It is not uncommon for a Christian, sooner or later, to have to answer the question, “How can a good and perfect God allow bad things to happen?” This may be somewhat of a shocker, but this is not a bad question to have to answer. In fact, it is a very good life question. However, rather than avoid the question with a response that only reveals further mystery, I want to challenge you to take some time to think deeply on it in order to grasp how God’s goodness is working within the world.
First, let’s get on the same page about what good is. Everything before Genesis chapter 3 was the filled with goodness. This is widely known as the creation account when God created such things as matter; light and darkness; things that sustain life; creatures and man. It should be noted that apart from everything stands man, which the triune God formed in his likeness (Gen. 1:26). After this magnificent creation account, God then confirmed that everything he created was very good (Gen. 1:31). Therefore, everything about God is good because everything that comes from God is good. However, in chapter 3, both the woman and man decide to oppose the ultimate good of God and sin is introduced. From that point on, virtues such as love, compassion, patience, humility, generosity and kindness are now opposed and confused by things such as anger, hate, lust, and greed, which, as we can see, are causes of man and not God. Why? For the simple reason of God’s eternal good and perfect love demonstrated in his gift of free will. God did not stop Adam and Eve by blocking their free will, rather God sent his Son to correct the error of Adam & Eve. Now that is perfect love! And it is good – it is very good! This shows that the good often times exists after the tragedy occurs, and sometimes thousands of years after the tragedy, as in the case of Jesus Christ. Here is the main point: we must not equate our current situation as an end to good but as a process of bad things being transformed into good by God.
If I can take a guess at your next question it may look something like this – “So, where is God, or better yet, where is the good in current situations like the terrorist massacre in France, or the police killings here in Dallas?” God certainly didn’t cause those things to happen and just like the incident in Eden, God certainly didn’t stop the tragedy from occurring; however, God was absolutely present and God did react in all of his goodness. God’s presence was made known in the prayers being lifted up worldwide on behalf of those fallen. God empowered some by the Holy Spirit to run into the face of danger rather than away. Christ was made even more famous by those coming together in the aftermath by feeding and comforting the weak and wounded. Now, let me ask you a question – “Are these things not good?”
It is very often that God’s goodness is recognized in the aftermath. Sometimes, you simply have to stick around in order to be a part of the goodness so that others may witness what good can truly be. It involves holding the sick and mending the wounds caused by the vicious cycle of tragedies that plague this world. Christianity is often pegged as being a very clean way of life, but I have found quite the opposite. Look around people; Christianity, and I dare say this “Can be a very dirty job.”
Admittedly, this doesn’t answer the question of why children get sick, or why teenage girls and boys get sold into the human trafficking arena or anyone for that matter. That answer too lies deep within the fall of humanity, of which is another discussion. However, know that there is always goodness battling the tide of evil. At the very least, I hope that this reading has shown at least that much.
So, we now have an answer to the question of how a good and perfect God can allow bad things to happen. If you missed it, here it is again: We must not equate our current situation as an end to good but as a process of bad things being transformed into good by God. In the Revelation to John, it states, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also, he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” This shows that we are very much part of God’s process. Finally, I will leave you with a quote from Augustine, “Since God is supremely good, he would not permit any evil at all in his works, unless he were sufficiently almighty and good to bring good even from evil. It is therefore a mark of the limitless goodness of God that he permits evils to exist, and draws from them good.”
. Ellen T. Charry, ed., Inquiring After God: Classic and Contemporary Readings, Blackwell Readings in Modern Theology (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), 33.