Watching your daughter fight for life must be unbearable. Hearing her gut-honest questions–questions that appear to have no answers this side of heaven–is unfathomable. So how did Teresa Pollard answer the heart-wrenching question–why do bad things happen to good people? Not with words, but with love. Today, after her daughter’s death, she addresses the question again. Not with anger or bitterness nor a raised fist at God, but instead, with the answer that can only come from surrendered faith.
Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?
By Teresa Pollard
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character, and proven character, hope. Romans 5:3-4
There are several important themes in our novel Not Guilty, but possibly the main one is: why does it seem sometimes that bad things rain on good people like monstrous thunderstorms, while (at least for a time) bad people keep getting away with their malicious and evil deeds? Candi Pullen and I both lost our daughters at very young ages, so it’s a theme that’s become extremely important to us even though the novel was actually written before either death occurred.
When my daughter, Kara, lay dying of cervical cancer, this was the question she kept asking me. She wanted to know what she had done to deserve such an early death. She knew she was saved and had a home in heaven, but she had a young son who needed his mommy, and she didn’t want to leave him.
I didn’t really have an answer for her.
All I could do was tell her I loved her, and that I knew that God loved her too.
I think one of the first songs I ever learned as a small child was Jesus loves me. When Kara was born, her daddy sang it to her in the delivery room while the doctors worked on me. She believed that Jesus loved her, but she didn’t really understand why a loving God would let cancer happen to her. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last six years pondering the same question.
The Apostle Paul pondered it too. He was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, hungry, thirsty, in danger from all directions, and in great emotional distress. Was he some kind of a super Christian who could endure things that just aren’t possible for us normal folks? No. He was a man just like we are. He admitted weakness. In fact, he said if he had to boast about anything, it would be his weakness, because he knew that it is in our weakness that we find God’s strength.
In the thirteen months between the diagnosis and Kara’s actual death, I shed countless tears. I ranted at God, and I prayed and begged Him to spare her life. He said “no.” I was helpless. I would have given anything to be able to save my daughter’s life, but all I could do was entrust her to the Lord’s keeping. And that’s where I found strength. That’s the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian. We have hope.
This earthly life isn’t the end or even a large part of our existence. It’s a tiny speck of time. But it’s the speck that determines where we will spend eternity. Not only that, but it also determines our rewards in that eternity. One of Kara’s last deeds before she became too ill to go anywhere was to take 300 carnations with messages of hope to patients in the hospital where she had spent so many of her days. The Bible tells us that God even rewards a cup of cold water given in His name. I wonder what the reward is for 300 carnations given by a dying mother to bring hope to patients in great need of that hope.
In Psalm 73:3, Asaph said, “I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Then God gave him a vision of how the wicked will end—an eternity of destruction. On the other hand, I know I will see Kara again someday, and we will spend eternity together in heaven. If you haven’t read Randy Alcorn’s Bible study on heaven, I highly recommend it.
Why do bad things happen to good people? God isn’t finished with me yet, and I still don’t have all the answers. I know we live in a fallen world. I’m still not to the point where, like Paul, I can “exult” in tribulation, but I do know God promises in Romans 8:28 that “all things,” both the good and the bad, “work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” I can understand that somehow they’re for my good and for the good of others. What we don’t really understand when we’re in the middle of things is that it’s not really about us at all. It’s about Him. It’s about the kingdom. If even one person spends eternity in heaven instead of hell because of our suffering, isn’t it worth it? Suppose that one person were your son or daughter? Wouldn’t it be worth it then?
Not Guilty by Teresa Pollard and Candi Pullen:
It’s 1974 and Carrie Shepherd, daughter of the minister at Windspree Community Church, is a college senior with plans to be a missionary in Africa. Raped by a masked assailant, Carrie is so traumatized she tells no one until she realizes she’s pregnant. Refusing to have an abortion, she must find the courage to face her family, her fiancé, her friends and a gossiping, angry congregation, which may include her attacker. Can Carrie find the strength to cope with the secrets, silence, and shame? http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1938708067
Teresa Pollard is from Richmond, Virginia, and was saved at a young age. She has a Masters degree in English and Creative Writing from Hollins College, and has served as a Sunday School teacher and children’s worker for most of the last forty years. Married for forty years, she was devastated by divorce and the death of her youngest daughter, but God has blessed her with a new home and another grandson, and she now resides in Dacula, Georgia.
