October 27, 2019

One of the greatest mysteries to all religious people is why bad things happen to us.

Sometimes bad things happen to us because of bad choices we make. But what about when bad things happen to us when we had nothing to do with it?  I’ve seen this latter scenario happen hundreds of times with friends, parishioners and family (including myself). And I’ve tried to answer that question hundreds of times to those involved.

One of the worst cases I ever dealt with was when I was pastoring at Malvern, Arkansas, thirty-plus years ago. One of my dear elderly-lady parishioners didn’t have but one child, a son. He had been killed as a helicopter pilot in a bad crash many years earlier. I never knew him. The man’s only child, a son, had followed in his dad’s footsteps to become a helicopter pilot. This son was in The U.S. Marine Corp. In a training drill, this son, too, had a bad crash in his helicopter and was killed.

This poor lady, also a widow, had now lost all her family. I went to her grandson’s funeral with her. It was very impressive: full military honors, a 21 gun salute, everything. The eulogy was performed by a military chaplain who did an excellent job. After the funeral this lady asked me, “Pastor, why did God let my son and grandson have to die in such horrible deaths? And leave me all alone?” I told her I was sorry, but I couldn’t answer that question. And I told her that nobody else could either. I did tell her to re-read the book of Job, because that book provided more understanding about trials and suffering than any book I knew of.

About a week after the funeral, I was visiting this woman in her home. I took her a brand new copy of a book that had been written in 1981 by a Conservative rabbi named Harold Kushner. The book was titled, When Bad Things Happen to Good People.  The book had sold millions of copies. I explained to her that this book’s author had lost a young son, and he couldn’t understand why. Kushner wrote the book in an effort to answer that question to the many millions who face the same question. I told her the book wasn’t perfect. It had had many critics, including Jews and Christians. But I told her maybe it could help her some.
I didn’t know then that some year’s later, Sandra and I would lose our oldest son, Spencer Jr. I now have a first hand experience to attempt to deal with that question. My answer is still the same as I gave that grieving mother and grandmother so many years ago, “I don’t know; I don’t understand.”

One thing I do know though, is that God has helped Sandra and me through our loss as we have drawn nearer to Him through prayer and Bible study.

1 Peter 1:7 tells us that the trial of our faith is much more precious than of gold that perisheth. Then, in 1 Peter 4:12, we are told to think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to test us.

Thank God for His comfort and assurance.

God Bless You,
Spencer Plumley