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Why does God permit bad things to happen?

World Trade Center 9-11-2001
World Trade Center 9-11-2001
William Kratzke/Associated Press

Eleven years ago last month, we all watched in horror as two jet airliners crashed into the World Trade Center, collapsing the buildings and killing nearly 3,000 people. A good friend of mine was in Tower 1 when American Airlines Flight 11 tore through it. Fortunately, she was one of the lucky ones who escaped in time.

Some people, who doubt the existence of God, say, "If a loving God existed, he wouldn't permit things like 9-11 to happen." The key word is "permit." God didn't cause 9-11; he permitted it to happen. Permit means to give opportunity, leave or license. My16-year old daughter is about ready to take the test for a learner's permit. I took her out one Sunday to an empty parking lot to practice parallel parking. Let’s just say I'm glad the car parked in front of us was an imaginary car. Part of me feels that she should wait till she's 18 before she gets a license, but another part of me feels that I should give her the freedom to make mistakes. God is like a loving father who gives us free will, the license to do whatever we want. But along with free will, he gave us the 10 commandments, the rules of the road of life. We are free to ignore them, but if we do, we will suffer the karmic consequences sooner or later. For some people, later could be many years or the next lifetime. For others, like my older daughter, sooner could be seconds. Like a suicide bomber, she drove her car into another car while making a left turn. Fortunately, she was not seriously hurt, but it made a deep impression on her. It made an even deeper impression on the car. So, the result of karmic suffering, in most cases, is learning. My daughter is now a cautious driver who usually tells me to slow down when I'm driving.

But what if bad things happen to someone who didn't do anything wrong? Isn't God being cruel to that person? Eight innocent children were on the planes that went down on 9-11. Three were bright A+ students going to a scholastic academic convention. Five others were on their way to Disney World. What did they do to deserve their fate? What did their families do to deserve it? That’s the same question Job's friends asked when he lost all his possessions and his sons and daughters in one day. Job didn't have an answer for them, but neither did he curse God. He accepted his fate. Job was being tested. That's why God permitted Satan to inflict Job with losses and boils. Nobody likes tests, but without them, there's no way for a teacher to assess what and how much students learn. What if we didn't have assignments and quizzes in college courses? There would be no way for instructors to grade students or for students to apply what they learned in the lectures. So tests are a necessary evil.

We can think of the trials and tribulations we face as assessments for Life-101 designed by God and administered by Satan. Another friend of mine recently went through a difficult test when she lost her home and all of her possessions in a fire. Being a very spiritual person, she was gratefully that she and her husband were still alive and saw her losses as a lesson from God that she had too much stuff cluttering up her life like an overgrown, debris-filled forest, and the fire was just getting rid of it and simplifying her life.

When you look at Earth as a school and your trials and tribulations as tests, then nothing that happens to you is ever bad. It’s all good because when you pass your tests, you get to graduate.

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