Reviewing the literature so you can 1) write the literature review and 2) understand what research still needs to be done can be the most tedious part of the research process. So I’ll break it down for you. Part of the research process is seeing …
“I know my strength. I have faith in charcoal fires and iron woks. They taught me to be clever. They taught me to be brave. So, if I still have the strength, I will continue cooking.” —Jay Fai When I was a teenager, somehow I …
Recently I’ve heard a lot of the “Why do bad things happen to good people?” talk, but in different terms. We all like to think of ourselves as the good people, so when things don’t go according to how we think they should, our first response is usually one of frustration and anger. Sometimes it’s at others, at ourselves, or at God.
About a year ago was the last time I saw two people I love. And about a year ago was the last time I saw someone I admired and rooted for. And about a year ago I was dating someone long distance. And about a year ago I finally graduated with a degree in hand. A year later, and I’m not permitted to see or speak to two people, the one I admired passed away, I’m married to that guy I was dating, and now I’m in a master’s program. You could say I’ve witnessed or experienced bad and good things happen.
So why could I care less about the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” — even though it affects me? Because when bad times come, I remember this song I used to sit at the piano and sing, “Sometimes he [God] lets it rain.”
Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?
We live in a world where we see and experience bad things and good things. But perhaps our feelings of frustration and anger over the bad things have more to do with how we are framing the issues. There are probably some feelings that things are unfair. Our feelings are valid, but what do we do with those feelings? I’ve heard all sorts of faulty ideas about how life should be that lead people to ask this question. Here are some of the mindsets I hear:
- I’m tired of acting good and not having things happen to me the way I want them to.
- God is supposed to be blessing me for trying my best. Why are things not happening the way I want them to?
- I try so hard to be nice and to comply with others’ demands, but still they aren’t happy.
- She did everything she could, but nothing worked out. Why would God let that happen to her?
- If God will make good things happen in his life, then is he punishing me for something? Because I’m trying too, and I’m not getting the blessings that he’s giving to that other person.
- My parents were hard on me, and so God is just as unforgiving. And I don’t think a God would be like that, so I guess there isn’t a God since he wouldn’t make me feel so bad about my choices.
- God wouldn’t let these things happen.
And you know what I want to tell people every time I hear these things? Yeah, that sucks. But you’re misdirecting you frustration and anger.
The truth is that God lets people use their agency, and he’s not going to interfere every time you or someone else makes a decision. God can’t force anyone to do anything. Perhaps he can let you know if what you’re doing is in the right or wrong direction, but sometimes he lets it rain because the purpose of life is to learn and grow. And how are you going to learn and grow when everything in life is handed to you on a silver platter?
A lot of people I meet think that God is the arranger of everything. I’ve come to dislike the phrase that I hear about God being in the details of our lives because people usually take it and misinterpret it to mean that God can intervene in everything that happens in our lives and keep us from sadness or harm. And that’s just not true. So they blame God for their mistakes, the mistakes of others, their misinterpretations of how things should be (their unrealistic expectations not being met), or for the fact that they live in mortality and have to experience things like sickness or pain. Sometimes I feel bad for God because he gets blamed for the faulty thinking of humans. But I also feel bad for people who misinterpret God’s role in our lives.
My Pain Of Good People And Bad Things
This necklace was given to me by someone I haven’t seen in a year. I didn’t say goodbye, and I thought I’d see them again. But because of circumstances outside my control, and outside of their control, we aren’t allowed to speak or see each other, and they might be taught that I don’t care about them. Talk about unfair. But that’s just life sometimes. We make decisions, and sometimes other people don’t like those decisions, and then next thing you know, they keep you from the people you love.
Today, as I was getting this necklace from my necklace pile, I had to unlatch it so I could get it untangled, and the beads on the right fell off. I couldn’t remember the exact order of the beads, and it made me a little sad because that meant things couldn’t go back to the way they were before. But I put them back on, and at least I still have them. And when I wear them, they give me a connection to the person I’ve lost.
Life’s unfair. That’s just how it is. It’s not God’s fault. I can’t blame him for how things turned out. I made a choice, and someone didn’t like that choice, and they were in a position to cut me off from people I love. That’s not God’s fault.
So stop blaming him. Why do bad things happen to good people? Because people — us — we choose to make decision that hurt ourselves and others. And sometimes people who hurt us decide they’re hurt that we said they hurt us.
Bad things happen to good people because we are all imperfect and need help of therapists to help us fix how we think about ourselves, others, and God. But really, we are going to have the good, the bad, and everything in between happen to us because that’s what life’s about.
How To Live Happy No Matter The Circumstance
Once you accept that the good and bad are going to happen to the good people and the bad people, then you’ll be a lot happier. Accept that God is going to let us and others use their agency, and that we can’t predict what good and bad will come to us or others. Life isn’t so A=B as many people seem to believe (“I’m a good person = Good things will happen to me” OR “She’s a bad person = Bad things will happen to her”).
So embrace the unknown of life and expect both good things and bad things to happen to you. Be overjoyed when the good things happen (even the little things), and when the bad things come, buckle up and tell yourself you’re going to get through it. And just pray to God to give you strength — and then look for the strength he sends you.
Yeah, I know. All of this is easier said than done. And it’s going to take time to learn to be happy when the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” comes to mind. Here are some phrases you can repeat to yourself when the despair creeps in:
- Sometimes he lets it rain.
- I can’t control other people’s decisions.
- Sometimes mortality, things like sickness and pain, just happen. It doesn’t mean God loves me any less.
