This post was written by Jon Atchison.
If there was ever a question that parted the lips of humankind, it is this one, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
Often this question is asked of Christians by non-believers or by skeptics looking for a good argument. Isn’t this ironic: a world that doesn’t want to obey God, yet is mad at him at the same time—as if He owed them a response. (Remember Job 38?)
I have also heard this question asked by Christians and I have even asked the question myself.
So…this leaves us with perplexing and often hazy answers—if you could call them such. I hope to explore a few thoughts here—but be warned…this is by no means an exhaustive study, but rather an article to stir thought and spark discussion. I have three main points I want to cover with you.
Who is Good?
Let me first say that when the question is asked “Why do bad things happen to good people?”, the question is poorly framed.
The question is asked in a way that most any answer would make God look bad.
“How could a loving God…”
I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase before.
I think all humans have this basic question that haunts us.
For those of us who are God’s elect, we search for answers that are both meaningful and healing.
Sometimes our meaningful answers don’t produce the initial healing we would like.
Anyway…back to my point.
First off, the person who asks this question needs to realize that nobody is “good” except God alone. In Luke 18, a “certain ruler” addresses Christ as “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit life?”
Christ responds by asking “why do you call me good?” and finishing the thought with the statement, “No one is good, except God alone.”
If one is to properly see himself in light of God’s Word, he or she realizes that we are not “good.”
We naturally consider “good” and “bad” by the things that we do, but there is a “measuring stick” by which we can know.
We have a system of law that defines both for us. Ironically, our system of law is actually a confluence of Roman, Greek, biblical, and British law, among others.
For those who follow Christ, we have a new law to abide by as told to us in Matthew 22:37-39.
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
This is so profound that Christ says that ALL the LAW and the PROPHETS hang on these two commandments. This is the summary for us to live by!
So, when someone says they are basically a “good” person, they are most likely saying that they don’t break laws—they are a good citizen. Even those who don’t believe in Christ will say they are “basically a good person” based on similar reasoning. Relative to the base of humanity, certain behavior can be deemed good according to human reasoning.
The reality is…we are sinners no matter how “good” we think we are!
Paul tells us in Romans 5:8:
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that. while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Why ask Why?
Sometimes immaturity asks “why” and other times a child like mentality will ask “why” as well. Here’s an example:
Son: Why is the sky blue?
Dad: Because blah blah blah blah…
Son: But why?
Dad: Well, blah blah blah blah
Son: But why?
Dad: Go ask your mother…
Sometimes there is simply no other question than to ask “why.”
Job had a rude awakening when he was questioning God about all the calamity that had happened to him. Honestly, if there was ever a person who was “justified” to ask the tough questions, it would seem to be Job. Notwithstanding his incredible spiritual maturity throughout the ordeal, he still hungered to have answers.
We live in an information-driven age.
We want answers. Now.
We can Google most anything to find answers to trivial or complex questions. Wikipedia is amazing!
We have mountains of information at our fingertips yet all of this data isn’t sufficient to answer the questions we find ourselves asking in the wake of tragedy.
Perhaps the best scripture I have to share with you on this comes from Deuteronomy 29:29:
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.
There will be things God will reveal to us in the form of answered prayer. God has also revealed His will to us through His Word.
However, there will be things that God will not reveal to us—things secret, hidden. Perhaps too difficult for us to understand.
God promises us in 1 Corinthians that he will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can handle.
Part of me really believes that God will not reveal certain things that we would not be able to handle. A loving Father would not do that.
I do think His silence can be just as troubling, but a proper response to His silence is to “be still and know that [He] is God.”
We learn to trust in silence.
We learn to accept the tragedies when we don’t receive the answers that we want.
The wife of my best friend (since Jr. High) died suddenly during a surgical procedure last September.
We were like siblings and the three of us grew up together and experienced tragedy and triumph alike over a 15 year period.
She was 33 and left behind twins and a broken husband.
I asked many questions as to “why she died” and never heard answers. If anything, I believe the Lord turned that question around in a thought: “Why are you thankful for Susan?”
In that moment, I had to focus on the blessing of what I had in her friendship and be thankful for what God blessed for a number of years.
Sometimes we should ask ourselves “why” we were thankful for certain things we no longer have, whether that be full health, a friendship, a job, you name it.
Even now we all find it difficult to believe she is gone. It is still beyond explanation.
When we encounter such, become still and know the Lord is God, and He Will comfort you.
Be thankful for what you have and what you had. We don’t deserve answers; we deserved death. But Christ died for us at the right time. The Lord is God and the secret things belong to Him.
His grace is sufficient for us.
Forgive the brevity of this chapter as I feel that you will quickly understand the following truth.
We live in a fallen world. Period.
Not Heaven on earth.
No easy life.
By one man, sin entered the world (Romans 5:12) and by that sin death also entered the world. That death spread to all men because of the sin.
That summary of Romans 5:12, I believe, sufficiently encompasses why bad things happen to good people.
We are a long way from the Garden and the Lord never intended on sin entering the world.
But, in order to be truly loved by Adam and Eve through their free-will choice, they had to have a choice to listen to God’s instruction.
When sin entered the world, it was the result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience.
2 Corinthians 4:4 tells us that Satan is the “god of this world” who “has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe”.
I read an interesting comment “that Christ didn’t disagree with Satan concerning his ability to give Christ all of the Kingdoms of the world”. I think there is truth to that statement.
We live in a fallen world, filled with evil and acts of the evil one.
We have imperfect bodies that are decaying daily.
Bad things can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Bad things happen in nature (sunamis, tornados, hurricanes), bad things can happen due to our flawed bodies (cancer laying dormant for years and then springing to life), they happen as a result of sinful humanity (crime, selfishness, love of money) and they can be a direct result of Satan’s influence.
Why God chooses to answer some prayers and yet remain silent on others…well…to me that falls under the heading of “the secret things belong to God.”
Hopefully I can conclude that asking, “Why bad things happen to good people?” is a somewhat valid question, but can be rephrased to more precisely get to the heart of the issue.
“Why does God allow bad things to happen?”
Without the proper understanding of our fallen nature, this paints God in a bad light.
With the proper understanding, we can more accurately and maturely answer.
I do not believe God orchestrates evil to happen, but I know that He redeems the hearts of men and women from the ashes of tragedy.
For the immature to think that we can escape this world unscathed by “bad things” is as absurd as thinking one will not be touched by the rain that falls from the sky. Thankfully we have a Savior who is able to empathize with our sufferings. We have a God who promised to never leave us or forsake us.
Thanks for reading.
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