At this point I can imagine the indignant outburst, “Are you saying that God causes horrible massacres to occur just so that people can turn to Him?” To repeat: God didn’t cause this to happen. Blame guns, blame the school’s security system, most of all blame the killer himself. But don’t blame God. As C. S. Lewis points out, most of the evil and suffering in the world has been produced by human beings with whips, guns, bayonets, gas chambers, and bombs. These crimes are not divinely inflicted but man-made. Even so, it is not unreasonable to suppose that there is a providential purpose behind history, and if human horrors show us our dependence on God’s love and restorative powers, that’s not such a bad thing. In no way is God responsible for evil; He is responsible only for using evil to bring forth good.
Christians can point to the example of Christ to show that their God, far from being indifferent to evil and suffering, became man precisely for the purpose of enduring and overcoming it. In Christian theology God became man in order to take upon himself the sins of the world. Christ suffered unjustly in the same way that humans suffer unjustly, but to a much higher degree. For the Christian, therefore, to endure evil and suffering is somehow to share the passion of Christ. Ultimately Christ prevailed over evil and this is what the Christian also seeks to do, at least in his own life.
So far this account has largely focused on moral evil. It does not account for “natural evil,” which is evil produced not by human beings but by nature itself. Here I am thinking of such things as hurricanes and cancer. So we must ask one more time: why do bad things happen to good people? The Christian answer is that there are no good people. None of us deserves the life that we have, which is a gratuitous gift from God. Bruce is dying, and in the process he is returning to God the life God gave to him. In this Bruce is not alone. As philosopher Peter Kreeft points out in his book Making Sense Out of Suffering, we are all dying, relinquishing little bits of life every day, and while medical technologies can win us a short delay, they cannot prevent us from moving steadily, inexorably to our graves.
I pray every day that God will cure Bruce. I realize, however, that even if this happens Bruce will not be spared death. He will live longer, but death will still catch up with him eventually, as it will with me and you and all of us. For this reason we all need a deeper kind of healing, which is the healing of the soul. The unbeliever will say that we must learn to face death, and in a natural sense that’s true. Death is the one certainty of life, and Bruce and you and I must all learn to accept that. The real question is whether death is the final chapter. The unbeliever insists that the promise of eternal life is a false one, but he does not know that.