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Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?
(This was originally given in two parts as separate Bible Notes. They are combined here for this question and answer forum.)
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.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
In Part 1 of this subject I gave The Question Advanced and The Question Analyzed. Now, I will give some answers that I understand from the Word of God. If the reader has not yet read Part 1, I highly recommend reading it before reading Part 2, because some important groundwork was laid that may prepare the reader to better receive these answers.
Just to be fair to the author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, I should say that he did not get it all wrong. He did deal with agents of cause and effect (i.e. sin, Satan, the free will of man); and, I think he also dealt with some of the good that can result from "bad" things.
III. The Question Answered
"Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?"
Because many so-called "good people" are actually very wicked sinners who will of necessity suffer for many of their sins in this life;
Because even good people will reap some of the bad things they had sown when they were yet sinful; Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. (Galatians 6:7)
Because truly good people are only good by the grace of God; ithe LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:11) And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (2 Corinthians 9:8)
Because good people live in a bad (fallen) world; because God created and respects the free will of man, and He permits --but, does not approve-- for a time the sins of others; during humanity's probationary time, God allows the freedom of evil doers as well as the freedom of the good doers; (see the Holy Bible; ample proof throughout)
Because God has yet to balance the scales -- but, He will do so at the final Judgment; For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. (Matthew 16:27) For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10) And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. (Revelation 20:12)
Because God uses "bad things" to chasten, or to correct, His children; For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. .. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. (Hebrews 12:6,11)
Because God uses bad things to cause us to lean upon Him, to trust Him more, to stay humble, and to draw us closer to Himself; because in our weakness we may find His strength My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
Because, in the grand scheme of things, our love for God and faith in Him are perfected, proven, and portrayed in the midst of bad things; (Job is the classic example, also see the book of Daniel.)
Because God is sovereign and works all things out for His ultimate glory and our ultimate good; (Romans 8:28, quoted above, and the words of Joseph to his brothers who had done very bad things to him that led to other bad things he had to endure: But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, -- Genesis 50:20)
Because His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts; For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9)
If God only allowed the "good things" (as we understand good things) to happen, we would be spiritually "spoiled rotten". That really would be bad! Just to help us understand, let's consider the understanding of a child. The young child thinks of how "good" it would be to eat a lot of candy right now, but, his mother and father know for a fact that it really would not be good to allow it just before supper. Many a child has cried and "suffered" the denial of such a "good" thing, but has actually been made better by the loving and knowledgeable decision of his parent(s). Has not God spoken of us as but children? Jesus said that we must humble ourselves and become as children in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Our Heavenly Father truly does know what is best for us.
Consider the one-sided argument that Job seemed to carry on with God. He was asking questions and making complaints similar to these: Why is this happening to me when I am righteous? Why doesn't God explain it to me? Sometimes I have thought, "Oh, if God would just send an angel down to instruct me." or, "How nice it would be to just have a supernatural vision or dream to clear everything up!"
But, dear people, He has given us His Word, and He is faithful to keep His promises. He doesn't have to tell us all the particulars. We never read that God told Job about Satan's challenge. God didn't think it important to explain everything to him in his case. When God finally spoke to Job, He helped Job to focus on how great and powerful God is. He also pointed out that He didn't have to consult with anyone about how to create and run His universe, least of all Job. Job had the right response: he humbled himself and let God be God.
Why do bad things happen to good people? Because, through the bad things that happen, God proves Himself faithful, His grace sufficient, and His imparted holiness adequate. He thereby proves His workmanship in the hearts and lives of saints to be perfect.
Because He thereby gives the Devil enough rope to hang himself; He lets the Devil, with all his demonic schemes and activities, do things that actually end up accomplishing the will of God (whether directly or indirectly), much to the Devil's eternal chagrin! I've given the example of Christ's crucifixion in this connection before. (See 1 Corinthians 2:8)
Because the bad things are only temporary, and the good things that come about through them will be forever; For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17, 18)
Because, if we make proper preparations, this life is but the battlefield of time, and Heaven will be our eternal home; I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7,8) Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:1-3) Because we're not home yet!
Because, when all the bad things come to an end, He will have proven His wisdom so far above all human wisdom that we shall marvel at it through the endless ages of eternity.
And, finally, because, since God knows best, He is ultimately proving that He loves us more than anyone else ever could.
Again, I say, I do not have all the answers. But, I firmly believe that God's Word has enough soul-satisfying truth to content our hearts until we are changed in the twinkling of an eye, when we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is; and then shall we know even as also we are known. (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 John 3:2; 1 Corinthians 13:12)
Sincerely Yours in Christ,
The Bible Note Writer
written to glorify God
and to help souls
on the way to Heaven.
22/Feb/2008, 12:02 am
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