Jesus never promised us an easy discipleship. On the contrary, He was quite truthful about the difficulty that would accompany anyone following Him. Yet, there always seems to be a human part of us that expects things to go better than they actually do, and we get disappointed. For a few moments, let’s remind ourselves of a few important things about the difficulties that face the Christian.
Did Jesus Promise a “Rose Garden”?
No, not at all. Instead He was very truthful about the persecution that would follow His followers.
- All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Mark 13:13, NIV — see also Matthew 24:9-13; Matthew 10:24-28; and John 15:18-20).
Moreover, as long as we live in this fallen world, we will continue to be subject to the disease, destruction, death, and other calamities that befall the entirety of nature. Rescue from these things are not promised for the here and now, but for Heaven.
The natural question in response to these realities is why? Although there is no single or simple answer to this question, let me try to offer a few possibilities of why bad things may be happening to you.
We Have Met the Enemy and It is Us
First, some bad things happen because of mankind’s sin itself — we ourselves are often the problem. We love free will, when we get to exercise it; but we hate it when someone exercises it against us in the form of sin. Persecution is clearly one of these things, coming directly from mankind’s rebellion against God. Satan delights in using those who are serving him in sin (e.g., murder, theft, oppression, persecution, etc.), and then delights even more as he points an accusing finger through men at God! What a terrible injustice that God should receive the blame for things going wrong — and how typical of the enemy! But to eliminate the bad things that men do to us , God would also have to eliminate free will, our ability to make a free choice — a marvelous gift God will not take away from us. So, though worldly men will often blame God for the consequences of their own sin, may we never do so.
A Fallen World
Secondly, we live in a fallen world full of death, disease, defects, war, destruction, storms, and want. It is the consequence of the first sin. See Genesis 3 for the full story. And it won’t get better until Jesus comes again with the “restoration” (Acts 3:21), Heaven. Until then, we must deal with the world as we have it, like the rest of the world.
Some Things Are Best Learned by Doing
Third, God allows some difficult things to happen to us to strengthen or teach us something important. Even earthly parents who love their children often allow their children to suffer the consequences of their mistakes or irresponsibility — to teach. They give them chores to do with ever increasing difficulty to teach, strengthen, and build character. Why wouldn’t a loving Heavenly Father do the same?
Lastly, if we may be so bold, let’s ask, “Where are all these good people?” Jeremiah challenges our sometimes distorted view of ourselves and says, “Why should any living man complain when punished for his sins? Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the LORD.” (Lamentations 3:39-40, NIV). Considering how all of us have sinned against God and one another— and even the best of us have — should we really complain? Technically, the only truly good people among us are innocent children. Indeed, the better question truly is, “Why do such good things happen to such frequently bad people?”
Even if this posting were go on for thousands or hundreds of thousands of more words not every possible explanation could be listed. The whole question is an extremely complex one, and there is no simple or easy reason for suffering and evil. When one day we are able survey the whole scope of God’s work; this truth will become crystal clear, and all questions and doubts of this world will be laid completely and utterly to rest. What will be clearer still is why God had counseled all along that we “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5, NIV).