He counted me faithful,
putting me into the ministry.
Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? (Part 1)
Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God to them that are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
The question that is the title of this Bible Note has often perplexed, challenged, tempted and tested mankind. Multitudes have wrestled with this question -- as early as the lives of Adam and Eve with the murder of their son, Abel (killed by Cain), as early as the peculiar trials of Job, and as early as Joseph's tremendous obstacles of injustice in life. Sickness, death, natural disasters, acts of war and terrorism, various crimes, and multitudes of adverse circumstances and sinful actions, often leave many good (and not-so-good) people wondering "WHY?". May God help us all to look to Him for all the answers we need.
I. The Question Advanced
A book with a similar title, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, attempted to deal with this question in a wrong way. The author apparently struggled with an age-old issue that involves the infinite attributes of God's power and goodness over against the apparent injustice of good people suffering bad things in this life.
The writer concluded that God could not be both good and all-powerful at the same time and allow bad things to happen to good people. However, the Word of God is clear that God is omnipotent (all-powerful) and omniscient (knows everything). The author's conclusion also seems to imply that God was somehow taken by surprise, which is an utter impossibility. Remember that Jesus is "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8).
Wherever we use human reasoning apart from divine revelation to gain some understanding of God, we are likely to end up creating a god in our own image -- one that has some limitations that the true God does not have. Whereas, if we strictly follow the plain truths of God's Word, the Bible, we will more likely have a proper concept of God as He really is, the infinite God of the universe.
II. The Question Analyzed
On the surface, the question seems simple, innocent, and straight-forward; but, upon closer examination, it is rather subjective. What I mean by subjective is that at least three parts of this question can easily mean different things from different viewpoints. Let us try to understand the question a little better.
A. "Good people"
The assumption is that there are good people. In the case of Job, God Himself testified to Job's goodness, but note that it was in the present tense (Job 1:8; 2:3). Neither Job nor any other human being since the Fall can claim to be good on their own and from their birth.
Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. (Psalm 51:5)
When the Rich Young Ruler came to Jesus, He addressed Christ as "Good Master". He seemed to think that Jesus was a good teacher, or maybe even a good prophet or spiritual leader. Jesus responded with the words, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: (Matthew 19:17) By saying that only God was good, I believe Jesus was impressing upon the young man that Jesus could only be good in and of Himself if He were truly God. Obviously, from a candid study of the entire New Testament, Jesus Christ is indeed good as God is good, because He is God!
No other human being is originally good as God is good. Since the Fall, we are all born with a sinful nature; then, we become sinners by choice of our own free will following the impulses of that sinful nature. Therefore, because of the "exceeding sinfulness of sin" (read the book of Romans) we are all deserving of nothing good. Rather, we are deserving of the "wages of sin" which is death (more than just physical) and it is an eternal punishment.
But, our eternal debt is cancelled when we submit ourselves to Christ and accept His once-for-all sacrifice of himself as our redemption price (Romans 6:23).
Yes, it is true that we can and must become good through Christ, his righteousness being imparted to us. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. (Matthew 5:6) For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (II Corinthians 5:21) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
But, this righteousness, goodness, comes from God and depends on His grace. Therefore, our goodness being obtained from God as a free gift does not earn for us any special consideration on our own merit. We have no merit apart from the grace, mercy, and love of God toward us through the Person of Jesus Christ our Lord. If anything better than bad happens to us, we should be extremely grateful to God for being so good to us! What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? (Psalm 8:4)
B. "Bad things"
Mankind seems to think and comprehend in just snapshots. Often, our perception tends to be rather narrow. We look dead-on at the on-coming lights of trouble and all we see is "bad".
Again, we tend to see in but one or two dimensions. We look at an apparently flat piece of the canvass of life and see "evil". We see but one side of the cube often thinking that is all there is to it. It appears to be a great tragedy of injustice and wickedness.
We see the crime committed and the criminal escaping justice. We feel the pain and suffer the agony of apparent defeat and despair. We experience the temptations and trials and sometimes think, "What good could ever come of this?" We see the innocent (comparatively so) die or suffer handicaps (like the man born blind, whom Jesus later healed for the glory of God).
And, I could go on and on with an unending catalog of human suffering and misery. Yet, my point is that mankind with limited perception (not seeing the whole picture) and with narrow reasoning (tending to think only of the difficulties where the rubber meets the road, or the tire has a blowout), is in no position to pass correct judgment upon all of the infinite workings of God. Who are we to say, "Why?" except it be with humble submission to God's perfect judgment and unending goodness.
Many of the things we call "bad" are indeed bad in some sense, especially when they are sinful things and things caused by sin. But, the promises of God are true, and He Who is able to make even our enemies to be at peace with us is able to make all things -- even "bad" things -- to work together for good to them that love Him.
Things, bad or good, do not just happen. God's created universe is full of cause and effect. Direct, indirect, multi-faceted, and interdependent are the forces at motion in this complex design that God developed when He took but six days to create the heavens and the earth and all that in them is. Very evident is this fact when viewed in the course of human history. One word spoken, often has such long-lasting and wide-spread results, that only the all-knowing mind of God could properly determine the value (positive or negative) of that one word.
Whether it be the direct hand of God, by some other supernatural entity (as in holy angels or evil demons), by one or more of mankind (having free will), or by some other agent of cause and effect, everything does indeed have a cause.
And, yes there is rhyme and reason to the whole scheme of this life, even though we live in a fallen world.
Look for some Biblical answers in part 2 to this Bible Note. Of course, the Bible itself is the best place to look. Part 2 will deal with the third point in this three-point outline, "The Question Answered". Though, I think what I have thus far written might be helpful to some.
Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? (Part 2)
Yours in Christ,
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Last edited by BibleNote Writer, 22/Aug/2015, 3:01 pm
Sincerely Yours in Christ,
The Bible Note Writer
written to glorify God
and to help souls
on the way to Heaven.
21/Feb/2008, 11:38 pm
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