If God is omnipotent—that is, He has all the power—then why do bad things happen? This question gets restated in a hundred different ways. Why do bad people get their way? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do good things happen to bad people? Can God prevent bad things from happening? Or does He want bad things to happen and so He lets them happen? And if He doesn’t want bad things to happen, then why doesn’t He stop bad things from happening? Is something preventing Him from stopping bad things? Is He really omnipotent?
These questions seem like a lot to handle, especially when tough times are upon us. It’s one thing to address these questions from afar, but it’s another to deal with them in the midst of struggle. But the answer to this question is nowhere near as complicated as we might think. In fact, the two components we need to answer it directly are the following:
- COMPONENT #1: Humans are made in God’s image and are therefore entrusted with power and authority to rule over the earth.
- COMPONENT #2: Humans have been granted free will to use the power and authority God has given them in whatever way they choose.
Combine these two components together and you get the answer as to why bad things happen: God grants all human beings power and authority and does not set restrictions on how we use it. We can exert our rule over creation in good ways by tending the ground, designing beautiful gardens, taking care of the animals, and by creating renewable energies and resources—all of this is within the God-given power entrusted to us. But we can also do the opposite. We can use this same power to burn down rainforests, rip apart habitats, treat animals as nothing more than food, drive species into extinction, and suck the earth dry of its elements. We are powerful beings. And we have a choice as to if we’ll use the power God has entrusted to us for good or for bad. We can abuse the earth with our power and we can abuse other humans with our power.
Furthermore, God also anoints certain humans with greater authority like some of the kings and leaders in the Bible, and we can only hope that they’ll use their greater power for good—though the Bible shows us time and time again that that’s just not the case. Humanity is a race entrusted with power and we are given the free will to abuse that power if we choose. And when we do, bad things happen.
So again, we have to ask the question: If God has omnipotence, why doesn’t He just stop all bad things from happening? Well, outside of the answer found in free will, we must also acknowledge the framework within which God has created our world. As we look at Scripture, reason and experience, it becomes clear that God’s framework is to grant power and not necessarily take it away simply because it’s used incorrectly. After all, the only human with zero power and authority is a dead one since all humans have some power just by being a human, and it’s clear that God doesn’t just kill people off for doing bad things—otherwise we’d all be dead.
Our loving God is gracious enough to wait for even the worst of the worst to be redeemed and use their power for good. Could He take their life to stop them? Yes, and the Scriptures show that He has done that before. But our experience shows that this is not typically the way in which He works. Rather, He usually entrusts us with power and then lets us decide how we will use it. We don’t necessarily need to know why this is, but we do have to understand that this is His general framework. When we grasp this, the question of, “Why do bad things happen?” ends up not reflecting on God, but on humanity.