Three days ago, the Deeper Bible team have lost one of of our teachers, Ruth. She is Peters' wife, a mother of her two unborn babies, a friend, a family. Within hours, Peters lost both of his wife and daughter, Queen Sofia (almost 7 months old in Ruth's womb). If you know Peters and Ruth, you may know how they have dedicated their lives to serve the Lord faithfully in music, drama, Bible teaching, Bible radio on Heartline FM, etc. Yes we can say, Peters is going through the Job's experience in our century. "Bad things" happen to "good people". For some people, this perhaps sounds like a tragedy of unknown people. But because I know them personally, I see how difficult this moment really is. He has befriended Ruth and loved her over 15 years. No words would be sufficient to express such kind of lost. I can only be there and speechless. It is a time to mourn with those who mourn, to cry with those who cry.
Some people commented, "This can't be happened to believer..." For those people, I actually want to say, "Why not?" We see.. some of Christians have mindset that by faith in Jesus everything is going to be fine. No disease will struck us, no disaster will attack us, we will live a blessed live, then we can add: 'coz we are blessed to be a blessing.. or other Christian's favorite quotes. But over thousands of years, the Bible does testify many "good people" experience "bad things". But before we discuss it any further, let's agree what we define as "good people". The world defines good people as people who do good things in general. They don't commit crime, they live a normal life. The Christians often define good people as people who love Jesus, live out for Jesus, and do some ministry here and there. Although in God's eyes, He doesn't determine someone is good or not in terms of what they do, but this writing will stick to the Christian's definition of "good people" for now.
God praised Job in front of Satan: "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil." [Job 1:8, NIV] But as Satan asked to shake everything Job had to prove his theory that Job would certainly curse God afterwards, God allowed him to do that. And yes, within one day, Job lost all of his sons and daughters, the sheep and the servants, the camels and all of his wealth. But Job responded it well in verse 21 he said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." And I like the note in verse 22: In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
Paul, the apostle who wrote most of the letters in New Testament, the early church builders and missionary of Christ's gospel, suffered. "Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches." [2 Corinthians 11:23-28, NIV]
Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior of us, suffered. Isaiah prophesied about him, "He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem." [Isaiah 53:3, NIV]
"He was oppressed and afflicted yet he did not open his mouth; he was like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth." [Isaiah 53:7]
"He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth." [Isaiah 53:9, NIV]
"Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities." [Isa 53:11, NIV]
We are familiar with the phrase of "from glory to glory", but what kind of glory are we expecting to? When life turns out not as we expected them to, we don't like that kind of 'glory', do we? But the Bible testifies many of the saints and even Jesus, went through the "glory of pain". We don't like God's glory plan -not if it involves our suffering. Not if it involves waiting for God and wondering if he's ever going to act. If life is a puzzle, we can say to this part of life, "I don't like this piece of puzzle. It's not what I have planned. It's not comfortable nor pleasing. I don't understand." So do I. I don't understand that kind of glory either. But what I do know is, God loves to work in our weakness. He can use us when we are strong, but he uses us MORE when we are weak. Because through our weakness, everyone will know that if we can do great things out of it, this must be of God.
It is important that our faith is based on the true character of God, and not in the circumstances. God never promises us a life free of pain, but he promises us to walk with us through the pain. "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." [Deuteronomy 31:6, NIV] Yes, there is a cost of following Jesus, but there would be a greater cost not to follow Jesus. Tragedy and pain happens. Why? Because we are living in the fallen world. Death is inevitable part of life. The world is not our permanent home, we are here only for a while. We are longing for the day when we meet again with Jesus face to face, the day when we will be home safely to our Father. By then, God will wipe away every tears and pain. But before that happens to us, let us embrace God's way in our lives. God doesn't work with formula: good people will certainly receive always good things nor bad people will certainly receive always bad things. No. God's ways are unpredictable. I guess that's what makes him God after all. His ways are higher than ours. But what we can predict is his love and goodness will always be constant in our lives. Even we don't see it through the lens of circumstances now, we can see it through the lens of faith. David saw it. He wrote in Psalm 23:6, "Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever."
So, why do bad things happen to good people? I hope I can wrap out this writing neatly with a perfect bow (beautiful ending). But truly the answer is I don't know. God works in a mysterious way. God doesn't give us answers of everything. If he does, we won't need faith anymore. Pete Wilson once said, "Somehow, mysteriously, when we receive the love of Jesus into our lives through suffering; when we decide to choose that love and share it, we keep suffering from the last word in our lives." Suffering produces such an opportunity to experience the love of Jesus in a very unique way. The beautiful side in Peters' story is when the church [not spiritual organization, but the people within the church] be there for him through the sorrow. They initiatively poured out their hands, support, and love at the most painful moment. It was the time when the church is not merely a place we attend to every Sunday, but becomes a true community of support. Yes it didn't change the fact, but it touches the hearts of many with fingerprints of Jesus' love everywhere.
Matt Chandler once said, "There is a difference between trust and understanding. Trust is what we need when we don't have understanding." So when bad things happen to good people, it's definitely not a place to understand, but to trust. Trust in the God who loves you, always be with you, never leaves you nor forsakes you. Trust grows not through convenience of life, but through the glory of pain. Trust in what God is doing in your life. Because all that matters in this life is not when everything goes as we plan it to be, but the journey of knowing our true God.