Why do bad things happen?
“Why does God allow bad things to happen? I feel like I’m almost more bothered by how many totally different theories I’ve heard on this topic than the question itself.” -- Adam L., an ELCA Facebook follower
Brian: Adam, your concern with the many responses you get speaks to the very heart of the problem. By nature, we understand God to be good and to desire good for all creation. Reality makes it clear that God’s desire for good is not yet fully realized. Honesty compels me to tell you three things: 1) I don't really know, and neither does anyone but God. 2) Any logic I apply will be too small for the God I encounter in Scripture and in the world. 3) Even the basic logic I have recognizes that we can have free will or we can be prevented from experiencing anything bad, but we can’t have both. What I do know, and don't need logic to comprehend, is that God is present in the midst of suffering, seeking to comfort, assure and encourage.
Rosanne: Oh! What a good question and one, as you have indicated, has as many answers and theories as there are people to suggest them. So, at the risk of being just one more answer, here’s what I would say. When God created humankind in God’s own image, God’s will was to be in relationship with us, and us with one another. Relationships of any kind involve risks and choices, which can enhance the relationship or damage it. Joy, happiness, peace, mutual sharing and caring, and love are a part of these relationships. But death, sin, brokenness, loss and yearnings are also a part of life and relationships, and these can bring about “bad things.”
It is not that God wills that we should suffer or purposely allows bad things to happen – they just do. More importantly, because we are followers of a crucified God in Christ, God is to be found in the midst of our death, sin, brokenness, loss and yearnings. Despite all appearances to the contrary, as followers of Jesus, who went to death on a cross and was resurrected so that death has lost its power, in faith we believe that there is nothing that happens – no sin, brokenness, loss, despair or bad things – where God is not present with us and for us in order to bring us from death to life.
Do you have a question you'd like answered by an ELCA pastor? Email your question to us as at email@example.com and you might see it answered by one of our pastors. You can also find out more about our pastors on our "Bios" page. LivingLutheran.com offers a platform for ELCA members to share their diverse experiences of what it means to live Lutheran.