I often asked these questions when I was younger. I didn’t understand before why despite doing good, bad things still happen to me. And I still do, at times. I’d complain out loud hoping God can hear it. After all that I’ve done, of trying so hard to be so damn good, why do I still suffer? Why do I get what I don’t deserved?! Then I would curse, shout, or scream when I found myself in dire straits.
You know, it really helps that I read. If not for reading, I would have easily give up and committed suicide a long, long time ago. Or I would have been a juvenile, a drug addict, or a murderer, killing one by one those I thought who’ve wronged me.
But I read instead. I read a lot when I am down. When I found myself unemployed years ago, I avoided social contact from the outside world. I chose to stay at home and books, movies, and music kept me company. And I just went out when I got a job application to do or when I needed to buy something. And when I got a new job last year, the suffering seems never ending. On my second month I got the biggest scare of my life when I became a victim of a lawyer’s arrogance and immaturity when he threatened to file a lawsuit against me (over the phone, while I was away and on leave) because of a gossip he’d heard that he believed right away without getting into the bottom of things first before threatening. I was new, a rank-and-file, and in my world, no one has ever threatened me like that before. I thought lawsuits only happen to criminals, to government officials. At the beginning of this year, an oldtime female colleague, again, because of a gossip she’s heard, turned scandalous and verbally violent, threatening to kill me, accusing me and/or this other colleague of spreading malicious rumor about her. If that wasn’t enough, a man whom I’ve loved so much more than I loved myself confessed about his being unfaithful. I discovered he wasn’t in love with me like I thought. And all these happened during my first year of tenure in my job. So yes, these were the times that I asked myself why do bad things happen to me? And when bad events happen, it can be disappointing. And I would wonder what other hardships and battles, more worse than the ones I mentioned above, do I have to face in the coming days ahead.
So reading to understand any of my existential dilemmas helps. Getting to know real people, through reading or through contact, who’ve gone through hell and back helps more. And at times, reading a thin book written by someone I do not know can be an enlightening experience. And I am talking about this book by pastor Ed Lapiz, a back-to-back series book entitled “Why do good things happen to bad people?/ Why do bad things happen to good people?”
In my world, I’ve often been an easy target of devout Born-Agains, devout Jehova’s Witness, devout Catholics, devout whatever attempting to teach me about the “accurate” interpretation of the Word of God. Like as if I am a person they needed to save asap. But never a day gone by where they didn’t lambast the beliefs and practices of other religions. And this only make things confusing. I’d like to think they only teach you to be close-minded. So I have to admit that I am allergic to religious fanatics who’d ostracize you later if you don’t follow their path, if you don’t listen to them, if you decide to stick to your own beliefs. As a result, hearing the word “pastor” or “evangelist” makes me cringe because of such experience. I also shy away from books that appear “holy than thou” where the word “God” or “Lord” is mentioned in every page. They sort of scares me, overwhelms me.
But this book by pastor Ed Lapiz is different. He talks candidly here, straightforward, at times sharing things bluntly straight from his heart, sharing his own enlightenment to others who’d care to listen, and speaking in Taglish (a mixed of Tagalog and English) making this book easy to read which is good when you’re discussing a very complicated topic such as faith and religion. Ed Lapiz doesn’t come off as self-righteous, or all-knowing that is common to those devout Born-Again Christians, devout Catholics, devout Jehova’s Witness, devout Scientologists, devout Filipino or devout whatever. He did quote a few verses from the Bible in the book to support his statements but instead of scaring me, making me feel allergic to it, those Bible quotes made all the things that he said make sense. Usually, in my experience attending a Bible study before, a verse from the Bible is the one being explained, broken down into pieces to be able to understand. Here, the sharings of the author are the broken pieces and the verses from the Bible that I found here made it whole.
I can’t help but praise its cover. At the front, in “Why do good things happen to bad people?” the words “bad people” were written in black colored text over a white canvass. At the back, in “Why do bad things happen to good people?” the words “good people” were written in white colored text over a black canvass. A simple cover design but got powerful symbolism to it.
So, WHY DO GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TO BAD PEOPLE? AND WHY DO BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE?
Through my own limited experience and faith, I came up with my own set of explanations to these questions. To me, good things happen to bad people because they cheated and they stole something that’s not theirs, that’s why they prosper. Or maybe, they must be hardworking and graduated from a top reputable school so they got lucky. Or maybe they’re blessed with superior intelligence or were born with a silver spoon or know a lot of rich people, got good connections. Or maybe, they are just good in kissing somebody’s ass that’s why they are reaping the fruit of their own labor. People got these different tactics to be successful and famous, you know. Bad things happen to good people, on the other hand, because that’s just the way life is. Life is unfair! And shit happens. And we just gotta move on, keep going no matter what and just carry with us the lessons from that bad experience to improve our lot the next time.
In his book, Why do good things happen to bad people?, this one-line made me feel guilty:
“To label some people as ‘bad’ is almost self-righteous!”
Then he went on to say: “All people are given chances to turn to God. Lahat ng tao ay binibigyan ng Panginoong Dios ng pagkakataon na magbalik-loob. God is good to all people, “good” or “bad.” Hindi lang sa mga born-again. ‘Bakit yung kapitbahay kong hindi born-again mas maunlad ang negosyo kaysa sa aking anak ng Dios?’ Eh siguro mas masipag siya kaysa sa iyo. At sa akala ba ninyo, komo born-again kayo automatic na pupunta sa inyo ang lahat ng mga pagpapala? God is good to all people.
