If God loves me so much and He is so powerful, then why does bad stuff keep happening to me? This is a question that I have been asked countless times by people struggling to discover faith or hold on to what fragile faith they have. To be completely honest, though I am a Christian minister, I have asked myself this question on more than one occasion, so I can relate when others ask this question too.
Because today's young adults are a generation in pain, they are asking these types of questions more than ever. There are no easy answers to such hard questions. But in my own times of reflection and prayer, I have come to at least one answer. God allows pain in the world because God has given man free will. Though God is all powerful and could micro-manage our lives in a way that would make us free from all pain, this would render us mere robots or puppets. God loves us too much to give us such empty and meaningless lives. So He has chosen to give us free will as an expression of His love for us.
That free will that God has lovingly given to us often causes us pain. Sometimes our free will causes us pain because we make bad choices and the natural consequences of those bad choices are painful. Sometimes we make the right choices but other people around us make bad choices. The choices that others make can often have painful results in our own lives. Sometimes the pain we feel is from bad choices that were made by people we don't even know but which set into effect a chain of events that somehow caught us in a trap of pain. An example of that kind of pain would be war. Most people hurt in a war don't even know why it started nor have a stake in how it is being fought, but when a bomb drops on their house, they die anyway.
If free will is so painful, why did God give it to us? In the beginning, when God created mankind, the world was perfect (Genesis 1-2). But then mankind chose to use free will in an effort to become as smart as God (Genesis 3). That did not work out so well and now our free will has been deeply tainted by mankind's fall into sin. Though it is easy to blame our ancestors for getting us into this mess, we have a fair amount of guilt ourselves. After all, have not each one of us taken advantage of our free will to do something we knew was wrong? This tendency to abuse our free will is what gets us into trouble. Much of the time when we think we are exercising our "free will" we are actually acting as slaves to our sin (Romans 6). This slavery to sin causes much of the pain we experience in our lives. Free will has a price, for with control comes responsibility.
Something happens to our free will when we trust Christ as our Savior. When we make a sincere commitment to repent of our sin and place our faith in Jesus Christ, we receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit empowers us to make better choices and use our free will as God intended it (Romans 6:22). Making better choices eliminates much of the pain in our lives. Sadly, even when we trust Christ and are freed from the grip of our own sin, we are still subject to the poor choices that others make who are still in slavery to their own sin. This means that we will still experience pain when others make bad choices and their consequences spill over into our own lives. This is why we should share our faith with others. As we help others become empowered by the Holy Spirit to make better choices, the overall level of pain around us will decrease. We will never eliminate all pain in the world because not all people will chose to come to Christ and be filled with His Spirit, but the more who do, the better our world will be.
The next time something bad happens, instead of getting angry at God, take a step back and thank Him for giving you, and those around you, the gift of free will. Then ask Him to help you, and those around you, use that free will in a way that helps instead of hurts.