This week at Young Adult Bible Study, we discussed why bad things happen and how a God who is all-knowing and all-seeing could allow bad things to happen in the world. If God truly loves his creation then how could he allow bad things to happen to those who he loves. We watched a video about the topic and it did a good job of explaining the concept but didn't provide any easy answers mainly cause there aren't any answers. During discussion after the video, we read the story of Joseph and talked about how the story relates to the concepts of bad things happening to good people. In Joseph's case, he was sold into slavery by his own brothers and was assumed dead by his own father. However, in Joseph's case, he ended up in a much better situation than he started out in. The quote above by Marilyn Monroe is one that I have taken as a personal motto for myself and one that I have found to be true more often than not. In the case of Joseph, he had a good thing going living in a household with a large family with a father who adored him and a Technicolor Dreamcoat. All that was taken away by his brothers' jealousy and things looked pretty bleak for Joseph. However, he ended up in a better situation because of what his brothers did to him. If he had stayed in his old situation, he would have been subjected to the same famine that plagued his family and might not have lived to carry on the legacy of his people. Instead, he ended up being in a position of power and was able to help those who were affected by the famine. Plus, he got a great Broadway musical out of the deal!!
So, as you can see, a bad thing happened to Joseph but it turned into something good maybe even great. I think that's the nature of most bad things that happen in our lives. God takes them and makes something beautiful out of the midst of tragedy. Look at the cross for another example. Out of that absolutely horrific and terrible event sprang the hope and salvation of all mankind. Sometimes, it's simply about seeing the beauty in the midst of the tragedy.
Of course, this doesn't allow for the larger question of why do bad things have to happen at all?? Can't God simply not let bad things happen?? If he really is all powerful, he should be able at least to end human suffering, right?? Honestly, I don't really have an answer for that and we never really found an answer for it at Bible Study either. I don't think there is an answer. I sincerely believe that everything happens for a reason but then, as someone pointed out last night, what about the Holocaust? Did God allow the Holocaust to happen? Was he simply powerless to stop it? Why did the Holocaust happen? Where's the silver lining in the extermination of millions of people in such a horrific and horrid way? The easy answer is I don't know. I don't know why things like the Holocaust or Hurricane Katrina or 9/11 happen. I just know they do and they are tragic and scary at the same time. It's a question that I think many Christians struggle with and I think a lot of atheists cite it as a reason why they don't believe in God. I can see their point. If God could stop the Holocaust and chose not to, then is that really a God we want to worship and adore?? Or alternatively, if God was powerless to stop the Holocaust, then what kind of God is that?? Certainly not one that most of us would want to worship. It's easy to take that route and choose not to believe in God at all for to believe in God means that we must struggle with the fact that he could have potentially chosen not to stop the bad things from happening.
I know I have been hitting hard the fact that I used to be an atheist but it's because those years of unbelief have completely shaped and informed my years of belief. Another reason I was an atheist had to do with the fact that I saw so much tragedy and pain happening in my personal life and I had a hard time reconciling that with the idea that there was an all-powerful, all-loving God. If God was truly like that, then why couldn't he just fix everything and make it all better. Why did so many people that I loved and respected have to suffer such incredible pain and loss?? Why couldn't he have made me "normal" so I would fit in with my peers? All these questions weighed heavily on my mind and I chose not to believe in a God that would have that kind of attitude toward his creation. Now, I still wrestle with those questions but now I have chosen to believe that God gave us free will and lets us make our own choices, for better or for worse. God doesn't make any mistakes but humans sure do. God still loves us even when we commit unspeakable acts of violence and inhumanity because we are his beloved children. He made us the way we are and we should embrace it. Ultimately, while I don't have an answer for why bad things happen to good people or why God doesn't just stop those things from happening, I can honestly say that my God gave us the free will to make our own decisions and our own mistakes but irregardless of those decisions, he still loves us anyway even when we don't love ourselves or him. That's the most important part of my religious beliefs: the idea that God loves us no matter what we have done or who we are or how we treat others. He still cares deeply for us and doesn't want bad things to happen to us. Humans make the choice to commit acts of unspeakable evil and God gave us that choice so that we might know suffering and compassion.
Perhaps my thoughts sound really jumbled and perhaps I'm not making much sense. Maybe some of you are wondering when I'm going to stop writing about theology and start writing more about my life in Chicago. Those are all valid points but my life in Chicago includes my theology as it is something I have to deal with on a daily basis. My Christian faith is being stretched and challenged in so many ways while I am up here and I feel the need to share it with you all and get my thoughts on these matters out there. I hope that's okay with you all. Pretty soon, I will get back to posting about life in Chicago although to be honest, there's not really that much to add to the conversation there. Things are still great here so far. I sometimes fear that I am going to run out of things to blog about as my life up here is not one exciting adventure after another. Anyway, that's all I have for today. I've had theology on the brain a lot this week between this week's Bible Study and this week's episode of Glee (one of the finest they've ever done) so I just needed to share it with you all. Remember, God (and I) loves You!!