Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen to Christians? (A Conversation With My 11-Year-Old Daughter)

My daughter, recently asked me the above, very common, question. It led to a family discussion which lasted over several days. I love when we have such discussions. It causes the family to grapple with important topics which are sometimes not so easy to resolve or comprehend. This is especially true for my daughter, who is my youngest at 11 years old, whose mind is still developing and maturing. The rest of the family had a pretty good understanding as to how to deal with this question. But, even after several conversations, it was still not quite clicking for her. Fortunately, I came across something that Dr. James White had explained during the June 4th, 2015 podcast of The Dividing Line, entitled, “Thoughts on the Dr. Drew Show.”

Dr. White was a recent guest on the Dr. Drew Show, June 2, 2015. He was asked to be on the show in order to provide the “spiritual” perspective regarding the now, very popular topic of self-proclaimed, gender identification. In critiquing the panel’s worldview from the Dr. Drew show, Dr. White on The Dividing Line podcast clarified a distinction that we Christians can sometimes miss, or poorly describe. His clarification helped me greatly in helping my daughter to connect the dots and to finally gain an answer to her question. Dr. White explained the difference between being happy and joy:

Happiness is a fleeting state of mind. Joy is something that one can have in horrific circumstances. If you have ever read The Hiding Place, you know exactly what we are talking about: That there could be people who can experience joy in Dacau and Auschwitz, because they had character, because they had honor, and duty, and dignity… because they recognized that mankind was something more than an animal. What we listened to from those panelists, is not only a level of immaturity, it is absolutely shocking… it is ethical nihilism. It is empty. It has nothing to offer. And, it cannot long survive. No culture, that becomes “that” has any framework upon which to be able to respond to any kind of meaningful pressure. What is going to happen to a culture, that has “that” as its moral and ethical fiber, when an American city disappears under a mushroom cloud from a terrorist attack? What’s going to happen then? Collapse… absolute collapse. That’s what we are looking at, and clearly… they don’t care. They’re getting their pay. They’ve got their BMW. They’ve got their fancy clothes. They don’t care, because, they are autonomous. And, as long as they are happy, things are good. Now… they all of a sudden find themselves in a nuclear winter, and they’ll be blaming everybody. But, the only person they will be able to blame is themselves. But… they don’t want to be bothered with that kind of thinking. They don’t want people to be challenged. It makes people uncomfortable.

‘It takes my happiness away. And, that won’t make me happy. So, I just need to be happy.’

The immaturity of our society: Just… absolutely… shocking. Absolutely, shocking.

(In order to get the full context of what Dr. James White was referring to, I recommend that you listen to the podcast. What I am focusing on is the distinction that he made between being happy and joy.)

After listening to this portion of the podcast, I then suddenly realized that Dr. White had provided me with the means of helping my daughter understand the answer to her question. Below is the actual texting conversation that she and I had after I had listened to the podcast:

Me: I have a question to ask you regarding the topic you have been bringing up. Here it is:
Would you consider it to be odd if God answered every prayer that we wanted, the way that we wanted it to be answered?
Her: That would be odd
Me: Can you think of any problems that would result from God answering all of our prayers the way each of us would want them answered?
Her: Not really
Her: Wait nvm
Her: I don’t get it
Me: Okay, how come you said that it would be odd?
Her: Well not always answering can like teach people
Me: Teach people what?
Her: We will have to talk when ur home
Me: Here’s a tiny example of two Christians wanting something, where it is impossible for both to be happy:
Suppose that two Christians are at a baseball game. Both are rooting for the opposing team, and both want their team to win. Someone is going to be disappointed. How could God possibly keep both happy?
Her: Make the game tie
Me: Really? Is your brother ever happy with a tie?
[My oldest is a travel baseball player.]
Her: Not really
Me: So does making the game a tie work?
Her: No
Me: So then, how does God then make both people happy?
Her: He can’t
Me: Correct. Now, keep that in the back of your mind for a moment. What do both of the Christians in this example have, which allows them to be ok with possibly not being happy?
Her: To know that gods in control
Me: Yes, but what do each of the Christians have which makes them ok with not being happy?
Her: That they are going to live forever with God
Me: Excellent. Very good. In the Bible, the word which describes the good feeling which accompanies the assurance and confidence that Christians have is, as you said above, “That they are going to live forever with God,” is called JOY. “Joy” is the thing that Christians have, even when they are not happy. Joy (in the Lord) is what has caused even those Christians who were burned to death just because they were Christians, in past history, to sing hymns as they burned to death. It’s quite remarkable, and I even have trouble understanding how that’s even possible, but that’s what has happened. So, because of “joy” (confidence in Christ) Christians can suffer in really bad situations, yet still be perfectly ok with it. Because of “joy,” the bad things that God might allow Christians to experience, is not really an issue for Christians. The question is now for you to answer: Do you have such joy?
Her: Yes
Me: How do you know?
Her: I repented from my sins and trusted in the lord
Me: God allows or causes what He wills because, as you also said above, He is “in control,” and whatever He causes or allows is for His glory. So, does that answer your question? (If it doesn’t, that’s ok, we can keep talking.)
Her: That answers it
Me: Cool. I love you!
Her: I love you too moo🐮

