If God is good, why do bad things happen to good people? The short answer is that nobody is truly good, particularly not according to God’s standard of selfless nobility. Only the most shallow and self-absorbed person would be capable of denying this all-too-human failing. History tells us that comfort and luxury inevitably lead to an indifference toward God. He becomes irrelevant to us. If life is great, who needs Him?

 

But then why didn’t God make us better, fashioning us according to His standard? The stock answer to that is even shorter - He did. Adam and Eve blew it.

 

If that’s too glib an answer, I agree. But consider this: God made us for a purpose. That purpose is all about love, the kind of mutual love in which God could shower us with affection and we could respond in unbridled joy. We were made from the beginning to participate in an intimate relationship with Him. Rather than fashion us into perfection and place us into an ideal world that would foster a more selfish kind of love than God wanted for His relationship with us, He wanted us to know – intimately - the nature of His own immense love. To accomplish that, He preferred to place us into situations in which our characters would develop to the point that would correspond closely enough to His to awaken our comprehension.

 

A close reading of Scripture uncovers a consistent theme throughout the Old and New Testaments that reveals the nature of God’s love, a trait that can be expressed in just two words: selfless nobility. That kind of love doesn’t come cheaply, as we perceive in God’s having given up His life for our redemption from the Fall. 1 John 4:7-10 captures the essence of this basic nature of God:

 

“Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

 

Nor can we expect our own development of love to be without its cost, as Scripture in numerous places spells out in unmistakable terms. John 15 is loaded with detailed insight into that cost and God’s provision for mitigating it.

 

“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. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatever I command you. . .”

 

“If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of this world, the world would love its own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. . .”

 

“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, [the Holy Spirit] shall testify of me. . .”

 

Philippians 1:29 gets right to the point:

 

“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him but also to suffer for his sake,”

 

Hebrews Chapters 11 and 12, and 1 Peter get there too. In the Old Testament, the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-45 typifies both Christ and His Christians. They all make good reads, furnishing much insight along the way.

 

This very long answer to the question as to why God provided for us such a world that Christians can expect to encounter evil with its painful and lonely suffering can be summarized as being a gift to bring us into an intimate connection with the love of God.

 

As I noted in my books Family of God and Marching to a Worthy Drummer, a person has to experience the effect of evil to appreciate the goodness of God and what Jesus suffered on the cross for our sakes.

 

If God is the embodiment of perfect, selfless love, the demonstration of that love to mankind demands the existence of evil. How, except under duress, can true selflessness be demonstrated? How, in the absence of our own hurt and anguish, could we begin to see the magnitude of God's love toward us in Jesus' agony on the cross? Only in the context of God’s own sacrifice can man understand and appreciate the depth of His love toward us. Only by returning the same to God under our own duress in absolute trust and obedience are we capable of that unity with God which He intended from the beginning of Creation.

 

How could Abraham see the depth of the Father's lament toward Jesus if he hadn't come to within a hair of carrying out his sacrifice of Isaac? How could a person possibly show compassion toward the sick, or the handicapped, or the elderly, or the abused, if he was born into perfection and suffered naught throughout his entire life?

 

How could David have known the beauty of exercised faith had he not had the courage to confront Goliath with nothing but a sling, or the ineffable mercy of his Descendent Jesus to come had he not experienced the sorrow of his own terrible sin against Uriah?

 

We as individuals are defined less by our triumphs and joys than by our adversities. Our characters are both formed and exposed by the trials that come our way and the manner in which we handle them. It is easy, for example, to show ourselves as nice and caring people when everything is going our way. Most of us do that as an incidental matter, and then pat ourselves on our backs for being so friendly and pleasant. But to show that same face in times of trouble - that is what real heroes are made of, the kind that are rare and precious. It is only through adversity that this kind of spiritual beauty can shine forth. Moreover, while pain has an end, it provides an opportunity for God’s kind of love, which is eternal. As David said in the thirty-fourth Psalm,

 

"The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all. He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken. Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate. The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate."

 

It is only from a self-serving point of view that the evil of this world appears to contradict the notion of a kind and just God. But from a God-centered point of view, this earthly life and the evil therein is but a tiny part of His immense plan for us, for out of this life Jesus is fashioning for Himself a wife, one that He will cherish and adore.