Why Do Good Things Happen?

Last year I wrote about my theology of bad things.  I’d been wrestling with some questions that the boys had been asking and trying to sift through my thoughts.  Why do bad things happen?   I thought it was the ultimate question.

But this week I find myself grappling with the opposite question and finding it even harder to pin down.

Why do good things happen?

On Sunday Isaiah nearly drowned.  He and his brother were at the pool with Jason and he slipped under without anyone noticing. Gryffin saw him on the bottom of the pool and Jason swam down and pulled him out, blue and unconscious.  A woman who had been sitting in the bleachers gave him 6 rounds of CPR and an ambulance took him to Harborview.

I was at home and got the call when they were loading him into the ambulance.  I ran to my car and, being about 10-15 blocks closer to the hospital, the ambulance ended up passing me with its lights and sirens while I was driving over the West Seattle Bridge.


He was in the pediatric ICU overnight but then, amazingly, we were able to come home Monday afternoon.  He was given oxygen at the hospital and had X-rays and an EKG and all the bells and whistles but the end of the story is that after monitoring him closely for any signs of secondary drowning, cardiac events and neurological deficits, they declared him well enough to return home where we were instructed to keep a close eye for pneumonia and other respiratory  distress from the residual water in his lungs.

Just like that, 24 hours later, we were back home with our boy.

The Mysteries of God

We’re struggling now to process how something so monumental and ground-shaking can happen in such a short span of time.  It takes your breath away.  And it feels unbearably vulnerable to be reminded that in the space of just 2 minutes, your life could be completely obliterated.   I was at home, just making some bread and building a LEGO space rover as a surprise for the boys when I got the call from my sister-in-law.

The word grateful can’t possibly contain all that we are currently feeling.  We are grateful.  Of course we are.  Powerfully so.  And the sentiment has been echoed by all our friends and family.  We are all immensely grateful.  But the thinking tends to divide into two distinct camps.

a).  God saved his life.  Let’s give thanks.

b). Wow. So lucky.  Everything is random.  Let’s give thanks.

And this is where I’m feeling a little stuck today.

I’m not able to say that it’s all just completely random.  That doesn’t align with my understanding of a God who numbers the hairs on our head and knows when we sit and when we rise and what we will say before we say it.

But I also know two people (one in real life and one virtually) who have experienced the same thing that we experienced last Sunday but without the happy ending.   How can I hold my joy and their grief in the same hand?   How can I hold both of these things within me? I cannot shout from the rooftops, “God saved my child!” because to do so would also be saying that God did not save theirs.

And yet Jason distinctly felt that when Isaiah finally took a breath, that the breath came as a gift from God.

So I find myself back in the same place I found myself after asking why bad things happen.  Did God save Isaiah’s life?  Was it part of some grand cosmic plan?  Or was it all random chance?  I don’t know.

Can you understand the mysteries
    of God All-Powerful?
 They are higher than the heavens
    and deeper than the grave.
So what can you do
    when you know so little,
and these mysteries outreach
    the earth and the ocean?
Job 11:7-9

Why do I still get to fold his favorite sweats and watch him make bubble soup in the shower?  Why do I still get to tuck him in with his piggy and rest my hand on his chest before I go to bed to feel it rise and fall?  I don’t know.

I don’t know but I am so, so glad that I do.

The ways of God remain mysterious and I cannot begin to comprehend how it all works.  But if the breath that Isaiah took on the side of the pool was a gift, then so are they all.  Each pull of oxygen is a gift from the mysterious, triune God who sustains and upholds all life and will one day make all things new.  On Sunday we were reminded of this gift.  Thanks be to God.


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