A student asks:
I’ve noticed a lot of tragedies in the news and in the personal lives of people I know. Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?
This is a question we hear a lot, and the answer lies in your own perceptions. The idea of “God allowing bad things to happen to good people” makes several assumptions that are not necessarily true. The first assumption is that a personified God “allows” anything to happen. Metaphysically, we do not see God as a person controlling the universe, but rather as the creative force of the universe that brought us to where we are. When the Bible says that man was created in God’s image, it’s not that God is a person like us, but rather, God is a source of creation, and so are we. What do we create? Lots of things. That leads to the second assumption.
We have a tendency to see situations, people and things as good or bad. There really is no such thing as good or bad. These are simply labels we place on things based on our perception and judgment in relation to how we experience our life. Even the word “tragedy” is a judgment, just like “good” or “bad.” When we deem something good or bad or tragic or magnificent, we are creating an energy that goes with those judgments, and that energy is what we are experiencing when we observe these things taking place. You are making it good or bad!
I know this can be a hard pill to swallow, but think about this example. An active person is going to perceive a sprained ankle as being “bad,” because in relation to that person’s experience, it reduces their ability to function in a way they have come to accept as “normal.” In comparison, living with a broken leg, requiring cast and crutches for a couple of months might seem a lot worse than a sprained ankle. Someone who has lost a leg to disease or accident would likely see a broken leg as being a better than not having a leg at all. A person who is paralyzed would be happy with legs that function. A person who is suffering from debilitating illness on the brink of death might think that being paralyzed yet otherwise healthy would be much better than a slow, painful death. In contrast with all of these other things, that “bad” sprained ankle doesn’t seem so bad, does it? These are intentially extreme examples, but they illustrate the point. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. It’s all in how we see it.
And from the standpoint of Divine action, even the Bible reminds us that God does not play favorites. Acts 10:34 says “God is not a respecter of persons.” God does not judge us or reward us or punish us. We do these things to ourselves through the energies and actions we create. Whether we are always doing our best to be kind, compassionate, or whether we are hateful and hurtful to others, our Consciousness acknowledges those energies, which create who we are. We ultimately judge ourselves as we become increasingly aware of the effect of our actions on others.
So what about “bad things?” Again, they aren’t bad. They just are. Sometimes things just happen randomly, and they can’t be avoided. Nature operates a certain way (we call that Natural Law – the law of cause and effect), but sometimes we don’t like the outcome, and we take it personally. Sometimes things happen as a result of our own choices, such as developing an illness because we smoked too much or working around harsh chemicals or making poor nutritional choices, but we don’t like the outcome, and we take it personally. Sometimes, people come into this life with the intention of experiencing certain things, for the lessons it will teach them, or the lessons it will teach those around them, but we don’t like the outcome, and we take it personally.
Notice a pattern here? There are so many reasons that something can happen. In the end, everything happens for an explainable reason, or it wouldn’t have happened. We don’t always take the time to try to understand what those reasons are. Attributing it to an invisible force of nature doesn’t make it any more or less “good” or “bad.” And even if we experience something we see as bad, something good always comes out of it, even if it is just a better understanding.
Rather than holding God responsible for what we experience, why not just acknowledge that everything that happens in our lives is simply an event in a timeline of many events that are constantly happening from before we are born until the day we die? If we treat these happenings as “events” without judging them as good or bad, we can handle them more objectively. Instead of reacting with our emotions, it becomes easier to respond with our sensibilities. We can take time to recognize and appreciate the lessons these situations teach us, and be thankful instead of resentful. It’s okay to be sad, or excited, or whatever emotions might be inspired when something happens. But it isn’t fair to blame God for these events, any more than it would be fair for a superhuman person named “God” to blame us!
I realize that none of this makes an unpleasant situation any less unpleasant, but it might help you see the situations from a more comfortable place, where you can handle them in an encouraging and uplifting way, and appreciate them for the growth you gain on your path of progression. (You might not be surprised that this is also the foundation for forgiveness, but that is a topic for another day!)
Best wishes on your journey…