I’ve heard it so many times, “I believe people are essentially good. I don’t know why bad things happen to good people.” Except humans aren’t essentially good. Anything except the bad part is the miracle.
Am I over stating things? Maybe, but perhaps not. Because the world is a messy and broken place. I think part of why we often feel disillusioned with life isn’t necessarily just because bad things happen, but because we feel surprised that they do. It’s Ok and normal to be angry about the difficulties that happen in life. But sometimes that anger is really rooted in entitlement. We think that we don’t deserve the bad things that happen to us. We get caught up not so much in frustration with the challenges themselves but that they have happened at all. We want a reason, or a justification of why bad things happen.
Disasters may not be of our own direct making, but they are the result of a sinful and broken world. We are all part of that world and contribute to it in one way or another. But the beauty and wonder of salvation is that we don’t have to be limited to that brokenness. In fact, God made a specific plan to save us from it. Jesus. The perfect man who lived a blameless life and took all the pain and deserved punishment of all the world through all of time onto his shoulders. So yes the world is broken, but it is also in the process of being renewed, and reborn. So are we.
Like so many things, it comes down to attitude. Instead of just being angry when it all falls apart, we can be grateful when it doesn’t. I am by no means suggesting that we become cynical and assume the worst will always happen. But rather than when laws of entropy are thwarted and things aren’t lost, broken or destroyed, we can see in that moment the mercy of God. Because we all deserve hell, both here on earth and for eternity. Yes, I know that isn’t a popular idea and I’m sure a book by that title wouldn’t sell many copies, but that doesn’t make it less true.
We can also see the potential opportunity for redemption. I think this is what the scripture meant when it said all things work together for God for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. It doesn’t say only good things will happen, but that all things will somehow be worked together for good. We have a long history of examples to look toward.
A small example from my own life. I was very upset by some behavior I saw from my daughter. Despite all of my best efforts she seemed to be moving away from the things I had taught her and I felt powerless. A friend reminded me that while she is a strong minded kid, she is likely not more stubborn and willful in her sin than John Newton or the Apostle Paul and yet God got a hold of those men and used them to build his kingdom, despite all of the horrible things they had done in their lives. God’s mercy at work. Not based on behavior, not based on merit, but redeeming even the worst of men and disasters for good.