Why do bad things happen to good people?

Published 3:33 am Sunday, April 24, 2011

What triggered this philosophical dissertation was a news story I read in the London “Telegraph” by Nick Squires about sone of the things Pope Benedict XVI did to celebrate Easter. The 84-year-old pontiff accepted, discussed and tried to answer questions submitted to him over the Internet. He received 3,000 and chose to address seven.

And right there at the top was that age-old question that has always baffled mankind: If God is Love and He cares so deeply about his creation, why so much suffering, usually by the innocent.

After almost six decades of hanging around “down here,” I claim to know a little bit about this topic. Besides experiencing the human condition myself, I have also read just about everything I can get my hands on, on the subject.

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My crisis point came in dealing with the suffering of my niece, Kathryn Brady, who was born with cystic fibrosis and suffered terribly with the disease and died at age 19. It was a terrible trial for her, her mother and father, and the rest of our family.

I, and some people I know, can deal with just about anything, but the suffering of an innocent child. It will try your faith like nothing else in this world and will make you even question God Himself and the purposes behind his creation.

I also watched onetime a minister here, The Rev. Dale Patterson, struggle with that same question when he preached his son Jeff’s funeral here at Roseland Park Baptist Church and buried his son after a tragic, freak accident.

“I don’t know, and can’t tell you, why God took my son,” he told over 1,000 weeping  mourners crammed into the church, “but I can tell you this: I will dedicate the rest of my life trying to find out why, and helping those who have suffered what I have.”

His sermon that day forever impacted my life.

You out there who have a loved one who is suffering and who have lost a loved one after prolonged, undeserved suffering, know what I am talking about. You who have not experienced the “dark side” can’t imagine. Pray that you don’t experience it.

So, what did the Pope say? He said he did not have all of the answers. To a seven-year-old Japanese girl who asked him why so many children died and suffered in the tsunami, he replied, “I ask myself the same question. We don’t have the answers, but we know that Jesus suffered as innocent children suffer.”

Here are a few points I have arrived at during my sojourn and it might help you, too:

A Jewish rabbi, who wrote the book, “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People,” said all the pat retorts he had been telling his parishioners when they faced personal crises helping a suffering loved one, did not mean anything when it was his own child who was born with a terminal illness.

What he arrived at was: You can never answer the question why, but you can say, “What I am I going to do about this,” and the answer is that you are going to use this tragedy to continue your life and live your life as you know your loved one would want you to.

You will celebrate life and share your tragedy, when you can, to help others. In that way you honor your loved one’s suffering and earthly existence.

Secondly, ask yourself this: If the only way I could have my loved one was with this illness, would I accept it. You would have to say you would, suffering and all, because then you will have eternity to spend with them. You know them because they were born; if they were not born you would never have known their personality. Simple, yet profound!

If they had not been born, their eternal soul would not have been created. Granted many, many live short, brutal existences “down here,” but compared to eternity, this is only a blink of an eye, and you will get to spend eternity with them because they exist.

My family’s final conclusion about Kathryn was that if that was the only way we could have had her, with her illness, then so be it. We could not imagine spending eternity without her presence.

That is the crux of existence, that we do live, that we have life and that we will spend eternity with our loved ones and our family. That’s why family is so important.

And thirdly, whatever God is doing must be a wonder to behold because He Himself is willing to endure this suffering to bring it all to fruition. Rest assured, when you hurt, He hurts.

Remember, when we see a death from this side, there is much weeping and sorrow, but when those on the other side of eternity welcome a sojourner home, there is great rejoicing!