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Bad Things Do Happen to Good People

God is all powerful.

God is all good.

Terrible things happen.

Theologian Frederick Buechner shrewdly observed that you can match any two of these three propositions, but never all three.

(The propositions referred specifically to God, so we will do the same throughout this section. However, the words Creative Force, Intelligence, or Greater Power can be substituted. The logical argument remains the same.)

It is a fact that terrible things, like emotional rape, do sometimes happen to people who have been good, kind, generous and loving. And it is also a fact that many of us believe in the notion that neither good nor bad things happen without purpose or meaning.

So, even when something happens that appears to be unfair and unjust, we often assume that the victim must have done something to deserve the misfortune.

The underlying assumption is that there is a god who is all powerful, all good and controls everything. This assumption, as the dilemma of our three propositions- reminds us, is plainly a problem.

One obvious solution, a simple one, is to accept that God is not all powerful. This proposition still accepts God as the creator of  everything and allows Him to remain all good, but it also admits that terrible things do happen to good people, a truth we cannot deny.

Perhaps the one limitation God faced in creating the universe was that nothing could be created without its opposite.

If positively charged particles, protons, were created, then an equal number of negatively charged particles, electrons, also had to exist. For every positive emotion there had to be a balancing negative one. As soon as good was created there was also evil and then the power to choose was introduced into this world of alternatives.

If freedom of choice was impossible and all human actions were controlled by a Greater Power, human beings would be reduced to the status of robots, just as we are in the "lightning strike" theory of creation, with no meaning or purpose. We would not be human.

Life is all about the choices we make, and we can not be free to choose good unless we are also free to choose evil.

Would life without this freedom to choose between good and evil be better? Would love be as fulfilling without hate? Would achievement be as exhilarating without failure?

Because we have the freedom to choose between good and evil, and because we do not live forever, every moment of our lives, every decision we make, counts.

Life is not about winning or losing, but discovering who we really are- about love and knowledge. How could we discover who we are, or learn about love and knowledge, in a world with no opposites, no chance of failure, no ability to choose?

Bad things do happen to good people, but that doesn't mean those people must therefore be bad, or otherwise deserving of misfortune. It is simply that those good people are the victims, thence survivors, of choices that are made; sometimes their own choices, sometimes the choices of others.



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