A man was sitting at the bus stop one day, next to an older woman who looked like she had been sitting there all week. She had a suitcase perched up against her leg, her purse open beside her like an overstuffed brown pillow bursting at the seam with a bundle of white tissues that flapped loosely in the wind. She pulled her coat close like the grip of winter was upon her and snuffled.

After a few moments the man, who happened to be a God-fearing man, asked her what was the matter.

Her response was simple. “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?”

He had heard it before. People asked him all the time and he always responded, “I don’t know.” It was an inadequate answer, he knew, for it did nothing to answer her question or ease her pain.

Her story, it seems, was a tragic one. Her son, a good man with a lot of potential, was on the fast track through the ranks of an investment bank. He was close to his mother, and she was quite happy that he seemed to be getting somewhere, succeeding in life, where she felt she had always failed. On Sundays he taught Sunday School and he coached his sister’s son in baseball on the weekend.

One night, he went to his ten year high school reunion. He had never kept up much with his old mates, and found himself having a good time hearing what they were up to. As the night progressed an old teammate asked him to come on over to house after the reunion. He was hesitant, but in the end agreed.

He went and this same teammate grabbed his arm and took him into the bathroom. This old friend then asked him if he wanted some cocaine. The young man politely refused and made to leave, realizing he had made a mistake in coming. But this friend took his arm and jabbed the needle in and said, “just try some.” He might still have made it through this situation, if only this old friend hadn’t given him an overdose the first time.

High for the first time in his life and out of his mind, this young man wandered into the street and was hit by a tractor trailer.

Why does God allow bad things happen to good people? I didn’t have a good answer until recently.

God allows what we allow.

In the case above, we feel a lot of sympathy for the mother and we are shocked by the death of the young man. Yet, we need to realize that a lot of what happens to us is the result of our own choices and actions. The young man had a feeling, I believe it was the spirit of God moving in him, warning him away from the party, and he chose to ignore it. He toed the gray line rather than keeping far from it.

A man I knew loved his wife. He had been married to her for six years and had two beautiful young daughters. He worked late at night at the office; his boss had offered him a couple grand every paycheck if he stayed a few hours later each night and took care of the extra things that needed to be done. It was a good offer and he did it for three years, always with his children in mind, and had a hope that soon he would be able to take a getaway trip with his wife to the Caribbean.

Only he never quite made it there. His wife had an affair and then eventually took the kids and moved in with her mother. Afterwards, he kept asking his friends why it had happened.

Well, he allowed it to happen. Rather than being at home, investing in his children’s lives and in his wife’s, he was at work. Rather than building his relationship and pursing his wife like he did when he was trying to persuade her to marry him, he was working. He allowed his wife to become lonely, for her need for communication and companionship to go unmet, for his children to grow up with an absent father, even though he had the best of intentions in his mind.

Not every bad thing that happens is a result of the choices we make. Bad things do happen and we are left wondering. A newborn baby that dies only three months into its young life. A young girl abducted and never heard from again. Little old ladies robbed in their own home and then murdered. Bad things do happen.

But what are we allowing as a country, as a people? Are our moral standards as high as they used to be? Do we discourage our children from watching sexually themed music videos and movies and TV, and then wonder why so many children are born out of wedlock to young mothers, or why our young girls strive to be as sexy and thin and desirable as these women appear? Are we stressing the importance of commitment in marriage, and then wondering why so many people are dissatisfied with their marriage or participate in affairs, or why so many children grow up with perverted views of the bond of marriage, or why so many couples try living together for years before they get married to “see if it will work?”

Are we allowing other people, the government, our children’s friends dictate what our children learn and how they learn it? Are we allowing them to adopt the world’s view of what women should look like and how men should behave and what is acceptable?

Yes, bad things do happen, but I am sure that in most cases it was not in God’s perfect plan. But that is the beauty of free will and the majestic choice we have before us. What will we choose to allow into our lives?

© Seth Crossman