Where Is God When Bad Things Happen? Learning Trust

Pretty much from the beginning of time, people have asked the question, “Where is God when bad things happen?” We wonder:

  • Why do bad things happen to good people? 
  • Why do good things happen to bad people? 
  • Is God really good when He allows horrible things to happen to innocent people? 
  • Can we trust God when hard things come our way?

Yet the very question proves that deep down inside we do believe in God’s existence. But, where is He in all this? The answer is so simple we often miss it.

It turns out that even in the Bible people asked similar questions.

In Psalm 73:2-15 David wrestled with the question of why everything seems to go well for the wicked, and yet for himself with all his efforts to do the right, he felt as though everything went wrong. (1) We will see his conclusion later.

Why do bad things happen?

Maybe our first question is not, “Where is God when bad things happen?”, but actually why bad things happen at all. Why can’t things just turn out good? I don’t think anyone has fully answered that question. I have wrestled with it myself.

If God knew what would happen, why did he allow the problems in the Garden of Eden?

The existence of evil started when Lucifer said that he would not be ruled by God’s word. Ezequiel 28 and Isaiah 14 mention the story. His pride got in the way, and so he was cast out of heaven.

Since then sin has existed, and bad things are a result of sin. Humanity has tried to do things our way, not God’s way, and it always causes problems.

The thing is that God desired a people who would love and serve Him of their own free will. He did not want us to be puppets on a string. That’s why He doesn’t just  “make everyone good”

John 9:1-3 gives another reason why bad things sometimes happen.

“As he (Jesus) passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.  2  And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  3  Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” ESV

Photo of a collage of bad things and an overlay that says, "thoughts from John 9:1-3: bad things don't necessarily happen because we sin. Sometimes it's so that God's work can be seen." This is another answer to "where is God when bad things happen?'
Where is God when bad things happen? He sometimes uses them to point us to Him.

Bad things don’t necessarily happen because we sin. Neither the blind man nor his parents had caused his blindness by sinning.

Sure, we live in a fallen world, but sometimes God just wants to show what He can do despite the bad things. Other times He uses the trials of life as a wake-up call, reminding us of what truly matters in life.

In Job’s story, we see that bad things sometimes happen because God (or Satan) is testing if we really love Him with all our hearts, or if we only follow Him for the good things He gives us. (Job 1:6-12)

I still struggle with why God allows bad things to happen to good people. But I have seen how God works everything out for good, and how He can use any situation.

Where is God when bad things happen?

I remember reading about a well-to-do person asking where God was in light of all the suffering people. Someone told him to ask the poor and suffering that question.

It is strange how it works out. Usually, people in the most difficult circumstances are the ones who say that God is with them. They feel His nearness and comfort, even in the trials of life.

So where is God when bad things happen? He is right with us in our suffering in the hard. Our God is the only god who comes down and joins His followers in their problems of pain and suffering. Other gods don’t do that.

Psalm 34:18 reminds us that “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” ESV

Photo of a collage of bad things, and the Scripture, "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." This is the answer to "Where is God when bad things happen?"
Where is God when bad things happen?
He is near. We just don’t always recognize it.

How do I trust God when bad things happen?

I will never say it is easy to trust God when awful things happen. In fact, I have wrestled with God, asking Him how He can be a good God in the hardships that have come my way.

I think I feel a bit like Jacob in Genesis 32:22-31

22  “The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.  23  He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had.  24  And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.  

25  When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.  26  Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”  27  And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”  28  Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”  

29  Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.  30  So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel,  saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”  31  The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.” ESV

I too, have wrestled and told God I would not let Him go till He would show Himself to me. Some of the things I have gone through have left me with an emotional limp.

I am no longer as bold and confident as I once was in some areas. It has hurt. But I have felt God’s love and blessing, and I am satisfied with that.

I still struggle to trust God in every situation. My human heart rebels at the thought of going through more difficulties. But I have learned that He redeems any story.

No one is bound to someone else’s failures. Others may do things that cause bad things to happen to us, but we can still be totally right before God.

Does the Bible say that everything happens for a reason?

It’s not that God wants everything to happen as it does. He gave us, and everyone else, a free will. Each person will decide to choose whom they will serve. 

“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15 ESV

Someone who chooses not to live by God’s rules will mess things up. We are not puppets or robots.

But the good news is that God can use any situation, and work it out for good, even when we don’t see any good reasons for why terrible things happen.

Photo of a collage of bad things and an overlay with thoughts from Romans 8:28. This is another answer to "Where is God when bad things happen? "
Where is God when bad things happen? He is working on making the bad things right.

The Apostle Paul reminds us that “…we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 ESV

This verse is such a comfort. If you love God, all things work together for good, even if someone else tries to mess it up for you.

David also draws some conclusions in Psalm 73:16-28. After all his questions, he concludes:

16  But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, 17  until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. 18  Truly you set them in slippery places;  you make them fall to ruin.

19  How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! 20  Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.

21  When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, 22  I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. 23  Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.

24  You guide me with your counsel,  and afterward you will receive me to glory. 25  Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” ESV

Sometimes we too just need to go into God’s sanctuary and ponder awhile.

God will triumph in the end. He is continually with us, and someday He will receive us into glory. We will have an eternal life of joy and blessings. Till then, and forever, He is our strength and portion.

God is a good, loving God, and He makes bad things right.

A prayer for Trusting God When Bad things happen

Dear Heavenly Father,

I don’t always understand why bad things happen. Sometimes I doubt who You are. But I ask that You would help me to trust you. I will not let You go till You bless me.

I ask that in these difficult times Your works might be displayed through my life. Help me to rest in your promise that all things will work together for good.

Thank you that you are right here with me and understand what I am going through.

My flesh and my heart fail me sometimes, but I ask that You would be my strength and my portion forever. Help me to be faithful till the day that You receive me to glory.

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen

Photo of a prayer for trusting God- part of the answer to "Where is God when bad things happen?"
Where is God when bad things happen? A prayer for trusting Him

You can download this prayer as a gift from The Creator’s Classroom. No email is required. Here is the link.

So where is God when bad things happen? He is with us. Hold onto that promise!

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References:

(1) Psalm 73:2-15 English Standard Version

But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek.
They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment.
Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies.
They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression.
They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth.
10 Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them.
11 And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
12 Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.
13 All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.
14 For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning.
15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,”  I would have betrayed the generation of your children.

About the author:

Melinda is a happy wife, mom of four, homemaker, and blogger at Connecting With Littles.

She lives in Costa Rica where it is summer all year round. She loves to write and speak to encourage and inspire other women.

Photo of Melinda Dueck, Author of "Where is God When Bad Things Happen."
Melinda Dueck

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