Why do good, innocent people experience terrible suffering? The death of a 6-year-old girl has many wondering about bad news.
It was a week of bad news here in South Carolina.
We learned on Monday that a 6-year-old girl in the Cayce area disappeared from her front yard. A strong law enforcement response turned up no trace of her.
Then on Thursday afternoon, that changed. An afternoon news conference confirmed everyone’s worst fears. Police found her body. They also found the body of a “male,” but they didn’t immediately say whether it was another child or an adult. They also didn’t say whether the two deaths were connected in any way. (Although that certainly didn’t stop a great deal of speculation.)
The story hit home for me. I grew up near her neighborhood. I was baptized in the church her family attended. And I attended the elementary school she attended.
Among the grief and anger, there’s a question that people, religious or not, ask in a situation like this: Why do bad things happen to good people?
We have this idea, whether we want to admit or not, that bad news should only happen to bad people.
I think that deep down, we know that bad things happen to everyone, not just bad people. If we consider ourselves to be relatively good people, even we can point to something bad we’ve experienced. Nothing, I hope, as bad as this story, of course, but still, something bad nonetheless.
I don’t have any magic answers or the perfect Bible verse to explain why even good, innocent people will experience bad news.
Even when there’s a Bible verse someone digs up, like the one about God using everything for His own glory, it seems eerily inadequate.
The only answer I have is a line from an old country song: “I beg your pardon. I never promised you a rose garden.”
I’m not trying to be flippant. But no one ever guaranteed this life would be paradise. No matter how much we want it to be.
Believers consider the afterlife — Heaven — to be the place we’ll experience that paradise. I hope that’s true.
In the meantime, there will be suffering here. We’ll face bad news. Sometimes, we’ll question it and accept that we won’t receive any satisfactory answers.
That’s not what we want to hear. But I can’t find any other explanation that makes sense.