- What can I learn from this experience?
- How can I show love and support for this person going through a hard time?
- This is just how life is.
- Good things and bad things happen to both good people and bad people.
- What beliefs about God do I have that are keeping me from loving him?
- What expectations do I have about how my life should play out? How are those keeping me from being happy?
- I won’t blame God or others for my circumstances. I’m just going to move forward with faith and accept that sometimes things won’t work out when or how I want them to.
You’re not limited to this list. We all tell ourselves lies about how things should be. Perhaps you grew up with an idea of how life should go, and it hasn’t turned out that way — so you feel lied to. Perhaps you grew up being told one thing was the truth and then find out people just made up answers to reason away things that didn’t make sense — so you feel lied to. No matter what it is, it probably feels unfair. But if it’s unfair, that’s life. Life isn’t about trying to make the world fair, but about getting through it the best you can.
If you’re struggling with how you see yourself, others, or God, find phrases that fit your circumstance. Meet with a therapist and find out what lies you tell yourself about yourself, others, and God. Just keep going, and know that you’ll be okay. Have hope that even though things might not work out today or tomorrow, you have years and eternity ahead of you.
When it comes to learning a new language, first you get set up with the basics. “Hola! Cómo estás?” And then that’s basically all you remember ten years later. Oh, and maybe “baño” because that’s going to be important for when you go and vacation …
It’s interesting to me that I can so clearly remember some of the homophobia I heard growing up. And I think it’s because it was in such stark contrast to the beautiful, kind, hilarious LGBTQA+ people I had in my life. I have this …
The best, most memorable sermon I ever heard in a church was at a Baptist church in Provo, Utah. The pastor said he’d been praying about what to teach his congregation that Sunday, and he kept coming back to the Book of Judges. He half-yelled, “Lord, why would I teach my congregation about all these fallen men?” And then it hit him. The Book of Judges talks about these great men who fall from glory so we can learn that grace is not in leader worship but in worshipping God.
And that was my first experience with making another religion’s teaching part of my faith.
Adopting Other Religious Beliefs
I used to be pretty exclusivist with my religious beliefs — as in it was my religion or nothing. But when my faith was shaken and I realized that some of my beliefs were built upon a culture rather than a religion, I realized religion was something different than I had grown up believing. Religion is an organization; whereas, what I wanted to believe in was a “gospel” or teachings that I deemed to be divinely inspired — not mortally inspired.
After hearing such a beautiful sermon at that Baptist church, I didn’t go out and immediately become a Baptist. I still knew that the core teachings of my religion were true for me, and I wanted to remain a member of that religion. But what I did do was look at my religion and assess the leader worship I saw in my own religious organization. And then I decided I didn’t want to participate in the culture of leader worship that I saw in the culture of my religious organization.
Adopting what I saw as a divinely-inspired teaching from another religion didn’t make me any less a member of my own religion. But it did make me a better follower of God, who I choose to believe in.
Analyzing World Religions
It may seem ironic, but learning about religions other than my own has deepened and made more beautiful my own faith. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned from other faiths:
In Hinduism, followers worship a specific avatar of one of the three mirktis (main gods): Brahman, Vishnu, Shiva. An avatar is basically a manifestation of the god in another bodily form. One family might worship the god/avatar of fertility (Parvati), while another family worships the god/avatar of the sky (Varuna). So, a family can choose to focus their worship on the god that most fits their needs.
How does someone monotheistic (believing in one God) apply that Hindu practice to their faith you ask? In the New Testament, there are four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. Upon close reading you’ll notice in each book Jesus is portrayed slightly different. In the Gospel of Mark we see a Jesus that seems a bit more mortal (getting upset). In the Gospel of John, you’ll notice Jesus is a very regal, pedestal-divine Christ. So, which Christ is the one that you choose to believe in?
Hinduism can teach us that perhaps we can benefit from following a Christ that fits our needs best. Is it the Mark Jesus or Luke Jesus? And how will that effect our faith or practice of religion and faith?
The word “Islam” means “peace,” which already creates a beautiful feeling. How do we create a beautiful feeling for our own religion?
In Islam, followers say five prayers throughout the day, all at the same time. Imagine people all over the world rolling out their prayer rugs, and kneeling and standing to pray all at the same time. Doesn’t that kind of synchronized faith and dedication — five time per day — create a beautiful image?
Islam can teach us to pray with a deeper reverence and dedication. How can you make your participation in prayer more unified with others and God? How can you incorporate a beautiful feeling of peace into your prayers?
To be Jewish is to question. Part of the Jewish faith is encouraging the members to question. Every year, Jews take part in a seder, the Passover meal, where they tell the story of the Exodus. During that telling, there are questions that are asked — so from the beginning, Jews are taught to question. In a post on the Jewish Book Council website, they describe the necessity for questioning: “Why are questions so important? The Maharal of Prague explains that people feel satisfied with their view of life. Thus they are complacent when it comes to assimilating new ideas. But when a person has a question, it is an admission of some lack. This creates an ’empty space’ to be filled.”
By adopting the act of questioning in your faith, of course it can lead you to no faith, but it can also lead you to a deepening of your faith — it just depends on your approach. When you question things concerning your faith, you become an active participant in your religion and can develop a deeper understanding of your faith. How can questions about religion lead to filling “empty space” in your faith?
Creating Your Faith
When we learn about different religions, we can adopt their beautiful teachings and more fully develop our own faith. We just have to think critically and use a little bit of that Jewish questioning.
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