The same physical properties that allow a tree to be used in the construction of a house also make that tree a danger if it falls on someone. Do we expect God to change the physical properties of the falling tree or to suspend the law of gravity whenever that tree is about to hurt someone? No. We rely on physical properties and scientific laws to be consistent. Otherwise this world would be a confusing place and we would not be enjoying a high standard of living. Technical and medical achievements depend on the consistency of physical properties and scientific laws.
What about the pain and suffering caused by sinful behavior? Could God not intervene and prevent people from committing evil acts upon others? No. Not without eliminating free will. God loves us and created us because he wants a living fellowship with us. But our love for God and our fellowship with Him is meaningful only if we choose it. And with that choice comes the opportunity to reject God. He could have made us robots, but He wants us to choose to love Him. People who reject God commit sin, hurting themselves and others. That same brick that could be used to build a building could instead be used to hit someone on the head in a fit of rage.
When God gave us free will he permitted us to reject Him, and to sin. The love of God for us in spite of our poor choices is evident in that He gave His only begotten Son to die for us so that we could live with Him, according to John 3:16.
Well, can anything good come out of tragedy? Of course. Sometimes people begin to recognize their own human frailty and they turn to God for help. Christians have an opportunity to lend a hand in the name of Christ. And have you ever noticed that most of the qualities that we admire in people – qualities like courage and self-sacrifice – are demonstrated during times like these? The unity and togetherness of a family, a church, or a nation is often never greater than when facing a common threat. Furthermore, both the certainty of death and the uncertainty of when it will happen, encourage us to remain faithful to God. There are good things that can come out of tragedy.
So where is that good and powerful God when disaster strikes? He is right where he has always been – in our midst, sharing our sorrows, and helping us cope. There is no better time to trust Him – or to discover opportunities to serve Him.