How Long?

The impassioned cry in the title was heard ringing out from the redeemed but perplexed throng under Heaven’s altar (Revelation 6:10). They were seeking vengeance through the hand of Jehovah against those who martyred them for the Cause. Rome, in particular, was the object of their plea for vengeance; for it was Rome that had ruthlessly slaughtered their mortal bodies and was continuing to do so with their earthly brethren. They were seeking mental solace and searching for an answer to the same question an innumerable host does today: “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

Fresh on the heels of the violent murder of thirty two college students (thirty three when the gunman is tallied) at Virginia Tech University, this question is no doubt echoing throughout the land. Appeals like: “Where was God when this took place?” and “Why did God allow this to happen?” are commonly belched out when tragedy strikes. America, yea the world, wants to know the answer to these questions. Yet, when someone is snatched from the jaws of death one may declare: “I was lucky to survive.” Why is it that Jehovah only gets the blame for the bad and never the credit for the good?

As to where God was when tragedy struck a family or even a group of people, as in Virginia, is plainly put: He was in the same place He was when His own Son was brutally murdered by His own hypocritical, backstabbing, and homicidal brethren—on His throne. Those who are quick to accuse or blame God for the bad in the world should heed the words of Solomon: “Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5:2).

The truth of the matter is that good things happen to good people, too. It is when the good people have something bad happen to them it is more readily seen due to their good nature and life. When something bad happens to bad people one will usually say: “Well, they got what they deserve.” However, good and bad things happen to both good and bad people. It is the common lot of mankind to receive both good and bad in this life. The quality of the person will determine how each person handles the diversity they encounter. The Psalmist expressed the sentiment of many this way: “Why standest thou afar off, O LORD? why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1).

Others yet will declare natural disasters as “acts of God.” Even the insurance agencies have been guilty of this when filing various claims. Some religionists will aver that when natural disasters hit certain areas it is God’s wrath being poured out because of their ungodly behavior. Such statements reveal how little these pompous prognosticators really know about the Bible or the God of the Bible. Some have advanced degrees (Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, just to name a couple) and spew this nonsensical rhetoric on the public airwaves. If Hurricane Katrina was punishment for the wicked city of New Orleans (as the above mentioned men opined), then why does God not direct His punishment upon every other sinful city in the world? Also, what about the small towns in Alabama and all along the Gulf coast that were hit with the same devastating effects? Were they just collateral damage? God is only responsible for such travesties in that He is the One who put the laws of nature into effect.

Natural laws exist and have existed because that is the way God wanted the world to function. He has only suspended His natural laws on occasions to prove His Deity and confirm the Word [the miracles in the Old and New Testaments, the miracles of Jesus and His apostles, et al.]. Otherwise, if one violates the laws set in motion by God, one will suffer the consequences. If a man steps off the roof of a ten story building, he will fall to his death. If a child runs into the street to retrieve a toy and is hit by a car, the laws of motion and mass say they will die. Grim? No, just simple facts of the laws of nature with which even the atheist and infidel will concur and science proves.

The fact of God’s omnipotence (all powerful) does not mean He will reach down with His anthropomorphic hand and stop every evil in this world. Far too many believe God will set aside His natural laws for the sake of their loved one. Think for just a moment about this reasoning. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if God ceased His natural laws so as to save a person or group of persons. Such confusion would wreak havoc the world over.

Being hurt is part of living—whether one is Christian or not. As was mentioned earlier, it is the common lot of us all to experience various avenues of suffering and loss.

A better and more thorough understanding of God’s care for His creation is made through understanding His nature. Contrary to popular slogans and the biblical ignorant, there are some things that God cannot do. He cannot make a rock so big that He cannot move it. He cannot make a square circle. These things are impossible to do. They are impossible because God had limited Himself by His own laws. One argues: “But with God all things are possible.” And then cite Matthew 19:26 as their proof. Aside from lifting the verse out of its context (Jesus is discussing rich men and the way He has made for them to Heaven), this would make Paul and the Hebrew writer both liars; for they said it was impossible for God to lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18).

