No doubt one of the great mysteries of our human existence, it has puzzled the most brilliant of philosophers and caused grief to even the simplest of men and women. Especially for people who believe in an all-powerful, seemingly all-loving God, the lack of answer for such a question, and the prevalence of evil that good people endure, are thorns in our sides.
But I have a question in return: As Christians, those who follow an innocent man who was betrayed and suffered persecution before laying down his life for others, why would we expect only good things in our life? I’m not sure how you interpret “take up your cross and follow me,” but I can’t imagine that it is going to be an easy road. No, my guess is that a life in Jesus is much more difficult than a life without him.
The fact of the matter is bad things happen to good people because we live in a world that relies on things other than Jesus, and that will inevitably produce pain. Not only do we experience the pain of others’ sins corrupting our world, we experience it in our insistence on being our own strength, in refusing to ask for help when we need it, in failing to change our hearts and learn from our mistakes, and, really, in the mere fact that we are mortal. Our own weakness—and our reliance on it—brings pain even to good people.
And for me, this is the great paradox of our faith. While the rest of the world tells us that we can alleviate our pain by seeking more control, growing stronger, and seeking perfection, Christians know that it is quite the opposite: it is only when we embrace our weakness, take on pain, and accept that we cannot solve our problems that we are actually the strongest. It is in those moments of desperation, those moments of pain and suffering, of utter failure, that we find that Christ is most alive in us offering us strength.
When we are weak, God offers strength.
When we sin, God offers forgiveness.
When we are hard of heart, God offers patience.
And when our mortal bodies have reached the end of the road and there is nothing left that we can do for ourselves, God offers us eternal life.
So, why do bad things happen to good people? Why do we suffer, experience pain, and fail even ourselves? I’m not sure. All I know is that even in those moments—especially in those moments—God is present to us more than ever. This Lent we are called to embrace our failures and own our brokenness, allowing God to be more than we could ever be on our own.