It seems as if this is one of the most asked questions these days, by both non-Christians and Christians: If God is so loving, why does He allow horrible things like murder or sickness to happen? This is such an important question: lots of people have either fallen from their faith or just never believed in God because of their lack of an answer. I have been studying this question for awile, taking notes from sermons and devotional books (such as If I Could Ask God Just One Question by Greg Johnson). My goal was to be able to have an answer ready in case someone ever asked me. So, whether you are wondering about this question yourself or you would also like to know how to explain it to someone else, I really pray that you can find something in here that makes since to you.
Let's start at the beginning: Adam and Eve were given free will. They didn't have to eat the fruit, but they did. And with that came the consequenses. Their eyes were opened to good and evil, and they were banished from the garden (you know the story). But God's love demanded that He give us free will. Adam and Eve used this free will to disobey him. Yes, God could have prevented them from being so stupid, and in turn prevented them from the consequenses, but He found no satisfaction in creating puppets to bow down to Him.
Free will, or free choice, means that people will choose wrong, which leads to consequenses. I have heard someone say, "My mom was such an amazing Christian and for sure wasn't done doing good in this world. Why did she have to get killed by that drunk driver? If God was good and real He would have never let that happen." What a lot of people don't realize is that we are not immune to other people's bad choices. Bad things will happen, whether its a result of someone else's bad choice (such as drunk driving) or a sickness. But this earth is not heaven and God never said it would be.
It may be hard to understand, but God does care about us. Because He loves us, He's not going to try to fix everything bad in the world. Because He loves us, He chooses to limit His control, as much as He wants to take away our pain. At first I was confused too: God chooses to limit His control in our lives because He loves us? But to make every situation in the world a happy one, He would have to control every situation, and if He was pushing the buttons in everyone's life, people would respond to Him out of fear, not love. What would be the point of living? We would be like robots with no will or personality, because our wrong choices and the bad things that happen to us shape us into better people. They give us personality and character. Looking back on my life and the bad decsions I make and the horrible things that happened to me, I don't think I would change one thing. The whole purpose of this life is preparation for eternity. He wants us to practice on earth what we will do in eternity. We have to learn how to praise Him through the storm, because, once again, this world is not heaven and He never said it would be. God is more interested in our character than our comfort. There will always be something wrong. But there will also always be something good. What do we focus on?
God isn't to blame for every bad thing that happens. No, He doesn't always stop them from happening, but when we focus on that we miss the point. Our own choices are to blame. Our bad choices are influenced by Satan (not controlled by Satan-influenced). He is the "prince of this world." He is a liar and destroyer. If he can convince people to make poor moral or health decisions, he can get them into a lifestyle where they will die young (hopefully, he thinks, without Christ). Satan is good at keeping us so distracted that the thought fo having God at the center of our lives is no longer attractive.
The main point is, we can't see the big picture like God can. He turns our bad experiences into something good, if we let Him. So, the question shouldn't be, "Why do bad things happen?" They will happen as long as we are here on earth. The question really should be, "How can we allow God to use the bad things that do happen for His purposes?"
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose." Notice how this scripure says "all things work together for good." All things, meaning every horrible thing that ever comes your way will be used for good, so just hang in there.
I'm going to make a second post as kind of a follow up post to this one, about the difference between temptation and the testing of our faith, and which comes from God. It will be about learning to find joy in the bad things that happen to us, and how to use our experiences to make our faith genuine.