The World as a Whole: Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People
We have touched on some of the realities of the world from the personal sphere. We make mistakes. Others make mistakes. We are faced with choices and challenges, both internally and from externalities. In these, love has several roles in preventative care, in response, in teaching, in growth, in comforting, in coping, in protection, in balancing. We may or may not be able to fully control our personal world, but we can control our response.
But what of external world? Even if we are not directly affected, we see hunger, squalor, disease, repression, terrorism, religious zealots, epidemics, natural disasters, hate, bigotry. People suffering devastating effects of disease, accidents, abuse.
The list can go on. The point is made. It is fine to talk about love, but where is love in all of this? Where is a loving God?
At the macro level, a partial answer is similar to that of love at the personal level. Love cannot directly control all situations and events. It is not designed for battle. That is antithetical to its nature and it would become polluted by the very act.
However, love can influence. Principals of science (that are otherwise intrinsically neutral in effect) can be steered to helping mankind rather than the making of bombs or biological agents. Government and society can be nudged toward the greater good and peace rather than division, power and greed. A society with underpinnings in common respect and tolerance is more likely to be more stable than one steeped in power, greed, division, extremism, and sectarian violence.
Yes, one might hope for more, but love cannot be a tyrant, consistent with its nature. Simply understand that without its moderating influence, matters could be much worse indeed!
In addition to influence, love can offset to the negatives in the world when they occur. Yes, there may be refugees from horrible sectarian violence. Love, in response, and through us, can provide a safe shelter and support. Love heals, supports, cares and comforts. We are its agents and partners in daily living. Every act of kindness move loves forward.
Remember: no act of love is too small. Every act adds to the quantum of love in the world and offsets the hardships. Every act of kindness nurtures the type of connection needed to survive and flourish as a species. Different people will have different contributions depending upon skills, experiences, resources, interests. Some may be visible movers and shakers. Thank God for them. Some may contribute individual kindnesses: volunteer work at a homeless shelter or food line, a dollar here or there as possible. And thank God for them. The millions of individual contributions add up and make love a vibrant reality.
At a less macro and personal level, we can use our personal resources, experiences, comfort and care to directly help a person in need. The grounded Self supports the extended Self. The extended Self, in sharing, realizes our potential and worth.
Love influences. It guides and teaches. It comforts, supports and offsets harm and hardships. Love changes “react” to “respond.” Love provides tools and resources. We provide the choice and will.
All the foregoing is fine and good. But even assuming one is able to lift Self and others from the muck, why the bad things in the first place? Where is God in all of this? If there is a personal loving God, why would He allow pain, suffering? Is He not all-powerful? Is He not loving, but rather detached? Does He care?
A possible partial answer.
In a “perfect” world, would we have a chance to grow? A chance to make choices, and, yes, even mistakes? A chance to learn? Would we have opportunities to help others, overcome challenges, share experiences, hone responsibility, resilience, connection? What relevance our store of goods if not needed in an “idyllic” world? What would be our purpose and meaning, our worth? Would choice be a real option? Would we even have a reason to be? Would the Greatest Commandment itself have much relevance or meaning? The world would be dull, lifeless, without seasons.
A vibrant life requires purpose, worth and meaning. We need to matter in some manner: to ourselves, to others. We need the freedom of choice, and we need challenges to make the freedom of choice real.
My God of Love—the God of the Greatest Commandment— allows us to have independence and freedom. To grow. To make choices. To have a mind, feelings and consciousness. Even to make mistakes as part of the learning process. To help others and, in turn, value their support. In this environment, however, is the possibility of hurt and unfairness.
A personal, loving God does not want, and certainly does not cause suffering. But those possibilities come with the greater gifts of independence, freedom, choice and ability to grow. If God is a loving, caring God, he loves us enough to allow us to exist as beings, not just scripts, in a real world. And He abides nearby for comfort.
So we shall be free. And, instead of the question, “How could God allow this to happen,” is the better question: “How can we allow this to happen?”