Whether you are religious or not, I’m pretty sure most everyone has thought of this phrase at some point (or something very close to it like “Why is this happening to me?”, “What did I do to deserve this?”. Especially when really bad things are happening and/or many small inconveniences all pile up into one huge mess, the many damaging voices in your head will tell you things like “you deserve this”, “karma is a bitch”, “this is what you get when you don’t follow religion”, and other such nonsense thoughts.
People often flock to religion thinking bad situations only come to those who are bad so they must repent and THEN God will be good to them. This is where religion (perceivably) fails people because “Why do bad things happen to good people? I followed everything down to the letter in the [Bible, Torah, Qur’an, etc.] and still trouble finds me? “ Unfortunately whether we like it or not, life is not so linear and problems seem to fall on the good and the bad no matter what anyone does.
What’s the answer then? I like the thought that we are all here on this earth to learn things. Sometimes bad things happen to us to we can learn or it may help someone else learn. We all have the right of choice. So we can choose not to learn from our (or someone else’s) mistakes but the same situation may arise over and over and over again until we do learn.
There are some who believe, such as Gary Zukov in his book The Seat of the Soul, that we are in the “Earth School” as he puts it. The reason we are even here on this earth, he argues, is that we volunteered to be here to learn the things we are learning in order to move higher spiritually- to get closer to joy, love, and trust. While no one would choose to live through the death of a child, relative or someone special or to go through something traumatic and horrible, one cannot deny that the impact of a trauma is wide reaching. And who knows? Perhaps the one who is supposed to learn that particular lesson in faith or to react with love or to trust the universe/God is getting promoted spiritually for it.
Since I’m Christian, I’m going to tell the story from the Bible here but it doesn’t mean to say this does not arise in the other doctrines or good writings…
In the Bible ( Daniel 3 ) there is a story of three teenagers who refused to give up their God and worship the King’s new golden idol. The king was very angry and had is guards throw them into a blazing furnace that was turned up 4x the normal heat.
Now these poor teenagers were minding their own business and then BAM! Suddenly they were prisoners and thrown into a huge amount of trouble before the king. I’m sure these teenagers were good kids. What did they do that was so horrible that they deserved to be in such trouble? They murder someone? No. They steal something? No. Commit any violence against anyone or any thing? No! They simply would not bow down to a golden image.
After a while the king comes back and was astonished to find all three teenagers did not die in the fire. They were all unharmed, no burns, and without even the smell of smoke on them! The only thing fire had burned was the ropes that bound them. Seeing this, the King had a change of heart and not only promoted these teenagers but realized that the God they served was much greater than his.
I tell this story not to try and get anyone to be a Christian. I just think it’s a good example of how three people got into unexpected trouble.
In some stories in the Bible, an angel comes down and gives instructions to people or God tells people Himself what he desires of a situation. But that’s not what happened in this story. These teenagers had NO idea what was going to happen nor if the God they served would rescue them or not. Do you think it would have been easier to know ahead of time? Hmmm, I don’t know. I can imagine God sending and angel down to these teenagers in the beginning while they’re eating their lunch saying “Hey, Fellas, by the way, God has an assignment for you. He wants you to annoy this King who will throw you in a fiery furnace to kill you. But don’t worry, you’ll all be fine!” If they were anything like me I would tell the angel, “Get behind me, Satan! Thanks but no thanks, don’t do me any favors!” If any of us had a choice to go through hardship, how many of us would raise our hands not knowing what the outcome would be?
It took a lot of courage for these teenagers to say that live or die, they would serve their one and only God. They stuck to what they thought was right in their heart regardless of the outcome. These teenagers could have said “Wait, God, why did you forsake us? We were just doing what you told us? You said only to worship You and now we are being punished for it?” Nope! They didn’t think that at all. I know I would have, LOL, but they didn’t! Whether they would die or not, these teenagers had faith that no matter what happened – good would come from it. I like how Joel Osteen says it, “Sometimes God will help you to avoid the fire, but sometimes He will make you fire proof!”
Being successful at life is not avoiding any and all trouble that comes our way. It's how we go through these difficulties that shows our true nature! Now God could have helped these teenagers not get into any trouble at all, right? I mean… He’s GOD! So if He loved them so much, why did he allow it? I think it’s because if God helped them avoid trouble, the King would never see the error of his ways. By making the teenagers fire proof, He did much more and they were not harmed – AND God was able to remove anything that bound them. Through this ordeal, the King had a change of heart (for the better of everyone) and these teenagers were celebrated as heroes and promoted.
So next time you are going through something very difficult – can you think of anyone that could benefit from the situation? Is it you? Is it someone else? Some of us may never know whom we are helping, but I believe we all have a choice focusing on the good (rather than the bad).
For example, how many people would know about Parkinson’s Disease if it were not for Michael J. Fox, beloved 80’s actor who starting showing symptoms of the disease in the middle of his acting career? I’m sure if you were to ask him when he was young, “Hey, during your great acting career would you like to get a life threatening disease?” Not too many people (maybe except a masochist) would say “yes”. I’m sure he was devastated when he first found out. Even though he had no choice in what happened to him, he used his fame and fortune to be the face of raising awareness and raising donations to help cure the disease! Some people would be embarrassed by the involuntary movements of this disease but he is still on television despite this to do what he can to help other people who have this disease and much more!
We may not understand all the hard times that we go through whether it’s for our benefit or someone else’s. But I think it is a better thought that someone is getting good out of the situation rather than thinking that God is mad at us in some way. I don’t know about you but MY God is not mad at anyone. He may not be happy with every action we do, but I believe He does love us all and always gives us many chances.