One might ask, as a great many people already have, if God is so good, why do bad things happen to good people, especially those who are thought of as good Christians? Actually, the question isn’t so much a question as a challenge. It’s predictable what the asker really means: since bad things do happen to good people and because our ‘God’ is supposed to be a good ‘God’, there is a contradiction between this ‘God’ and His behavior. Therefore, this ‘God’ doesn’t really exist, and the relieved asker considers himself to be free to pursue his own selfish interests without having to worry about the retribution of a nonexistent ‘God’.

 

Selfishness is indeed the real issue here. It is only in the context of narrow self-interest that negative events must always be considered to be bad. The self-absorbed individual invariably views the ideal world as an unending party filled with uninterrupted ease and gratification. False pastors have made fortunes by playing into this nasty misrepresentation of God for appallingly shallow and self-centered congregations of Christian infants.

 

God does indeed love His Christian flock, but the love that He knows and wishes for us must be mutual. We must possess the capability of loving Him back with that same form of love with which He favors us. His greatest commandment to us is of that form, as spelled out in Matthew 22:37 and 38, having been extracted from Deuteronomy 6:5:

 

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.”

 

This kind of mutual love doesn’t come cheap. It comes to us from a noble, self-sacrificial God, and it must be returned to Him in the same noble manner. Immediately after pronouncing this greatest commandment, Jesus followed it with a similar one:

 

“And the second is like it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

 

What does this kind of love mean? Jesus answered that in John 15:12 and 13:

 

“This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

 

We understand this kind of love quite intimately whenever we see a ceremony where a valorous soldier receives the Congressional Medal of Honor and the account of his self-denying love for his brothers-in-arms is read before our nation. The kind of noble loyalty that in love for others overcomes the pain and fear of dire situations creates unbreakable connections among humans. The more familiar bond among family members is like that too, when the family operates in mutual selflessness to support each other in bad times as well as good.

 

That’s what God wants from us, and it’s what it means to be a true Christian. And it often takes pain and deprivation to get to that place in our character development. But it’s not all that bad for the person with the right frame of mind, for the more that we put ourselves out for God, the more intimate is our relationship with Him. With the comfort and support of the Holy Spirit who indwells all Christians, even the more negative experiences can turn out to be joyful. The non-Christian who does not possess that indwelling has no way of understanding that power of God’s love in the Christian life, and of how, with that power, suffering can be turned into joy.

 

Beyond the joy of knowing God here in the material world, the Christian also has the thrilling expectation of a loving companionship in the spiritual future, as promised in Ephesians 5:25-32:

 

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Chriust also loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word; that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church; for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

 

“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

 

“This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”

 

 

 

 

 

Published by Art Perkins