rebelling against low expectations

Why Do Bad Things Happen?


When something bad happens in my life, and I try to find comfort in God, this question is the first cry of my heart.

How can God comfort me if He doesn’t explain why He let this happen in my life?


How can God even love me if He did this?

As young Christians, our first (and perhaps only) response to bad things is to ask God, “Why?” We want an answer. We need an answer. We need to reconcile God’s love for us with the pain we’re feeling.

When your brother slaps you, it’s not likely you’ll continue as loving siblings until he asks your forgiveness, or explains that there was a mosquito on your cheek. It’s human nature to demand an explanation of sorts from the one who causes us pain. And human relationships are the only thing we have in our experience to compare our relationship with God to.

And so, though God is far from human — as far as ‘mortal’ and ‘immortal’ implies — we often treat God as we would another human. We expect to see Him, hear Him. We expect Him to make sense to us. When He does something which hurts us, we expect Him to explain Himself before we can continue in our relationship.

But when God puts pain in our lives He mostly doesn’t follow up with a prompt explanation. In fact, it may be years before we realize why He put us through that ordeal.


Yes, God is not human. In contrast, He is perfect.

That means His power and His plan for our lives, His wisdom and His love for us, are perfect.

That means that the ‘explanation’ for everything — good or bad — that happens in our lives is that it is part of His perfect plan.

That means that if we truly lived out our belief in God’s perfection, we shouldn’t have to demand a “why” of God when bad things happen.

Reading the Psalms is like reading an emotionally intense, atypical autobiography of King David. In the Psalms, the intense, vibrant joy David had in God — which we wish we had — is alternated with equally intense times of depression and pain — which we can all relate to.

But in all his pain, David wasn’t consumed by the one big, heart-gnawing cry of Why, Lord?


David’s peace and comfort, as well as his joy, came from the same source: his deep relationship with God. In other words, David knew God so well he could still be convinced of God’s perfection despite the bad things in his life. God’s perfection was a glorious reality, so much so that David could trust that even the trials in his life were part of God’s perfect plan.


If we know God to the same liberating extent that David did, we can face the trials in our own lives without being consumed by the cry of WHY. Instead, we are able to trust God in the midst of the pain, without doubting His wisdom and goodness.

Maybe we can’t understand how this trial works out as part of God’s perfect plan. But if we believe that ultimately it does, we can face it with peace in our hearts. We can face it with unfaltering love for God — despite the pain. And we will face it with the comfort that God will give us.

Perhaps this is the simplest Hard Thing of all: being able to trust God — even when bad things happen. Even when our hearts are torn and bleeding. Even when we can’t see the way ahead for our tears. To trust Him, knowing that the darkness we’re in now is only a blindfold, and that the light of God’s perfection and love is shining undimmed beyond it.

How real is God’s perfection to you? Real enough to withstand the human cry of WHY?

“I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.” — Psalm 119:75

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About the author

Ci Chong

thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are good books, writing, mornings with a Bible and Earl Gray tea, family, the stage, and the smell of rain. She is 22 and lives in Singapore, that little red dot on the world's equator, and studies literature while compiling a collection of rejection letters from various publishers.


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  • Ci~ thank you for sharing! Yes, amidst the storm, He is the perfect One we can completely Trust.
    In “The Hiding Place” (based on the book by Corrie Ten Boom) one of my favorite lines is, “If you know Him, you don’t have to know why.” She said this when she and her sister were in Hitler’s concentration camps, where cruelty abounded.
    And one thing that has helped me is to understand that bad things happen because we live in a fallen world. Sin, since the Garden of Eden, has been affecting men’s lives. So when bad things happen, I believe God can use them for good (help us to grow, trust Him more, be able to help others in the future with similiar experiences, etc), and also that it is not “His fault.” It’s Sin’s fault.
    Again, thank you for writing this! 🙂
    (and I read your mini bio and totally agree with the good books, quiet mornings w/your Bible, the stage, etc…:)

    • Molly, thanks for taking the time to write this reply, and for your encouragement:) Wow, I read the Hiding Place a long while ago but never noticed that phrase–I wonder why? Wish I had though; it really encapsulates what I wanted to say in this article–I would have quoted it!

      • I don’t specifically remember if it was in the book, but it was in the movie 🙂

        And you said it so well~ and it means alot coming from another young person!