“Ang mga masasama ay yung mga nasa sarili pa nilang kasalanan at yung mabubuti naman ay mga makasalanan ding tumanggap na ng pagpapatawad dahil kumilala na sa Panginoon. Yun lang pinagkaiba ng righteous at ng unrighteous.”
Matthew 5:44-45 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
In Why do bad things happen to good people?, I was taken aback with what he shared. People I know who are known to be religious never said these to me, they just keep telling me to love God, to praise the Lord, etc. but Lapiz was the one who took that step to expose the dark truth about ourselves:
“Unang-una, i-establish natin ang mga dapat i-establish. There are really no “good” people. Huwag tayong magkaroon ng ilusyon tungkol sa ating sarili.
“There is no such thing as good people. Some may be just less bad than the others, but everyone is a sinner. Nakatindig tayong lahat dahil lang sa awa at biyaya ng Dios. Walang deserving. Walang sinless. Walang good. Only God is good.”
In another page, these statements that he shared got so much meaning to me:
“When you love God, and when you think may nangyayari pa rin sa iyong “bad,” hindi bad yun, good yon. If you were called by God for a mission, at may nangyari na sa tingin mo ay bad, hindi bad yun, good yon. Iyon ang sinasabi ng Word of God, ‘Pero, parang tingin ko, bad eh.’ Tingin lang natin yon. All things that happen to those who love God, to those who are called by God, are blessings.
“May natatanggal. Nawawalan ka ng relasyon, minsan nawawalan ka ng tagumpay at nawawalan tayo ng mga bagay-bagay. Minsan merong gumagapang sa mga ilalim ng silya dahil nawawala ang isang hikaw. Kung mahulog man ang hikaw, salamat. Naging free ka na diyan. Pinahahalagahan natin ang mga gamit natin. Isinusuot natin. Nagagandahan tayo. Pero kung nawala, eh di nawala. Hinahanap mo nang konti, pero hindi ka naman yung parang nagiging slave ng mga bagay. Na kaya pala tinatanggal sa atin ay para maging free tayo.
“Hindi lahat ng nawawala ay talagang kawalan lalo na kung mahal natin ang Dios at sumusunod tayo sa Kanya. Dapat lamang na makita natin kung paano nagiging blessing.
“Sometimes tumatanggap tayo ng discipline and correction in the form of pain and sorrow. Kung minsan napapahiya tayo. Pero yun pala ang mabuti dahil nagiging humble tayo. Kasi kung laging matagumpay tayo, baka naman sobrang kayabangan ang mangyari sa atin.”
Ecclesiastes 9:11 I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.
To the verse above, he explained: “There is no perfection in this planet. Kahit pa nga may bad things, titigil din yon. Magkakaroon din ng good. Kasi even terrible things cannot be perfect. May kulang pa rin yon. Makakasingit pa rin yung good. Kaya pag nandoon yung good, enjoy it. Pag dumating yung difficult times, have faith in God. When bad things happen dapat nating sabihin, tama lang. We deserve it. When we do that, hindi tayo nagkakaroon ng sama ng loob sa Dios. Hindi tayo nagagalit. We work for the betterment and for the improvement of our situation at matapos nating pagsumikapang maunawaan ang lahat ng mga bagay, rely on God. Depend on God. Trust in God. Travel on as best as you can because you know that God is with you every step of the way.
“Pasanin ang dapat pasanin, lakarin ang dapat lakarin, languyin ang dapat languyin dahil alam ng Dios ang ating katayuan. Hindi Niya tayo kalilimutan at pababayaan.”
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
So what does it take to be sincerely good, when can I say that I am being a good person like those stories of saints I read in the Bible?
Lapiz shared: “When you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, His blood cleanses you from all your sins. Nagkakaroon ng exchange. Kinukuha ng Panginoon ang kasalanan natin at pinapalitan Niya ng kanyang kabanalan. Tayo ang nagiging banal at Siya ang nagiging makasalanan. At ang parusa ng lahat ng kasalanan nating napunta sa Kanya ay kamatayan. Kaya ang pagpaparusa sa Kanya at ang Kanyang kamatayan ay para sa atin.
“Doon sa mga hindi tatanggap kay Hesus, walang kukuha ng kasalanan nila. Wala rin silang pagkukunan ng kalinisan. Dala-dala nila ang kanilang karumihan kaya sila ay mapapahamak. That is why without Christ, there is no salvation.”
By the way, regarding that “arrogant” lawyer who threatened me several months back, he never filed a case against me. He resigned a few months later to pursue his other dream, which is to become a politician. And about that oldtime female colleague who threatened to kill me, screaming my name and this other person for quickly believing a gossip delivered by her friend over the phone, she apologized to me after. After I told her what had actually happened during a bull session in front of our boss and other people involved. We are okay now and my boss granted my request to be transferred to another unit. And regarding that boyfriend who broke my heart, it gave me a relief for he just confirmed all those doubts that I felt when we were still in a relationship. I was hoping he was the one but like what my father said regarding our breakup, “Maybe he’s not your soulmate.”