Why does God let bad things happen?

An atheist friend posed this question to me. If God is good, why did her grandfather have multiple kinds of cancer and was in extreme suffering? ( she also asked if someone was held accountable for suicide under those conditions)

Beach he gives us free will.

Told her that. She was still very adament that a good God wouldnt let those kinds of things happen

Link physical suffering to free will.

While it’s hard to watch loved ones suffer, their suffering is between them and God, so we cannot judge if it was too much or not, only the sufferer can know how it affected his relationship with God.

Suffering entered the world when man disobeyed God and fell from grace. What that means is that we lost our relationship with God through our own actions, thus ushering in all the sufferings in the world that we would have been immune to. As 1ke cited, God gave us free will, which we abused by turning our backs on him who made us for his love.

( she also asked if someone was held accountable for suicide under those conditions)

Only God can judge anyone’s motive for committing suicide. Having said that, if one does so deliberately, as an act of final despair against God, it’s quite different from someone suffering from mental/physical anguish or mental illness. We pray God have mercy on them, of course, but we leave their eternal destiny to God.

A chance to get cancer is dependent on various aspects like nutrition, stress level, your overall biological configuration and other things. A particular case has to be studied meticulously for any conclusions to be drawn.

If memory serves me correctly, everyone one of us is fighting cancer on a daily basis, it’s just that a fit and healthy organism always wins. But as you get older your body becomes more and more susceptible to various diseases including cancer. The longer you live the higher the chance for you to get cancer.

To really grasp what’s happening behind the scenes you should study biology and medical science. Or ask a doctor.

I am still slightly confused, and she is as well

When people say that a “good” God wouldn’t let such things happen, they are defining who God should be according to their own understanding–whether they know they are doing that or not. :slight_smile:

But God is not one of us in that he has to search for why he does what he does or doesn’t do what he doesn’t do. He knows why, and his motives are always good.

We are so used to living our lives as they are now that it’s all we can imagine. We don’t see our lives set within eternity. We think and act as if we’re never going to die, and more, that we’ll never get a disease that will kill us when we know that most of us will die from some disease or other. It’s unrealistic to think that God will prevent the consequences of original sin for us in particular, as if anyone of us is more special that anyone else. We’re all going to die, we all suffer to one degree or another. What is important is what we do in our suffering.

Do we go on loving God and others, as we ought to do no matter if everything is going as we’d like or not? Yes, of course we do. We don’t stop loving or needing love because we suffer or our loved ones suffer. And that’s what’s important–to love and trust when it is hardest to love and trust or neither one of those things really mean anything.

It takes God’s grace to endure suffering, which is why he gives it to us in the sacraments he instituted–for all the things we’ll have to endure, and to give us strength to go on loving and trusting because this life isn’t all there is. Eternity is far more vast and important that the sufferings of a few days or years. If we have that firmly in mind we can suffer anything and be at peace and even live in joy. Many have come to understand this in their sufferings, including Jesus himself, who suffered greatly to bring God’s love to us in his person.

Would it be better if nothing negative ever occurred, just to surprise us with death at the end?


He gives us the free will to have cancer?

People are able to take part in good and bad. Based on our beliefs, lies our determination of what we deem to be good or bad. This is a gift. We are not animals. They are unable to grasp what is, existentially, good or bad by reason or belief.

Suffering is understood by some people to be purifying. Again, this is what separates us from animals. Animals cannot understand this concept, even though they suffer too. It’s a gift, from God. We can chose our suffering to be good or bad. It’s a choice given to us. This is how suffering is related to free will. Christ suffered and died right in front of everybody (I don’t think he really wanted to) so we numskulls would finally understand. Of course this is all very easy to say when your not dying of cancer.

The beatitudes speak volumes about how the suffering of the God fearing/loving person will be redeemed.

I am sorry to hear about your friend’s loss. It’s good they have a friend like you to ask these kinds of questions to. Some people don’t have that.

Cancer is not objectively a bad thing. It’s just a thing, really.