(My daughter comes up with cute nicknames for me. LOL)

1 Peter 1:3-9
“Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials so that the genuineness of your faith — more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire — may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. You love Him, though you have not seen Him. And though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Godspeed, to the brethren!

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  1. Christians also persecuted and martyred fellow Christians (with rival views or practices) and Jews for centuries.


    Contrast the martyrdom of a Christian at the hands of a Roman ruler with that of an unbelieving philosopher or heretic at the hands of a Christian ruler:

    The Christian refuses to burn incense before the statue of the master of the legions of Rome. He believes the terrestrial power will soon pass away; he has no sympathy with it. He looks forward to a speedy overthrow, a terrible retribution…Moreover, he hopes for a heavenly crown. He likely is a slave of a long enslaved race, despised, downtrodden here: he believes he will be before the throne of God with the elect in Heaven. The balance of pleasure is clearly on the side of martyrdom.

    On the other hand, the unbelieving philosopher or heretic is resisting all the orthodox Christian influences under which he has been brought up.In the opinion of those who have brought him up, he is casting away his hopes in the future world. He has, perhaps, no sure belief in a future recompense for himself; the triumph of his cause is very distant, and must come very gradually. Yet for what he believes to be truth–for that alone he dies.

    Which martyrdom testifies most to the truth of the opinions of the martyr? There may be a greater testimony to truth in the mere refusal of an honest and intelligent man to enter the Church, than in the excited devotee running towards the lions in the arena.

    D. G. Ritchie, Philosophical Studies


  2. I like your conversation with your daughter! 🙂 Keep on doing that to bring her good Christian education! 🙂

    There is one thing, however, that I would like to add just to make you think about it 🙂 : “Would it be possible that not everything is for God’s glory?” (like Auswitz, Christians burning on a stake, …)


      1. Could be true… I’ll think about it 🙂
        I believe that at the judgment seat of Christ, everything will be righteously recompensed if that is what you mean 🙂


      2. Here is an example of how the world seeks after happiness, rather than resting in the joy of knowing the Lord, regardless of what God may allow:

        Jeremiah 38:1-4 (HCSB)
        Now Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jucal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malchijah heard the words Jeremiah was speaking to all the people: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine, and plague, but whoever surrenders to the Chaldeans will live. He will keep his life like the spoils of war and will live.’ This is what the Lord says: ‘This city will most certainly be handed over to the king of Babylon’s army, and he will capture it.’”
        The officials then said to the king, “This man ought to die, because he is weakening the morale of the warriors who remain in this city and of all the people by speaking to them in this way. This man is not seeking the well-being of this people, but disaster.”

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Some of the old twilight zone episodes can get us to thinking a little. This one won’t answer your daughter’s question, but it will definitely give her something to think about human nature. I think all can relate. If you haven’t seen it, and decide to give it a go, preview of course, but I think you’ll be OK with watching it with her.

    I also love Psalm 73. I especially love the way it turns at verse 17.


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