The next step to understanding the so-called problem of why bad things happen to good people is to understand free will. God’s immense love allows free will to reign among His crown of creation; thus they have the ability to choose for themselves what is right and wrong. Mankind’s free will may be used to make both good and bad choices. Nevertheless, one cannot expect God to reach down and rescue us every time our free will causes us to go astray. God will not, nor has He ever, made mankind mere automatons, incapable of volition to choose right and wrong. This would make His creation nothing more than puppets on a string. It is an expression of our love for God when we obey His commands (1 John 5:3).

Some contend that God could have prevented the actions of some persons; thus not allowing them to suffer the consequences of either their or another’s actions. This, however, God could not have done nor will He do in order to preserve man’s free will. Free will is responsible for so many of the bad things that happen in this world. If one gets drunk, drives their car, and wrecks their car, it was the consequences of his or her free will actions that caused the wreck. The person’s foolish actions, due to one’s free will, caused the accident to take place.

Sometimes people will suffer because of the free will actions of others. The above mentioned person may have collided head-on with another car, killing the occupants. The passengers in the other car may have been innocent of any wrongdoing, yet they suffered the consequences of the one who chose to drink and then drive. Some free will choices made throughout the Bible were felt for many generations. When Jehovah made the prohibition against worshipping idols (Exodus 20:3-5), the consequences of those who violated this command were felt for many generations to come. There are multiplied thousands starving in various lands today, while so-called sacred cows roam the very streets in which human beings are dying. Is it God’s fault? Or is it the choice these people make not to eat what is right before them?

When one stops and thinks about pain and suffering when compared to good and pleasure, most, if not everyone, enjoys far more of the latter two than the former. Bad things bring out the worst in people. One must wonder if the same people who cry the loudest when things are not going their way are the same ones who fall on their knees and thank God for the wonderful life they have otherwise.

It should be noted at this juncture some particulars regarding the trio of Evil, Pain, and Suffering. First and foremost is should be remembered that these three things come from the devil and not from God. It was the wicked prince of this world who first introduced the infamous trio into the world (see James 1:17). It was Satan who plagued the patriarch Job with all his afflictions; yet Job was oblivious to this fact until after the events took place. When statements from within the book of Job are compared, it seems that the events recorded took place over a year or less. Yet, Job lived to well over 200 years old. And when the book begins he was fairing better than anyone else on the face of the earth, and when the book ends he is restored to that former glory, plus some. However, all some want to focus on in the book of Job are his woes; rather than focus on his triumphs over those woes. Job had well over 200 years to experience life and earthly abundance, and came out the victor supreme.

There are a number of benefits that come from suffering and pain. When pain and suffering are at their highest these benefits seem light years away, if they will ever come at all. Nonetheless, the trials and suffering we experience in this world are a constant reminder that we are only pilgrims in this world and it is not our permanent address (Hebrews 11:13-16; 1 Peter 1:17). If the child of God were to never experience anything but good in this present world, would he or she ever seek “those things which are above” (Colossians 3:1)?

Neither this generation nor the one before nor the one after should ever believe themselves to be the only one that has experienced pain, suffering, loss, and heartache. Jesus, the prophets, the apostles, and many others of that time and beyond have always suffered in one way or the other. The trials and suffering we face in this life will allow us to be better comforters to others who suffer (2 Corinthians 1:4). It is always a humbling experience that keeps one from exalting him or herself (cf. Paul, 2 Corinthians 12:1-10). And, those things we endure now are only temporal; for we will have great glory revealed in us in the hereafter (Romans 8:18-25).

Why do so many people question the validity of God’s benevolent nature? Probably because they are using this as nothing more than a cop-out for not becoming a Christian or not returning to faithful service to Him. The poor excuses that are offered by legion today have not changed the benevolent nature of Jehovah. He still reigns supreme upon His Majestic Throne, fearing nothing from the ravings of skeptic and infidel alike. He is also the same caring and compassionate God who cares deeply that His children suffer (1 Peter 5:7).


Hardy Building Ward Street Church of Christ
3832 Hwy 62/412 (Mailing address: P.O. Box 224)
Hardy, AR 72542