        When you talked about God being “Real to You” it makes me think…

        Have you ever heard of Francesca Battistelli? She sings a song called “Dim” that says, “As I fix my eyes/On all that you are/Every doubt I find/Deep in my Heart/Grows strangely Dim/All my worries fade/And fall to the ground/As I seek your face/And don’t look around”
        I thought you may like that song 🙂

        • Haha, no I don’t know that song; but on my side I actually had thought of another song, Chris August’s Upside of Down; reminds us of an upwards perspective rather than our earthward one:) thanks for e recommendation! Will check it out:)

  • Beautifully written, Ci! Thank you for reminding us of this truth…we so often forget that God is God and not human like we are! Keep on writing and living for God!

    • thank you Dee! yes that’s what i hope to do’ it’s my prayer for my life as well as for my blog:)

  • Wow! Great perspective, Ci!

    Several years ago I listened to a sermon by Alistair Begg, in which he used as an illustration the story of a young man who was killed in a motorcycle accident, leaving behind a wife and baby. In writing about the tragedy, a close friend of the young man made the comment that (roughly paraphrased), “When the accident happened, I didn’t ask the ‘why’ question, because I’d settled that a long time ago: God is God and I’m not, and that’s ‘why’.”

    • that’s very affirmative to me! my own faith in God’s perfection hasn’t yet been tested to the extents of the people you mentioned, so to hear they could say the same thing when they’ve actually gone through it is really encouraging. I hope I will prove just as faithful when my time comes:)

  • beautiful writing Ci! i love the last short paragraph: Perhaps this is the simplest Hard Thing of all: being able to trust God — even when bad things happen. Even when our hearts are torn and bleeding. Even when we can’t see the way ahead for our tears. To trust Him, knowing that the darkness we’re in now is only a blindfold, and that the light of God’s perfection and love is shining undimmed beyond it.
    I believe that this is true. So thank you!

    • One struggle I often have is wondering why God hasn’t made it possible for me to do the sort of Hard Things I would like to do for Him. I need to remember that Christ has called us to serve Him in small things as well as big things–‘small’ to us, but often not any easier, sometimes maybe even harder. I think this might be one of the hardest Hard Things for me, in fact! thank you:)

  • This is amazing. This has been a terrible month for me, and I have asked God “Why?” more times that I can remember. My family has been fighting all day every day this month, and my dad hit me (which he usually doesn’t). Then my pastor resigned his pulpit last Sunday, which feels like the end of the world.

    thank you so much for sharing this. It means a lot.

    • Dear Cassidy, I’m glad this article encouraged you. God does have a perfect plan for your life, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept situations that are wrong. If anyone is hitting you or verbally abusing you, you need to get help.

      • Thanks
        I do not believe that Dad meant to hurt me, and I know that he does love me–he just gets over stressed at times, and gets angry.

    • Cassidy, I’m really thankful that God used my article to encourage you during this tough time in your life. I’m sorry to hear about that–it’s good that Brett has given you some advice; I’ll be praying for you and your family, (your dad especially) that God will guide you as to how to behave and respond, and truly be your comfort and joy through this. God bless! 🙂

  • Amen! Everything that happens is for our good (as Christians) and for God’s glory.

    this is easy to say but harder to live.

  • I know in my own life, I have taken to trying to acknowledge the “big picture”. Not to be callous, but the hurricane in Oklahoma could be and probably will be used as a cause for someone(s) to gain a relationship with Him. I, myself, have had various medical issues that I have been able to use as a witnessing point. What is a bad thing? Is not everything eventually to be used to His Glory? Sometimes things happen that seem bad to us that are really needed to allow us growth. If a parent allows a child to not experience any adversity, will the child magically be able to handle it at 18? …

    • You’re right, Rose. While this belief can be a comfort to us and a good witness to others, it can also become a bad witness if we let it make us callous to the pain that other people are going through.
      It’s not an ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ type of corny, unrealistic panacea for everything.
      So we need to be careful that we don’t let it come across as unfeeling and insensitive to others–it may have to be a personal realization, rather than what someone else tells you to feel.

      We do need to humbly accept that our wisdom (and understanding of what actually is ‘good’ and what actually is ‘bad’, as you pointed,) is imperfect unlike God’s.
      But most importantly, the faith that God is a perfect God should be hope and comfort for our hurt hearts. I struggle a lot with my failures, and this is also what redeems me from feeling totally crushed and depressed. God is perfect, even when I’m not. He is so powerful that even my imperfection (and, in a broader scope, that of the world’s) can be used by Him to work out into good. Personally that is what gets me back on my feet again–and hopefully, will be what comes across in our witness to others, whether it’s us or them who are the ones going through trials.


