Why do bad things happen?

God loves us and never wants anyone to suffer. When bad things happen, He is always working to bend those events towards healing, peace and growth.

People sometimes say that everything happens for a reason, and that whatever happens is God’s will. But this idea implies that God deliberately gives us tragic experiences. It implies that He wants bad things to happen to us. And that simply isn’t true. God is love itself, and all He wants for every single human being is joy.

But we know that bad things still happen. All of us have experienced hardship, and when we look around at the world, we can see a lot of suffering. God does not wish any of that suffering on anybody. The simple reason why bad things are nevertheless allowed to happen is that God has given human beings free will. Without free will, we’d be no more than puppets; with free will, we are fully human. But for us to truly be free, we have to be free to make bad decisions, as well as good ones. Ultimately, all of the problems in the world can be traced back to the human race’s freedom to make bad decisions.

Bending All Things Towards Good

These bad decisions are not what God wants; He allows them, unwillingly, for the sake of our freedom. When we suffer, He grieves. In the Gospel of John, we’re told that when Jesus went to visit Mary and Martha, whose brother Lazarus had died, He wept to see their sadness (John 11:35). He’s sad to see pain in this world, just as much—or even more—than we are.

But He doesn’t sit by and watch helplessly when His people are suffering. When good people see others in need, they look for ways to help. If they can’t find a way to help, they wish that there was more that they could do. God is good, so He is always searching for ways to help us. And in His case, there is always something He can do to bring healing.

The New Church teaches that God bends all evil towards good. This doesn’t mean that evil isn’t evil, and it doesn’t mean that sad things aren’t sad. It simply means that God has incredible power to bring healing and growth out of bad situations. He has incredible power to lift up our hearts and our spirits when we fall into fear, and confusion, and despair. And yet, He always respects our freedom. He will not force us to accept His healing presence—He simply offers it to us, gently and unceasingly.

He does not want us to suffer. He grieves with us when we grieve. But His love for us, and His desire to give us joy, are stronger than even the most terrible thing that could happen to us. Healing always takes time, but God is able to heal our hearts.