Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

This oft-repeated question says nothing about God, but everything about human beings.
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Yet while he wants us to return to him, he doesn't force us to take this course of action, and if we choose an eternity without him, what we have chosen is hell. This is important, because a lot of people purposely or accidentally misunderstand the concept. Hell is not so much a place of punishment, as a place where we do not know and do not see God. We are creatures made in his image, made to love him and to be loved by him, and our vocation after this sojourn on earth is to be united with our maker in heaven.

But we have a choice. We have freedom, we have the right to choose, even the right to choose to do the wrong thing. God in his ultimate love even gives us the right to choose not to return to him, and to choose to spend eternity without him, in a place we call hell. So atheists scream at a God in whom they do not believe, for allowing them to reject him in whom they do not believe, for allowing them to spend the rest of eternity in a place without him in whom they do not believe. It's all a little odd and contradictory. The pain that must occur in heaven when we reject God and choose to live in a Godless place is beyond our comprehension, but this freedom of choice proves God's love and not his indifference.

God Is Not Impossible to Find

Nor is it the case that he makes himself difficult to find, which leads to the accusation that a truly good God would make it easier, even inevitable and unavoidable, that we would all follow him and find our way to heaven. But this reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of God's involvement and intervention in history, and—again—of what choice is all about, and how enmeshed love and choice always have to be.

On the one hand, if he made himself entirely obvious, only a fool or a masochist would purposely reject him, and he would effectively be giving us no choice at all. Intimidating as it may seem, we are also being tested, and judged—and judgment is the last thing that modern, Western humanity is willing to be subjected to. But remember that that same modern, Western person often complains about fairness, or lack of same. It would be horribly unfair if anybody and everybody, irrespective of their choices, spent eternity in joy and completeness with God in heaven. It's likely that the same people who complain about bad things happening to good people now would then loudly protest that it was wrong that such good things—actually the best things possible—should happen to bad people, some of them the worst people possible.

On the other hand, if he made himself almost impossible to find, God would be playing cruel games with us and would be loveless, like some supreme vivisectionist, possessing power but showing no affection and without any responsibility. So he makes himself entirely recognizable and attainable, if we have the slightest inclination to find him. He sent us monarchs, prophets, martyrs, signs and symbols, miracles, and finally his Son, to die in agony for us and then through the Resurrection prove God's love, power, and being. Not a bad set of clues when you think about it. If you think about it. But you do, yes, have to think about it.

Michael Coren is the author of 14 bestselling books, including Heresy: Ten Lies They Spread About Christianity, from which this article is excerpted. Copyright © 2012 by Michael Coren. Reprinted by permission from McClelland & Stewart.

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