I love the song, Blessings, by Laura Story.
In it, she sings about some of our greatest blessings coming through pain and trials. I’ve never lost a child and can’t imagine the pain those who have must feel on a daily basis, but I have experienced trials. And I’ve found, it is often during my moments of greatest pain that I sense God the most. And it is often following intense periods of struggle that I experience my greatest freedom. But more than that, when I look at our world with all it’s pain and suffering, I’m reminded, and grateful, that this is not my home. No, God has something much better planned for those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose. But while we are here, through trial and triumph, what He longs for most is that we point others to Him and His life-saving gospel. For this time is short, and often wrought with pain. But eternity? That will be glorious, my friend, if you know the Lord. For those who don’t? Well, there’s still time to send out invitations. 🙂
Let’s talk about this. Are you or a loved one going through a difficult time right now? How might your response to pain reveal the depth of your faith? And what might that say to a watching, hurting world? Pause to think of what Teresa’s daughter did, shortly before her death. She used every last possible moment not to grow bitter or isolate, but instead, to reach out with the love that had taken hold of her, to spread hope.
Share your thoughts and stories in the comments before or on Facebook at Living by Grace.
What a strong, encouraging story, one that is both sad and glorious. I’ve been through a lot–so has most everyone I know! Lately, how I’ve chosen to cope is to make myself return to thinking, focusing on God, and only Him, when my human attention has drifted. I ask for His forgiveness of my anger, disappointment, despair, and pray for those who have wronged me. IOWs, I try my best to take the focus off of myself.
What a role model your daughter is by giving out those carnations–I’m going to use thar as a visual aid!
Thanks. I’m so glad you’ve chosen to focus on God. It’s really the only way we can make it through our trials, I think. God bless you. Teresa
Elaine, I love your heart! You are a radiant example of the love of God and the power of His grace!
Beautiful…that you for sharing. I also lost a son to cancer, it will be 15 years ago on June 29. What a wonderful reunion we all will have someday! God Bless.
God bless you. It’s been six years for me, but sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday. But I praise God that we have that blessed hope of a heavenly reunion! Teresa
Oh, Sandra, I cannot imagine what that must have–must be like! I suspect that’s a pain that never quite fully heals. But yes, what a glorious reunion you and she will have! How wonderful it will be to see our loves ones, surrounded by the beauty and love of God, restored and healed, and to rejoice with them, soaking in all of God’s blessings.
May God bless and comfort you, my sweet friend.
Excellent post! I love this line – “That’s the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian. We have hope.”
So true! My father-in-law died Tuesday, we’re having his service tomorrow. It’s sad, but he had and “we have hope.”
Hi Unshakable Hope,
I don’t know your name, but I’m lifting up a prayer for your family right now. May His richest blessings be on you all as you go through the grieving process. May He use this time to strengthen and season you all. I praise Him that both you and your father-in-law knew the Giver of all hope! God bless you. Teresa
Thank you, Teresa. My mother-in-law moved in with us now that her husband is gone; please pray for this situation:-)
Unshakable Hope, how did the funeral go? Funerals, trials, and illness can be such powerful reminders of eternity! I imagine your family is dealing with some intense emotions, but I suspect from your comment he was a Christian? I have a dear friend who died four months ago, and she was a Christian. An amazing lady all around. I often think of her in heaven, whole, filled with joy, surrounded by God’s love.
The funeral went well. He was a believer.
I will certainly pray for you. I know that’s hard. My older daughter has offered to let me move in with her but she has eight children & stepchildren! I told her she’d be sending me to the nuthouse within a month! On the other hand, if I’d ever had to have my mother-in-law live with us, I’m not sure which of us would have ended up there first! Just kidding! I’m sure you will do great! God bless you for being willing to share your home.
Thanks, Teresa. Our house is more suited to having a parent move in than your daughter’s is (with all those kids…). It’s just my wife and I living here with 3 spare bedrooms and the guest room, now my mother-in-law’s room, has its own bathroom so we have the space. It’s funny; we were talking about downsizing – I guess it’s a good thing we didn’t:-)