There are two things that we can absolutely say with certainty about bad things: they will happen to good people, and good people will do them.
The questions that all who want to believe in a loving, benevolent, saving God ask at some point in their lives often revolve around these two ideas. Those questions, of course, are:
Why do bad things happen to good people?
Why do good people do bad things?
In looking at the first question, we need to examine what it is that we are actually asking – what is the allegedly “bad” thing that is happening to the allegedly “good” person. Let’s assume the second part of the equation here, that you or whomever you are asking about is indeed a “good” person.
So what is the “bad” thing that has happened? Has someone been injured in an accident? Is someone suffering from a debilitating illness? Has someone become the victim of a crime? Is there some major misfortune being dealt with, such as a house fire, a natural disaster, an inter-personal relationship gone bad? Has someone died?
If any of those things are the supposed “bad” thing then the answer is fairly simple: welcome to the real world.
Welcome to life. At it’s most basic, we need to understand that this life is not heaven. It is not paradise. When an innocent baby is born, and if that baby is destined to live a full, natural life span to about 80 years of age, they will experience a lot of hurt and pain. It is normal.
That pure, innocent child hasn’t hurt a fly. He or she has never done a bad thing to anyone, has never had a bad thought run through their minds. Once receiving Baptism and having ‘Original Sin’ released, they have no sin on their souls. They are, to use an old saying, “pure as the driven snow.”
So why does this baby not get to enjoy a life full of happiness, peace, joy, friendship, family, and love?
Well, again back to the most basic fact in life for the answer: they do. Every one, including those born with disease or illness, is going to experience love, joy, and happiness during the course of their lives. The most beaten down of us has experienced joy, just as they most blessed has experienced heartache.
The question of why bad things happen to good people is actually one that we shouldn’t really even be asking. Just as we hope for and expect to experience good things, we should expect to experience the bad in life. We can live a good life, treat others well, and pray – and we will still experience hurt, loss, and ultimately we will all experience death, usually having to deal with the death of dozens of family and friends before our own.
When the bad things come along, we find out how strong we are as people. Our relationships are tested. Our faith is tested. To say that this life is a “test” would be simplistic, but it clearly is an adventure that God calls us to experience in different ways. We all learn from one another, and especially we learn from the way in which those around us deal with the misfortune that comes to them and their loved ones.
We are spiritual creatures living a physical experience here on Earth, not the other way around. Of course we hope to experience as much joy and as little suffering during this physical stage of our existence as possible. But we all need to understand, accept, and live for the longer term of that spiritual existence. Eternity is far longer than a few decades.
Just as those bad things will happen, in many cases they happen because some good person committed a bad act, or allowed one to happen. This is the easier of the two questions to answer for believers: human beings are sinners. Since the Garden of Eden, men and women have taken shortcuts, yielded to temptations, given in to weaknesses, taken advantage of one another. We have treated one another, including people who we genuinely love and care for, in ways that are not very loving.
Should we just throw up our hands and accept it every time someone hurts us or injures someone we love, or commits some crime or heinous act, or when we allow ourselves to continue in sin, and just say “Oh well, I’m only human” or “Oh well, they’re a good person, they’re just being human.” No, of course not.
However, clearly those of us who are believers are called to forgive. In Matthew’s Gospel, Peter asks Jesus point-blank: “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?” Jesus’ reply is just as pointed: “Seven? Hardly! Try seventy times seven!“
For those who may have forgotten their multiplication, here is the Jesus math: 70×7 = 490.
Is Jesus telling us that we must forgive one another, at least our loved ones, 490 times during our lives? Of course not. He is making the point that forgiveness has no limits. He is calling us to simply do it. And he didn’t just talk the talk, our Lord walked the walk. While hanging on the cross, after being mocked, scourged, tortured, and left to die, Jesus called out to God: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
This life is our preparation for the next. It is meant to be lived for the Lord, for His glory. We are all called to manage our lives in a manner that will not only glorify Him, but that will demonstrate what His love is all about to our families and peers. You are called to live a certain way. Not to do as you have had done to you, but instead, as Christ taught, to “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.“
We will fall short. We will cause pain. We will feel pain. We will sin. But we are not to give up, never to give in to despair. Never to surrender to fear. Never to accept our own sins. God calls on us to be fighters against our own sin, against evil wherever we find it in this world. He calls us to do so with a heart never bent on vengeance, but full of forgiveness.
You should cherish the love you have in your life. Enjoy every moment of happiness, peace, and joy that God gifts to you during this life. In fact, you are called to do all you can to bring as much of that love, peace, and joy into others lives as you can while you are here on this Earth. “Love one another, as I have loved you.” The new commandment given by Jesus to all of us. That is how we are to try and conduct our lives.
When you think at times that you are being personally challenged, either by your own sins, or by someone hurting you, or by some negative circumstance – in other words, when some bad thing comes into your life, or some person, good or bad, causes you pain, remember this: God sent his only Son to suffer and die an excruciatingly painful death. He did this for you, to take on the weight of your personal “bad” things, even though you have sinned against him repeatedly. God has forgiven you, a sinner.
NOTE: This is a continuation of the “Sunday Sermon” series that has appeared and will continue to appear regularly on Sundays throughout the years. To visit the other articles in the series, simply click on that below ‘label’.