A really bad day

Have you ever had a really bad day?

My mind leaps to the true story of three janitors at Fowler Elementary School in Ceres, Calif. Alerted to the fact that there was a gopher loose in the building, these three custodians leaped into action, finally cornering the rodent in a utility room.

It came out later that the janitors had tried to spray the little lost gopher with several canisters of a solvent used to remove gum from floors, hoping to freeze it to death. Believing they had been successful one janitor lit a cigarette in the poorly ventilated room. Sparks from the lighter ignited the solvent and the ensuing explosion blew all three of them out of the room and injured 16 students.

Fortunately, no one was injured seriously. But the gopher survived the incident and was released in a field. Now that is called having a really bad day.

I wonder if you might be having a bad day as you read these words.

The Bible tells us: “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). The older you get, the more it hits home to you: No one gets to dodge trouble and hardship in life. In fact, when you have a conflict-free day where there is no crisis large or small, that is a very good day.

But there are inevitably “those days” – and all too many of them – when it seems like the bottom drops out. You know what I mean. What couldn’t go wrong does go wrong, and then even more goes wrong beyond that. And you wonder, Why is this happening to me?

Sometimes we listen to the news or leaf through a newspaper and just shake our heads over some of the sad things that happen. We hear about deranged gunmen shooting down innocent students in a classroom or shoppers in a mall. And we ask the question, “Why?

Or we hear of a tsunami striking Southeast Asia, snuffing out the lives of tens of thousands of people, and that why question surfaces again. Or maybe, bringing it home a little, a friend of ours is driving home from church and is hit in a head-on collision by a drunk driver. Our friend dies, the drunk driver walks away with a few scratches, and we say, Why? Why do things like that happen?

Why does God allow tragedy? We’ve heard it stated a thousand different ways. Why does He allow babies to be born with disabilities? Why does He allow wars to rage? Why does He allow innocent people to be killed? Why does He allow injustices … and hurricanes … and epidemics … and wildfires? Why do these horrible things happen? If God could prevent such tragedies (and we know He could), why does He permit them to take place?

Here is the classic statement of the problem. Either God is all-powerful but He is not all good, therefore He doesn’t stop evil. Or He is all good but He is not all-powerful, therefore He can’t stop evil. And the general tendency is to blame all of the problems of the world on God. To say that it’s all His fault. “After all,” you might say, “if God is good and loving, why would He allow bad things to happen to good people?”

To that conclusion I would reply, Who made you the moral center of the universe? In essence, you’re implying that you are the one who determines what is good and loving – and perhaps suggesting that God is not good and loving.

Obviously, discussions like this can’t be answered in a single column – and could fill a thousand libraries. But for the record, I’d like to make one point here. God doesn’t become good because that is my opinion of Him, or because I personally agree with His actions, His words, or the way He chooses to run His universe.

God is good because God says He is good.

In Luke 18:19, Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone.” You see, God is good whether I believe it or not. He and He alone is the final court of arbitration. As the apostle Paul said, “Let God be true, and every man a liar.”

So what is good, anyway? Good is whatever God approves. Good is what God says is good. And bad is what God says is bad. Circular reasoning, you say? I would describe it as biblical reasoning. We are coming back to a source of truth, which is the Word of God, and to God Himself who tells us what is good and what is evil, and what our values ought to be.

And we either accept God’s Word on these realities, or we fight against them.

In the book of Isaiah, God says, “Come let us reason together.” Or as another translation puts it, “Come let us argue this.” God is saying, “Here is the way I see things. You need to see it the way that I see it.” He goes on to tell us that His thoughts are above our thoughts and His ways above our ways.

So God is good.

But why does He allow what is so blatantly evil to take place in our world?

The Bible has an answer to that question as well. In the book of Genesis, we learn that mankind was not created evil. He was created innocent. Ageless. Immortal. Our first parents’ responsibility was to tend the garden, to watch over it and to discover all the wonders that God had created. But of course we know that our first parents made the wrong choice and ate of the forbidden fruit. The result of that choice of our first parents was sin, and death entered into the human race.

Humanity, not God, is responsible for sin. OK then, why didn’t God make us incapable of sin? Because He didn’t want puppets on a string or windup robots. He didn’t want preprogrammed people who had no choice or free will. Your Creator doesn’t want you to reach out to Him and enter into a relationship with Him because you have to. He wants you to do it because you choose to.

He gave you the ability to choose. And if you choose Him, He will make you His son or daughter through all of your life … and right into eternity.

That’s good news even on a bad day.