      • Amen! One of the aspects of this thought process that I think sometimes is missed is that it is “everything will work out for good” not “everything will work out for my good”. When entering the hospital, I can choose to try to enter it with the right mindset and ask God to tell me who and how to spread the word through this scenario (in which case, I will at minimum benefit spiritually if not physically), or I can be silent (possibility of it being smarter physically/somewhat emotionally depending on who I am being LED to witness to but no spiritual benefit). If my actions are not for the Kingdom, the trial may not end in a way where I benefit at all, and I am certainly not guaranteed a life of sunshine and roses. When asked how I can be happy when X has happened (a question that comes far too frequently), I have to be careful that I do not make it sound as though I expect to be blessed on Earth. I may or I may not. That is for Him to decide, not me. We can ask for physical blessings, but if we do not get them we know something better is on the way through spiritual growth, if we allow Him to work through us. If we don’t allow Him to work through us, well then He may use the experience to touch someone else that is watching etc. etc. Frankly, He may do that anyway. But the blessing is not guaranteed to us if we are going to stray away from Him. Happy New Year by the way!

  • This is such an encouraging article! I had back surgery two weeks ago, and when I first found out I had to have surgery, all I really did was ask why. And the thing is, I knew that what I had to do was trust Him, but knowing something is one thing: doing it is another. Once I finally learned to completely trust in Him, it changed my entire perspective!

    • Perspective is the word, Christy! This reminds me of a quote from Socrates–about how actually death, which we commonly think of as the greatest evil, may actually be the greatest good (which is actually the truth for Christians, one reason why I love that quote:)

      If our eyes are set on living out our definition of a happy life (and we all have this perspective, unconsciously!) we are going to feel crushed when it doesn’t happen. Our feelings are strong, but really they spring from our perspectives–earth-bound, or upwards-bound.
      🙂 I’m so glad it was encouraging to you!

  • This is huge to me Ci! I am going through some really tough things, things I never thought would happen. It has been hard this year, I would asked God “why” all the time. Thank you so much for posting this. God has really helped me understand the bigger picture a little better. God is good!

    • That’s great Sadie! God has used this article beyod my expectations, and I’m very grateful for that. Yes, be encouraged-He is good! 🙂

  • My family just recently got out of a five-year lawsuit. We were constantly praying for it to end, but it took five years. It finally did–but now we’re struggling financially because we have an office building up in Montana that hasn’t sold for three years and it’s costing a lot of money for it to stay up there empty. At the minute, we have people looking at our property to decide if they want to buy it because we can’t afford the property taxes.

  • this post really spoke to me. my family is going through some very hard times. thank you for helping me understand why.

    • Jordyn: I’m so glad if I could help you in this small way; prayerfully, God will help you understand why, much better than I could; as well as what He wants you to gain from this experience.

  • Not all the harm done by Christianity is the obvious stuff like the oppression of LGBTQ people or murdering doctors. A lot of it is like this – the subtle promotion of ignorance and passivity. “Why am I suffering? I don’t know! But I’ll just shut my mouth and assume this is part of some plan being masterminded somewhere.”

    All that is being said here is, “If the questions are too hard, don’t ask them”.

    Telling people that their pain is part of some murky yet glorious plan is the logic of an abuser. “I know I yell at you, I know I hit you, I know you’re hurting, but trust me, I really do love you. Things will be better at some undefined point in the future. You’ll see.”

    The only ethical response to hearing about someone’s unwarranted pain is to say “How can I support you or help the pain to end?”, not “Your pain is part of someone else’s glory, so shut up and accept it”.

    • Honestly, why are you even here? Why do you intentionally hunt out things that you disagree with, JUST so you can disagree with them?

      Though I’m not necessarily a Christian, I love reading about the beliefs of others, and evaluating what they believe and why. You, on the other hand, are just being a pretentious, defamatory coccydynia.

      Another thing, that is THE most illogical thing I’ve ever seen. Seriously. That statement is only true if you start with the assumption that everyone who will read it is an atheist/not a Christian.

      For instance: Christians truly believe there’s a God. So, to them, if there is a God who has a plan for everyone’s life, He’s just executing some plan that they get to be a part of. Therefore, this article is valid, and your comment is logically invalid.

      However, to an atheist/other, god is not real. Therefore, a multitude of sheep are bowing to something they call god, hoping that they feel better. Therefore your comment is valid, and this article is invalid.

