About This Lesson Plan
This Bad Stuff lesson plan on suffering and evil will help youth understand that God does not cause bad things to happen to us. But he wants us to be prepared for bad stuff when we encounter it.
Opening Game for Bad Stuff
Start this lesson plan on mountains in the Bible by playing the Newspaper Tower Game (see the complete instructions).
Follow up with a couple of questions:
- What strategies did you use to make your tower taller?
- Did your team work well together?
- Do you ever feel like bad news is piling up in your life?
Sometimes we hear about bad things happening in the news. It just seems to pile up higher and higher. Why do bad things happen to good people? And why do good things happen to bad people?
Bad Stuff – A Lesson Plan on Suffering and Evil
Scripture Reading for Lesson Plan on Suffering and Evil
Here are some words from Jesus about bad news:
Luke 13:1-9 (Jesus Reacts to the News) – the Gospel Reading for the 3rd Sunday of Lent – Year C
Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices.
Jesus said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem?
By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”
And he told them this parable: “There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’
He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’”Luke 13:1-9
There are a couple of references in this gospel to recent news which people must have been talking about. These were the headlines of the day. We don’t know many details about these events, but they were distressing to the people at the time.
The Galileans who were mentioned had probably traveled to Jerusalem to worship God at the temple and offer sacrifices to him. While in the act of worshiping, they may have been slaughtered by Pilate’s men for some infraction. Pilate was known to be a brutal ruler. Thus their blood became mixed with the blood of the animals being sacrificed.
So the question asked of Jesus is about why these people, who were clearly observant Jews, would be murdered in this manner. It might also have been an attempt to make Jesus talk about the Roman occupation. The people of the time were looking for a Messiah who would be a military leader and drive out the Romans. But Jesus uses this opportunity to teach us instead.
The second incident is mentioned by Jesus. It must have also been well known news. 18 people died when a tower collapsed. They weren’t doing anything evil. Why should such a terrible thing befall innocent victims?
Jesus makes clear that distressful events in our lives are not a result of sinfulness. These people did not do anything to deserve this pain. God was not punishing them for something. Instead he takes the opportunity to point out that we have no way of knowing what happen to us today. So we must always be in a right relationship with God.
Hopefully will not physically die today, we might encounter evil and suffering. And turning away from God when bad things happen to us is very harmful. So how should we respond?
First, if there is some action we can take, then we should take it. If the pain is caused by another person, we can take action. One way is to speak up and tell them that what they are doing is causing harm, either to ourselves or someone else. If that is not appropriate, we can ask a trusted adult or friend for advice.
Next, we might have to forgive another person. This is really difficult. But if we turn our pain into revenge or resentment, then we are just passing our own pain along to someone else. That makes us part of the problem instead of the solution.
Whether the cause of our distress is another person or an accident or something else, we need to ask God for help. Talk to Jesus about what is happening. Remember that he suffered a horrible death even though he was completely innocent. Picture him sitting next to you and tell him how you feel. See his compassionate eyes telling you that he understands.
Then ask Jesus to turn your sorrow into something good for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Perhaps you will be motivated to help others who are going through something similar. Maybe you will want to speak up for those who can’t defend themselves from evil. If nothing else, you can pray every day for a specific cause or group of people.
- How can pain be a natural result of our own actions? Might we be tempted to blame God instead?
- Is it more difficult to deal with an accident or when someone intentionally hurts us?
- Can you think of any specific times when God took something bad in your life and turned it into something good?
Pick a recent time when you have encountered pain and suffering. Or, if that doesn’t apply, think of a group of people in the world who are currently suffering, perhaps from war, or famine, or a natural disaster. Pray about the situation every day. Ask God if there is anything more you can do to turn that bad into something good.
Conclude by offering petitions and praying the Our Father.
A Prayer for the Grieving
This prayer is appropriate if you are grieving the loss of a loved one , or a friendship, or a dream. Pour your heart out in prayer and our Lord and know you are heard.
A Guardian’s Farewell
This not only speaks of the passage from this world to eternal life. Sometimes life is very hard and the trials of living make the days feel long. But this world is passing and there are better things to come. Just be brave and patient.
This song goes well with this theme.
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