Have you ever asked yourself why bad things often seem to happen to some of the most well meaning and kindest people we know? Why is that? Moreover, why do bad things happen to godly people? It is a good question.
I was at a recent gathering of Christian men where that question was asked aloud. Several answers were offered, most of which came down on the side of seeing such events as evidence of one or two things. Bad things happen because God is angry with us because of sin or more prominently (at least for some in this group) a lack of faith on our part. Faith in God’s ability and willingness to heal, comfort, build up, relieve etc.
Now at first hearing both sound like reasonable answers and the second even seems to have some support from St. James. However, I think that if we consider them (the questions) in light of tota scriptura we come up with a very different answer. I would like to explore that here, briefly.
Let me start my exploration with this observation. We do not, and cannot, gain merit with God by our obedience any more that our own children gain ours by theirs. Healthy familial relationships simply do not work that way. God does love our obedience, but He loves it, for Christ sake, as the obedience of a child to a parent. Therefore, there is no merit involved.
Yet that does not seem to move us towards an answer does it, or does it? It does actually, for if correct it rules out the first (apparent) answers right away.
So what can we say, or better yet what does scripture say? A good place to start, one of the best places to start, is the opening verses of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. There, having recounted his own experiences with despair, what he calls “the sentence of death in our self” goes on to explain what he learned from it. So what did he learn? He learned that such things happen (to Paul and to us) so that we can learn to trust the God Who raises the dead back to new life.
Therefore, we can say that while bad things happen to Christians they do not happen because we have failed in our attempts to manipulate God or to curry his favor by our faith or obedience. Rather they happen because He loves us and wants us to be like Jesus, who learned the same lesson Paul did, but before Paul. Simply put the Christian life is a life full of dying and resurrection. It is what makes us like Jesus.