As followers of Jesus, one of the hardest realities we face is comprehending why bad things happen. And as parents, it can be even harder when your student begins to look for answers to that same question. We live in a broken world, and facing that reality while still believing that God is all powerful and all knowing can be complicated - especially for a student who’s currently trying to get good grades, being bullied on social media, feeling pressure from friends and family, and dealing with acne on top of it all. But being prepared for tough questions and conversations is half of the battle. Below you’ll find a place to start when your student finally asks, “Why do bad things happen?”
Question: Is there a real reason why bad things happen?
Answer: Sometimes, bad things happen because of bad choices.
Not every bad thing that happens in our lives is because of a choice that we’ve made - but there are times that choices we make - maybe when we’re in a rush, or not thinking clearly, or when we just make a bad decision - can cause a consequence that results in something bad happening. It doesn’t mean that you wanted it to happen, or that it’s entirely your fault, but it does mean that maybe you can avoid a bad thing happening in the future by learning a lesson this time around.
If you’re looking to make good choices that lead to good consequences rather than bad ones, a great place to start is reading the book of Proverbs - it’s filled with practical wisdom that God wants to share with us to set us up to make good decisions that don’t lead to bad things happening.
Question: Why do bad things happen to good people?
Answer: Bad things happen to everyone - not just good people.
It’s not an easy answer to give, but it’s important to know that bad things don’t only happen to good people - bad things happen to everyone, “good” people and followers of Jesus included. We live in a broken world, and while we wish that bad things didn’t happen to anyone, we can rest assured that even when we do face bad things, God is still good, and he is still the ultimate authority.
Question: Why doesn’t God stop bad things from happening?Answer: God doesn’t only work in the good things - and the bad things aren’t a waste.
If God is the ultimate authority, and God is always good, your next question might be why he doesn’t stop bad things from happening. The answer to this question rests on the fact that God isn't good because good things always happen - God is good because he can take anything that happens to us and use it for good. Romans 8:28 tells us, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." While we may not understand why something bad needed to happen, God does - and that bad thing might be the key to an incredible way that God is working in your life or someone else’s life.
The good news in the bad things is that they aren’t a waste, and they aren’t meaningless. God uses everything for good - even bad things. And even when our circumstances are less than ideal, instead of choosing to focus on the bad, we can choose to see how our circumstances can continue to point others to Jesus. There’s a great example of Jesus telling us this is true in John 9 when he uses the circumstances of a blind man to show his power and glory. When we shift our mindset to seeing bad things in this light, it can change our whole perspective on why bad things happen.
Even in spite of knowing all these truths, bad things hurt. They can be painful, agonizing, fear-inducing, and life-altering. So when your student does face a bad thing in their life, encourage them in letting them know that while they can’t always control when bad things happen to them, they can always control how they respond. Instead of running from bad things when they do face them, present them with the opportunity to take these three steps:
1. Slow down and face what’s happening
2. Put your thoughts on paper and express your feelings to God
3. Share what you’re going through with others and give them the chance to speak truth into your life and situation
When bad things do happen, sometimes the most helpful asset your student can have is support - from you as their parent and from their peers. Learn more about how your student can get involved in LCBC’s Student Ministry and get in a Group at LCBCchurch.com/Students.