When Bad Things Happen
Rector Chris Girata's latest article in the Katy Trail Weekly
The past few weeks have been particularly heavy. Multiple young people connected to people I know well have died, including one murder and one suicide. Tragedy is nothing new, and unfortunately, we seem to experience tragedy far too often. When tragedy strikes, it’s natural to be angry, confused and heartbroken. It’s also natural to ask: Why do bad things happen?
NOTE: This question is healthy to ask, and certainly there are many ways to approach its answer. I will attempt a succinct response in the limits of this column, but the brief response below won’t likely satisfy all readers. I invite you to walk with me for the next few minutes and see what you think, and if you want to continue the conversation, I’m not hard to find.
In moments of crisis, many people are comforted with the thought that God has a plan and the terrible experience is just part of the Big Plan. As comforting as that may sound, there is a huge theological problem with it. God is love, and God’s desire is for all of us to be made whole through love. True love cannot be forced and true love cannot be manipulative, therefore, God’s desire to love us means that hurting us cannot be part of the divine plan.
If that’s true, and I believe it is, then the next question is to ask why God would allow bad things to happen. Of course, God is God, so for people of faith, there is often a hope that God will prevent bad things from happening. True, God could prevent bad things, but if God takes control of our lives, that control would undermine what is most important about love: free choice. God’s love for us is true and pure, and our response to that love — loving God back — must also be true and pure through our own free choice.
This brings us to the most important idea of all: God’s love for us, coupled with the gift of free choice, means that when bad things happen, God’s heart is the first to break. This is not a shallow platitude, but a deep, profound truth. God loves us and walks with us every step of our lives and when we run into the evil of the world, God walks through the valley with us.
I believe evil is more than the absence of good. I believe evil is a true force that we must resist. Yet resisting evil takes commitment and energy, and it’s often easier for us to pretend that everything is fine until something significant shakes us from that delusion.
For many of us, we are able to construct lives that are relatively secure and stable, which allows us to believe that nothing bad will happen. But when we experience tragedy, we find ourselves face to face with the truth that evil finds cracks in our brokenness to creep in. When we make choices that take us away from faith, hope and love, we allow evil to creep in. However, we can do something to help.
Each one of us has been given the power and the strength to choose loving God, one another and our neighbors above all else. We can find the courage inside ourselves to use our gifts to spread hope to those who feel hopeless, to care for those who feel alone, and to comfort those who mourn. In my church, we often commend one another to “walk in love.” With reminders all around us that the world can be scary, I hope that we can choose to walk in love and in doing so, shine light into the darkness.
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