Monday, March 9, 2015

Why bad things happen to good people

I wanted to share something with you that has been bothering me. I looked to my faith, and think I found the answer. This is something I have never heard said before, but logically answers the question. 

It really came to light just over a year ago when my pastor gave his homily about a book he read. The theme was "Why bad things happen to good people." I have heard sermons on this before, and they all fail to address the "WHY?"

I have heard answers to "it makes us stronger" to "no one is good" (Luke 18:19 "Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone"). They either went off on a tangent, focused on a single aspect (like no one is good), or they gave God a pass ("we don't question God"). Probably the closest thing to a good answer was something I read some time ago about Paul Harvey visiting a young man in the hospital dying of cancer.

Paul Harvey wondered, “What can I say to encourage this young man?” He said, “When I came away from that hospital, I was encouraged because this young man who was dying looked at me and said, Paul, I don’t believe that the Divine Architect of the universe [God] ever builds a staircase that leads to nowhere.”

There was also the theory that God does not micro manage our lives, he sees the big picture. Then I remember being taught that God is "all-knowing," so he must know the bad things that and who they happen to. God is "all-loving," so why does He allow these things to happen and why doesn't He stop them?  He is "all-powerful" so he can stop them. (I know, I sound like Nietzsche.)

From my younger and more cynical days, I adopted the philosophy that "God needs to take responsibility for what happens to us." Even worse it seems, people who most follow His laws, suffer the most.

We may cause it to happen to ourselves, but He knows about it and can stop it. I furthered that philosophy by the logic if God created everything including us, He is also the cause of bad things happening to us. At one point I felt guilty about this belief, but that guilt morphed into faith. If I truly believe that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving, then He knows about the bad things and doesn't stop them because He loves us.

It was not until I combined this view with another view I had from my cynical days: "People can't be happy unless they are miserable and everyone else around them are miserable too." This was my dealing with my own struggles and trying to answer the reverse of my pastor's homily; "Why do good things happen to bad people?"

See: Lyrics for Soul Asylum's "Misery."
Hear Soul Asylum's "Misery"....

I had to accept that God was all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving. That being true, then He created a world where bad things happen to us, He knows what, when, how, and to who they happen to, He could stop them (but doesn't), and He allows them to happen because He loves us unconditionally. Those are my parameters for my theory, they are accepted as fact even though they seem contradictory. 

In the nature of man I found the answer. We need things to be bad. Look what happened when God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden; not a care in the world, everything was fine. How did that work out for us?

You hear stories of celebrities, politicians, powerful people who have it all, then they screw up royally. People who have "billions and billions" [Carl Sagan] of dollars and say that they are not happy. They were happier when they were struggling and had nothing. We acknowledge this with phrases like "Money can't buy happiness, but you can pick your own misery."

Perhaps Jesus was alluding to the nature of man when He said, "Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:24). I questioned many years ago why can't one be rich and good? Why are the two mutually exclusive? My theory answers this. 

We also hear about the strength and sacrifice that man makes in the face of the worst overwhelming circumstances. A single man will stare down a legion of evil know there is no chance of surviving, simply on the principal of doing what is right. Look at the statue of Fr. Maximilian Kolbe. (I know he is a saint, but learning about him as part of my Polish heritage, he is always "Father" the same way Pope John Paul II will always be Karol Wojtyła.) Fr. Kolbe stared down the Third Reich, alone. 

This theory explains how the existence of great evils come about. Take the Third Reich, in my previous example. Hitler's rise to power was through a labor party (union) that was fighting against the deplorable conditions of the average German citizen. He was fighting against this "misery." That gave him the strength and ability to rise up so fast and so strong. Once things started going good.....  Like Paul Harvey said, you know the rest of the story. 

There is part of another mystery that this answers: Why God became man to save us? It does not answer the "why," but it shed light on the choice of "vessel" (the human body) that God chose. We don't know why God had to endure suffering to save us, but we will assume that this had to happen. So if God came down as God, he could not suffer. He is God, nails, spears, whips, etc. can't hurt him. If he chose another form, the vessel would break before the task was completed (i.e. die from the scourging or give in to the temptation in Gethsemane: "He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will" Matthew 26:39). In human form, God could have the "human experience" and endure all the pain and suffering that Christ endured. 

This is also a mechanism that saves man from himself. Think of a regulator on a steam engine, also called a "centrifugal governor." (Pic attached, Wikipedia link: ) It is those spinning balls on every "Willy Wonka" machine. They regulate how fast the engine spins. When things start going good for man and we stop living the way God wants us to, we screw everything up. Now we have to fight to survive and become the person that God wants. 

Let me illustrate: Think of "good" as "light." God, His love, and His goodness is described as "light." God's goodness is so great that we have to turn our eyes away or we will die. "Then Moses said, Please let me see your glory! The LORD answered: I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim my name, LORD, before you; I who show favor to whom I will, I who grant mercy to whom I will. But you cannot see my face, for no one can see me and live." (Exodus 33 18-20)

Man is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), then some of that light is in us. Obviously it is not as strong as God's, but there is some light there. (Again, ALL good is light, no just God's goodness.) When things are going good for us (noon time, sun shining bright), you can't see man's light or our light looks darker.

But when things are at their darkest, our light shines the brightest. When things are going really bad, we are capable of amazing things. The darker it gets, the more that you can see our light is the light of God.

This is just a theory of mine. I have never heard it put forward before and it lends itself to the answer of other questions (like why Christ became man).

So let me finish with this....

Thank you for reading AND stay STRONG!