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Why Do Good People Have Bad Things Happen to Them?

'If God is good, how do you spiritually explain how a man shot an innocent kid who knocked on the wrong door?'

My nephew asked me this question shortly after a man opened fire on a 16-year-old passionate music lover, who mistakenly went to the wrong house to pick up his siblings. The incident greatly disturbed my nephew, and he posed the question to me since I often affirmed that "God is good."

People have asked me this question in one form or another over the years. Some people frame the question, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" Several years ago, I was confronted with this question when one of my other nephews died in a senseless act of violence. This query is one of the most challenging questions a student of truth faces, and there is no ready-made answer.

For those who follow the New Thought / Ancient Wisdom Teachings, we start with the premise that God does not have human qualities that orchestrate and manipulate events. God is a presence that affirms and enhances life. We have the choice to align or not to align with this life-affirming and life-enhancing presence. Tragic events like the shooting of the 16-year-old student are not the result of God doing anything; human beings do this.

Moreover, how we perceive an event determines what it is for us. We are meaning-makers, and what something means to us is based on our perception. How you view life depends on what you have been influenced by — school, society, friends, family, TV. We may think something is bad or good based on our limited human understanding. However, seen from a transcendent point of view, it may not be the case.

Most of us are familiar with the Taoist story of a farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. "Such bad luck," they said sympathetically. "Maybe," the farmer replied.

The following day the horse returned, bringing three other wild horses. "How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed. "Maybe," replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. "Maybe," answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing the young man's broken leg, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. "Maybe," said the farmer.

Now this story cannot give us a satisfactory answer to the question posed by my nephew, but it is a start. Our inner attempts to explain existence in terms of itself, and strictly on a human emotional or intellectual level, will fail us. Such dissatisfaction is especially apparent when we try to explain or justify accidents, tragedies, and suffering from only a surface point of view, or as an end in and of themselves. This is why the master teacher Jesus Christ said, “Do not judge by appearances."

A particular accident or happening we don't like may not be satisfactorily explained on its own terms when seen as a separate and independent phenomenon. Throughout history, humankind has gone through this sort of thing and gotten nowhere. Sickness, rejection, financial setbacks, death, and tragedy happen on the three-dimensional plane. We may ponder, reason, justify, blame, judge, and resent. We do so usually in vain because we look for an explanation for an adverse event in terms of negativity itself. Our surface mind thinks this will work, but it does not.

We need a different approach to thinking about such occurrences. This approach is a type of thinking that goes beyond human reasoning, judging, or justifying. We must approach it from the perspective of the whole spirit of God, also known as the Holy Spirit. This presence will lead us to the help we need when steeped in unexplainable afflictions of life. It comes to us indirectly and turns our minds to a different level of thinking to perceive and understand the correct answer, or at least be receptive to divine guidance.

The story of Job states, "It is in the spirit of a person that makes them understand." Only spiritual discernment can explain a thought, how you move a little finger, or the miracle of creation. These are beyond the human level of explanation; it is in the dimension where spiritual understanding lies. Only here can we find help in the face of the mysterious, the unexplainable, and the seemingly unjust afflictions in life.

Peace and Blessings,


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