      So, rather than post that on an atheistic/AntiChristian website to enjoy the agreement of like-minded people, not to mention have a logically valid comment, you post it on a CHRISTIAN website?

      OOOOoohhh, I get it. You ARE a Christian! You’re posting non-thought-through comments to make atheists look bad!

      Look, I understand you want to promote the Christian religion, but you should be showing people that Jesus-guy, instead of making other religions look bad.

    • Hey Loren, I’m sorry it came across this way to you. I did mention the possibility of this perspective being interpreted or seen in this way, in a reply to an earlier comment by Rose Daphne.

      First of all, yes, certainly the primary response when we see others
      suffering—Christian or not, but according to the Bible, Christians especially so—should be to ‘support…and help the pain to end’, as you said. At no point should we get so engrossed with explaining why—or not—that we lose sight of this. We become totally insensitive and unhelpful to others when we do. In contrast, 2 Corinthians 1:4 tells Christians that God, who is a “God of all comfort…comforts us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort we ourselves are comforted by God.”

      However, the way I see it, comfort is often deeply entwined with understanding why. Not always, but often. And for Christians, we believe that “all things work together for the good of those who love Him.” (Romans 8:28) This is a huge issue, with many, many facets to it. It works out in many different ways too.

      Sometimes, as C. S. Lewis said, pain is God’s megaphone: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pain; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Sometimes to realize that God is indeed a God of comfort, Who can give you comfort and strength even for this great sorrow. Sometimes to teach us things about ourselves we’d never known otherwise: maybe we haven’t loved or treasured
      others as we ought; maybe we’ve been blind to sins in ourselves; and the list goes on.

      But sometimes, maybe that we don’t trust well enough; and at least for me, that has been my personal conviction in experiencing ‘bad things’, which I wanted to share. I realized that if I believed my God was a perfect God, it should be reflected in how I lived my life. And for me, the most obvious way I hadn’t been doing that was in my attitude towards troubles; how obsessed I had become with wrangling an answer from God. God is not defined by how well He answers our questions. As my dad once said, “Doubts are caused by our deficiencies, not God’s. But their answers can only come from God’s sufficiency”.

      Similarly, faith is defined as ‘complete trust or confidence in someone or something’. It doesn’t require explanations. Of course this doesn’t mean we don’t ask for explanations, or don’t do our best to find out why. But the explanations themselves shouldn’t become the basis or reason for our faith—or else it’s not faith, but more like a logical conclusion
      after proof and reasoning.

      “What kind of a God is He, if He only makes sense when everything’s going fine?” This phrase really hurts me, because it shows me how badly I’ve been reflecting the true character of God to others. God is a God of comfort, wisdom, joy, and security—I know that as clearly as I know I’m alive, because He has been all that to me, in an equally real and tangible way. But I’m not perfect. And sadly my life doesn’t always reflect God the way He truly is, the way I know He is, to others. My words don’t always reflect Him as He is, either; but all the same, I hope this reply is
      helpful 🙂

    • Loren, in my view at least, this article is not dealing with John Doe’s reactions with his friend/enemy/acquaintance Tom Thumb when Tom Thumb is in trouble. It is discussing Tom Thumb working through his trouble on a personal level. If Tom Thumb is about to lose his house and John Doe organizes a fundraiser that helps Tom Thumb, that is great. That may very well be God’s purpose for this situation. That does not mean that in the days prior to the fundraiser or even in the days following Tom Thumb does not ask God why. This article is talking to people who will likely not have perfect little lives where everything goes right because they are on Earth. This article is a reminder that good will come either today or in the future from it, possibly by giving us the words to say the right thing to someone going through it in the future.

      Concerning your comment about the logic being that of an abuser, I can only speak of my perspective. A lot of so-called bad things have happened in my life. I have been in and out of the hospital, had over a dozen surgeries, had a complicated home life growing up, but the facts are that the good HAS out weighed the bad, and in my life I would not change even one of the “oh poor you” bad aspects of my life. I have made some stupid choices that I wish I had not made, comes with free-will I suppose, but that is all.

      You may agree or disagree with me. I just felt like I should reply to this. May you have a great 2014. Happy New Year!

  • As an addition to that amazing peice of writing, through all our trials, tribulations and failures we should have faith, not fear (a line drilled into me by the correspondance course I am doing!). Faith that our God, who sent his only Son for us, will see us through to the end, and not fear about what will happe, where will it happen and so on.
    As Hebrews 11 puts it; Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see!
    God Bless,

By Ci Chong
rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →