This will not be a very long letter, because answering the question “Why do bad things happen?” can be a complex task. Ask anyone who has studied the book of Job, or anyone who has suffered loss. I am not qualified to answer this question in one letter. You will have to wrestle with this question like the rest of us. I will offer a few thoughts, however, about how to interpret the pain and loss that are an inevitable part of the human experience.
Bad things can happen when you make mistakes. This is why you should always be a student in life. Learn from others’ mistakes so you do not repeat them. Learn from your own mistakes so you do not repeat them. Make wise decisions so that you do not multiply pain in your own life and in the lives of those who love you.
Bad things can happen to you when others make mistakes. There is a mystery of humans suffering at the hand of other humans, and it can run against our sense of justice. I once remember a woman making a bitter statement about wanting to ask Jesus why He did not stop some bad things from happening in her life. I could hear the frustration in her voice, but the only conclusion I could think of to myself was, “Jesus did not stop me from doing or saying some things that have hurt people.”
We have been given choices about how to conduct our lives. “Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” Because we as imperfect people been given the freedom to choose our words and deeds, bad choices are made and people get hurt. I am not saying I feel okay about it all. I do try to be keenly aware of it, though, so that I may guard my own words and deeds, and so that I may speak up for others.
You don’t always get to know why the bad thing happened. When I watched my almost 14-year-old son lay over the body of his beloved Hans’ body and say goodbye just before a veterinarian ended the dog’s pain, I had no answers. No answer for why the freak accident happened. No answer for why your young dog’s life had to be cut short when he brought all of us so much joy. No answer for why it happened on Christmas Eve. No answer for why you had to bury your dog on your birthday. I still do not understand why. I can only cherish our memories with Hans and try my best to learn from the experience. This brings me to the next thought…
There is a lesson in every loss. When we drove Hans to the emergency clinic that Christmas Eve night, I never considered a scenario in which he would not return home with us. I talked to him and tried to comfort him. I watched him still trying to be brave and protect us during the ride, true to his nature. Still, had I known it was our last time together, I think I would have held him tighter and cherished him more for as many precious minutes as I could.
The lesson for me is that we never know when it’s the last time. So, we need to hold on tightly to those we love and we need to cherish moments together. That night was horrible, and I still feel the pain of losing Hans, but I do not want to devalue the purpose of his loss by missing the lesson in the loss.
Every bad thing that happens to you is allowed by God. If I can hold on to this truth when there is pain or loss, then I can find peace instead of bitterness. John the Baptist devoted his life to preparing the way for Jesus’ adult ministry on Earth, only to find himself in a Roman prison. Facing doubt, John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus if He truly was the Christ. Jesus did not reprimand John for the question, and instead said of him, “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11).
It is okay to ask the question “why” when things do not make sense. Wrestling with that question, and then making needed changes in your life when you do get answers to the question, is probably part of the whole purpose of this great mystery.
Do not be offended by the hard things that God allows or even orders in your life. That is certainly easier written than done, but if you want to be blessed, trust Jesus’ words, “And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” Matthew 11:6
I love you forever,