It is not uncommon for people to ponder the question of whether there can be good without bad or evil. Considering the fact that both good and bad obviously exist, it is almost begging the question. Theoretically though, if bad and difficult times did not exist, there would be no perception of good because good would have no qualification. There would simply be existence.

With that said, I do not think “would there be good without bad?” is the correct question. It certainly has no discernible answer. I think the proper question would be: without bad, would we have any appreciation for what we received or the life we lived? If there were no pain, would we know when we felt good?

The plumbing backed up in our home a few weeks ago. We have a home warranty, but the plumber could not come out until the next day. We soaked up water with towels, ringing them out as best we could. We were not sure we could run the washing machine without acerbating the situation. We lit scented candles and sprayed air freshener in an attempt to override the stench of sewage. The attempt was only partially successfully.

A couple of weeks ago the heater went out and we were without heat from sometime in the early morning on Monday until Tuesday evening. We had two space heaters, but in a two- story home they were not all that effective. Naturally, the temperature dropped to freezing overnight. Cyndy and I both work at home so there was no choice for us but to bear the uncomfortable situation. However, while we were forced to bear the situation, there was no grinning to speak of.

When the plumber left weeks ago, with everything flushing or draining, we felt relief, even though the stench took a little longer to get rid of. We relaxed as the tenseness of waiting for the plumber to arrive dissipated and the problem was rectified. The feeling returned when the heater technician left a week or so later. With the addition of the anticipation of warmth.

As Joni Mitchell said, “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone.” But what about when it comes back? When the power goes out, the plumbing backs up, or the heater or air conditioner stops working, one begins to appreciate things working when the switch is flipped, the toilet flushes, and the A/C cycles on. Knowing that at any given moment, something may stop working – causing inconvenience and added expense. The principle does not only apply to utilities, of course.

Whether I had a toothache, fractured jaw, gash in my knee, broken heel, or even an end of a relationship (of any kind), I embraced – in a manner of speaking – the pain or inconvenience. Not the misery, but the situation as it is presented. With a toothache, if the tooth is not abscessed, I put off going to the dentist. Not only because I am not fond of dentist’s offices, but also because by living with the pain for a time helps me to appreciate the times I do not hurt – and I know how much better I will feel when the situation is remedied. It did not help when the injuries coincided with times of financial deficit and conflicting schedules.

To put it another way, I am an optimistic realist. I hope for the best, but am prepared for the worst. Difficult or painful times are part of life. There is no reason to get worked up about it – it is no one person’s fault and getting upset will not change the outcome. I did not enjoy the toothache. But I had the comfort of knowing the dentist was there to ease the pain at some point.

Then there are painful times when relief cannot be seen on the horizon. A family member or close friend dies or is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Or one any of a number of calamities occurs. In those moments it is hard not to get worked up about the situation or be upset. The answers are not as clear. The problem cannot be fixed with a single visit when you are tired of the pain. The pain – physical or emotional – seems endless.

Whether or not good could exist without bad, the fact remains that both do exist. Evil can be seen rearing its head in daily life. It affects us in many ways. Fortunately, God also exists and is stronger than the worst evil. We are human, with free will. There will still be illness, death, and other forms of serious pain. But God, with his grace, will help us get through any circumstance and quiet the fear within us. When God helps us through a time of pain, we have a greater appreciation for his grace and the times when life is good.

Peace be with you.