Why Do Bad Things Happen...?

At first I added to the title “…To Good People.” I changed it because I’m not convinced that any of us are good enough to assure that nothing bad ever happens to us. Still, it sometimes seems like some of us are “snakebit,” and that nothing but bad things can ever happen in our lives. Yes, snakebit (or snakebitten) actually is a word. It is a slang word meaning “having bad luck, or very unlucky, to be cursed.” “If it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all,” describes the slang word - snakebit.

Recently I ran across a book by Dr. James Dobson entitled, “When God Doesn’t Make Sense.” I could hardly put it down. My mind went back to a young friend who was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia. It is similar to Leukemia and sometimes treated with a bone marrow transplant. The problem was, we were in Bolivia and there were no facilities capable of doing that in Bolivia.

I realize that some of you have experienced losses more devastating than what I describe here. I ask your patience as I process this. I don’t intend to play “top this story” but chose this example because it is personal for me, and far enough away that I feel like no privacy is violated. I do have Freddy’s widow’s permission to share this much. She said, “Yes, if it will help others.” Truth be told, there have been so many devastating losses, the hardest part is deciding which to include.

Getting treatment for Freddy in the USA was not an option, so we got the best treatment available in Bolivia at that time and we prayed for healing. He improved for almost a year. When he relapsed it was sudden and irreversible. Before we hardly knew what was happening we had to make plans for a funeral and take care of a 22 year old widow, her two young daughters, and a church that was hurting and suddenly without pastoral leadership.

Confused is the word that Dr. Dobson uses to describe how I felt as I nailed the lid down on Freddy’s coffin that day at the cemetery in San Ignacio de Velasco, Bolivia. How could this have happened? It was surreal and confusing. I suppose I am still processing that, even though it was almost 25 years ago. It felt surreal again last evening as I carried on a conversation (via Facebook Messenger) with Freddy’s widow. She is now remarried with 4 daughters and 3 grandchildren, one of which is the spitting image of Freddy. And I was thinking the whole time, “This is not right, she should still be Freddy’s wife and he should still be the pastor of that little church in San Ignacio.”

Freddy was not, nor am I of the faith tradition that believes that we can lay hands on a person and heal them with God’s power. But I do pray for the sick, including many of you. And I have seen people get better both with and without adequate and proper medical interventions, sometimes miraculously so. Many times the only reasonable explanation has been, “It’s a God thing.” I do believe that God can heal. So why wasn’t Freddy healed when we prayed for him?

Dr. Dobson describes my confusion on page 10 of the book I mentioned:

“Still it is not difficult to understand how confusion can develop at this point, especially for the young. During the springtime of their years, when health is good and the hardships, failures, and sorrows have not yet blown through their tranquil little world, it is relatively easy to fit the pieces in place. One can honestly believe, with good evidence, that it will always be so. Such a person is extremely vulnerable to spiritual confusion if trouble strikes at that point.”

If you’ll allow me, I’d like to demonstrate the spiritual confusion that I felt. If you are sitting in a chair, lift one foot about an inch above the floor and move it in a clockwise circle and keep it moving while you trace the number six with your finger in the air. No, keep your foot going in the same clockwise circle while you trace the number six in the air. Couldn’t do it could you? And most likely you didn’t even realize you had switched directions with your foot. That is how I feel sometimes when I ask myself the question, why do bad things happen? My head goes one direction while my heart goes another. I pray because Jesus taught us to pray. I ask for healing because the scriptures say that “the prayer of faith shall save the sick.” (James 5:15) Still, people die. Sometimes that includes people that I am close to. And it just doesn’t seem right.

For the next several weeks I’ll be exploring my own thoughts in this blog. Thank you for going along on this ride with me.