Death is not a bad thing – it allows us to go home to God. It’s simply a part of being mortal.

Suffering in itself is not a bad thing – it builds virtue (strength of character, perseverance).

However, just because these things are not “bad” or “evil” in themselves, doesn’t mean they aren’t difficult, or burdens we would rather not bear.

At the same time, burdens are necessary for us to grow. In order to get stronger, the body needs stresses, discomfort, and break-down. This is called exercise. It is similar for the soul. We go through hardships in order to overcome them and become stronger and more virtuous as a result.

Everyone dies, of course. We live in a good world, but not a perfect one. Sometimes death is quick and painless, like a car accident. Sometimes it is long and arduous, like an illness. Sometimes DNA goes bonkers and causes cancer. I don’t know the grandpa that died, but I would hope that through his suffering, some virtue was gained. Perhaps he understood better how other people all over the world suffer similarly, and developed compassion. Perhaps through the suffering he was able to atone for sins he may have done on earth, and go straight to heaven. Perhaps the way he suffered inspired another patient to fight on. Perhaps something else – perhaps a combination. When it comes to the veil of death and the possible of redemptive suffering, we can’t see so far. God knows.

The Grandpa is at peace now. One thing is certain – the suffering is over and the time of suffering, even if it was many years, is just the blink of an eye compared to eternity and the reward of the hereafter. It is nothing. I don’t mean to trivialize it, but our perspective here on earth is so limited, it’s almost absurd to make a judgement. Think of it from God’s point of view…and eternal point of view.

But what of the suffering still here on earth? Your friend must be suffering after the loss of a family member, or they would not be asking these questions. Again, this builds perseverance, charity, and virtue. For example, you – as a friend-- now have the opportunity to comfort someone in need of a friend. This is good for you just as much as it is helpful for the friend. Your friend, in turn, is going through a grieving experience that is a vital part of human life and mortality. After this experience, if they overcome the hardship and allow it to help form them, they will be more mature and better equipped to comfort someone else they may meet in life that really needs it. They’ll have been through it.

It may seem trite, but poor people give others opportunities to be generous. Grieving people give others opportunities to show love. In the end, God doesn’t cause bad things, but he does allow them to occur, and knows how to derive good from them.

I hope this is helpful. I will pray for your friend and their Grandparent.

The problem of evil is possibly the most vexing issue in Christianity. The question can’t be answered adequately in a forum like this. I recommend for you and your friend:

  1. ***On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering (Salvifici Doloris)***, by Pope St. John Paul the Great.

  2. Making Sense Out of Suffering, by Peter Kreeft.

  3. The Problem of Pain, by C.S. Lewis.

  4. Aquinas and the Cry of Rachel, by John Knasas

Death is not a bad thing

Only to those blinded by philosophy!

Jimmy Akin has a new DVD titled “The Problem of Evil” that is available through Catholic Answers. Jimmy is great, so I am sure it is thorough.

God never allows immorality to flourish, that’s why moral theology is always just.

Human Evil (Genocides, Mass-Shootings, Ponzi Schemes, Adultery, Infanticide, Slavery, etc.) are caused by Free Will. If God did not give us freedom to make our own decisions (and to face the consequences), or if he directly stepped in whenever we made the wrong decision, then no good deed would ever have any value because it would not be out of free will. No matter what evils humans enact each other, it is not nearly as bad as the evil of not having free will. Additionally, free will also explains several evils normally blamed on nature (cancers are sometimes caused by industrialization, earthquake casualties often result from poor building codes, etc).

Natural Evil (Tornadoes, cancer, plagues, etc.) are made to make the soul stronger and to give us appreciation for life. You can’t appreciate your life or your health or your family or your possessions unless there is the possibility of losing all those things in a moment. And for those suffering themselves, it can often strengthen their souls. Many people suffering terminal illness, and many more survivors of said things, gain new outlooks on life and learn and grow and give others around them the opportunity to do the same.

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