Im sure you must be wondering why God let this happen to you.”

Friends who visited me in the hospital after I had been seriously injured in an automobile acident said that, or some variant of it, to me many times.

“No,” I would respond, “I don’t ask that question. I think it is an exercise in futility.”

“But it is natural to ask that!” some objected, implying that if I were not asking why God let it happen, I ought to be.

My friends were being kind, of course. They were saying, subliminally, “We think you are a good person and God shouldn’t let bad things happen to good people who are trying to serve him—unless, of course, he is bringing about some specially fine result.” They shared the common belief that God only lets good things happen to good (Christian) people, and so eventually we will see that these apparently bad things really turn out to be good.

That is a comforting thought we would all like to embrace. But a realistic reading of the Bible indicates something is lacking in that view of God, the world we live in, and our place as human beings in it.

God has placed us in a world in which moral evil, suffering, and death are universal. All of us will die—Christians and non-Christians—regardless of our devotion to God. All of us have bones that can be broken when they conflict with the laws of gravity, or are damaged by disease. Christians and non-Christians seem equally subject to most of the lethal diseases of this world: cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure. Most of us have wept with Christian parents who have lost a child because of leukemia or an auto accident. Bombs dropped in war on “enemy” cities kill men, women, and children—Christians and non-Christians alike—regardless of whether the bombs are dropped by ...

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