When Bad Things Happen

Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out, and they joined battle in the Valley of Siddim with Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goiim, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar, four kings against five. 10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of bitumen pits, and as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into them, and the rest fled to the hill country.11 So the enemy took all the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way.12 They also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who was dwelling in Sodom, and his possessions, and went their way. – Genesis 14:8-12

Cades Cove Missionary Baptist Church Steeple | Smoky Mountain National Park | April 2021

I came home from my college class one day back in the early 1970’s to a horrific discovery. I opened the door to our basement to discover that my 8 year old sister had died. A tragic accident. A devastating event for our family. A traumatic experience for me. A sad end to sweet Kathy’s life. 

You likely remember where you were on September 11, 2001. The sight of the twin towers crumbling to the ground and people fleeing the cloud of dust and debris is easily recalled.

A good friend – just a year older than me – caught the covid virus and died after several weeks in the hospital. He left a wife, three grown children and several grand children. All of us were rocked at his death: our loss. 

A 59 inch rainfall upstream from the church I served at the time, brought flood waters into three of the six buildings on our church campus. This “Tax Day Flood” (April 16, 2016) put us out of those buildings for more than 2 years – because that flood was followed by another, brought about 18 months later because of a Hurricane Harvey. 

More recently people in Miami were rudely awakened during the night as the building they called home suffered a third-world-like calamity when a portion collapsed. Ten people have died and more than 151 people remain missing as I write this. 

Lot and the people of Sodom and Gomorrah experienced this first hand. They and their possessions were taken by warring kings. Some even died when they fell into the tar pits nearby. It was a bad day. A day much worse, even than Alexander’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day! (Cute book, by the way!)

Bad things happen. We live in a fallen world. Family, friends, churches, and total strangers suffer hardships. We have no exemption from calamity by fire, flood, or famine. Why would we think otherwise? 

We think otherwise because we are at heart little demigods. We think we should be able to chart our course with little difficulty or trouble. We imagine we can avoid the bad neighborhoods, risky situations, troublesome activities, and dangerous places, and live a life of ease. 

There is a twin danger in such thinking. First of all, we are not even little demigods. We have less power over our situations, neighbors, and even our loved-ones than we imagine. Second, a life of ease and with no troubles all too easily lulls us into a false sense of wellbeing and a false notion of control. Jesus warns against this in his parable of the rich fool (cf. Luke 12:13-21). God’s stunning confrontation, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ is a warning for those who always have life well in hand.

I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer (or should I say, David Downer?!). But our modern notion that life should be good all the time, and that we should never have to face trouble does not serve us well. No one likes to be warned – unless we are immediately aware of the danger before us, and agree that it’s actually dangerous. But this can serve as a reminder that sometimes bad things happen. 

God, however, is never far from us. He is an ever present help in times of trouble. Bad things do happen. But they can serve as a reminder of our fallen world and a call to lean into God’s goodness…all the time. That’s good to remember today or any day that trouble might come to us. 

Click here or on the podcast player below to listen to an audio version of the blog post.

  1. Natalie Lancaster McCaskill said:

    Very well done! I appreciate your perspective.

  2. [Jesus said] … in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33 ESV

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