Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?
Vol: 169 Issue: 5 Monday, October 5, 2015
Have you ever had somebody come up to you and demand an answer to the question; “Why do bad things happen to good people?’ Or have you ever asked that question of yourself?
How many times in your life have you wailed, “Why me?” when something bad happens? Or, as in the Asian tsunami catastrophe in which tens of thousands of innocent children were killed, asked God, ‘Why them?”
The short answer is “Why not?” — but it isn’t really very satisfying — even less so when your questioner is an unbeliever.
You are seeking a way to introduce the love of Christ to them, but how does one explain seemingly random death and destruction — an ‘act of God’ — in the context of, “for God so loved the world?”
Virtually every meaningful conversation I have ever had with people on the subject of God and religion has either started with this question, or gotten around to it before long. No doubt, you probably can say the same thing.
Then there is the opposite, but equally baffling question; “Why DON’T bad things happen to BAD people?” Take gazillionaire terrorist Osama bin-Laden, for example.
If ever there was a guy that deserved bad things, it’s him. We’ve dropped bombs on him, and, judging from his post Tora Bora video release, wounded him pretty seriously. He is suffering, according to most intelligence estimates, from kidney failure, he evidently lives in a cave, and, despite an unthinkably high ‘dead or alive’ bounty on his head, is seemingly alive and well and doing just fine, thanks for asking,
Why did tens of thousands of innocent children get swept away by an ‘act of God’ while a monster like Osama bin-Laden continues to survive the concerted efforts of the most powerful nation on earth to kill him?
Why is it that good people suffer divorces, business failures, major financial problems, terminal illnesses, sickness and pain while people like Donald Trump can spend twenty-five million bucks on a wedding bash for Trophy Wife Number Three (or is it four?) without batting an eye?
While we have seen incredible answers to prayer among our members, we’ve also witnessed times when God doesn’t seem to be listening. How many times have you seen the ‘wrong’ people get sick, the ‘wrong’ people get hurt, the ‘wrong’ people die?
My mother, who, by all accounts was a wonderful woman, died at only forty years of age, leaving behind five motherless children. Why her? Why us?
A clever debating trick would be to turn the question around and ask, “Why do good things happen to bad people?” since we know that ‘all have sinned and come short of the glory of God’.
But it is, as I said, just a clever debating trick. It doesn’t answer the question, it just broadens the topic of debate.
When Joseph confronted his brothers after they had sold him into slavery, he “said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Genesis 50:19-20)
We learn a lot about why bad things happen to good people from Joseph. God uses evil to accomplish good. Had Joseph not been sold into slavery in Egypt, then his brothers would have starved to death.
The twelve tribes of Israel wouldn’t have existed, there would have been no Jewish people, no Chosen People, no Jewish carpenter named Jesus, and no hope of salvation for mankind.
It is a mind-boggling thought. No Jesus. No salvation. That would have been the outcome had his brothers been fine fellows who just loved little Joe.
Some argue that bad things happen to good people to punish them for being outside God’s permissive will. That is true, in a sense, although God doesn’t punish Christians, He chastises them — which is a different animal entirely than punishment.
‘Punishment’ is retribution. ‘Chastisement’ is correction. They are two different things.
Scripture says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1)
If there is no condemnation, then there is nothing to be ‘punished’ for.
On the other hand, Hebrews 12:6 reveals that chastisement is evidence that God loves us as sons. “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.”
But one can hardly argue that the innocent child swept away by the tsunami was being punished or chastised. And although there are no actual ‘good people’ because we’ve all sinned and come short of the glory of God, a child is indeed innocent, so even turning the question around doesn’t really work. As I said, its just a clever debating trick.
Bad things happen because they do. It isn’t that God isn’t paying attention. Bad things HAVE to happen because human beings have free will. For free will to operate, evil must exist. If there were no evil, there could be no good.
If the lives of the righteous were obviously perfect, that too would destroy the possibility of choice. People wouldn’t choose righteousness because it was the right thing to do, they would choose it because it paid off better than evil.
We live in a world where, in order for there to be a Joseph, there must also be his brothers.
God created the universe in perfect harmony. The law of physics demands that for every action, there must also be an equal and opposite reaction. For every good, there must be a corresponding evil.
There is no evil in the universe itself. It remains in harmony, perfectly balanced according to God’s will and functioning according to His laws. Evil exists only in a place theologians call the ‘cosmos diabolicus’ — we call it ‘earth’.
Evil is restricted to earth so that the universe doesn’t get infected by it. That’s why earth has an atmosphere — not to keep evil out, but to keep it IN.
In this generation, man has figured out a way to escape the atmosphere, and the result is an orbiting junk pile around the planet that, viewed from outside, would put one in mind of flies buzzing around you-know-what.
What is ‘evil’, exactly? Does it exist? Albert Einstein noted that evil does not exist, anymorethan cold exists or darkness exists. Absolute zero is the temperature at which there is a total absence of heat. ‘Cold’ doesn’t actually exist. It is a word to describe the absence of heat, which does.
Darkness doesn’t exist. Absolute darkness is the absence of any light whatever, degrees of darkness depend on the amount of light that seeps in. The speed of light is 186,000 miles per second. One cannot measure darkness, because it doesn’t exist.
Evil doesn’t actually exist, either. Like cold and darkness, it is a word we use to describe the absence of good — or more accurately, the absence of God.
Bad things happen because they HAVE to happen in order for there to be a way of measuring what is good. It is through bad things that God reveals Himself to man. Sinners don’t come to Christ because they are satisfied with themselves — they come to Christ because they recognize the absence of God in their lives.
Winning the lottery doesn’t bring sinners to their knees — losing everything does, however. If you want to find God, you’ll find Him in prisons and hospitals, much more so than in mansions and fitness clubs.
Bad things happen to good people because God knows what He is doing, even when we don’t. When we pray for what we believe is a good thing and don’t get it, we wonder where God is or if He is listening. Unfortunately, we don’t know good from evil — we only know right from wrong.
‘Good and evil’, as we understand the terms, are not actions, they are outcomes. Only God can measure the outcome of what we believe is an evil thing.
Bad things happen to good people for reasons beyond our comprehension because God is in charge of outcomes. Bad things prove the existence of God, because they only happen where men are involved.
Remove the absence of God from the equation, and the moon continues to orbit the earth, the earth continues to orbit the sun, and the universe remains in perfect harmony.
Evil exists so that man can seek good, and, in so doing, find its Author.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Bad things happen to good people because God loves us. Evil exists only to the degree we fail to love Him back.
Originally Published: September 6, 2008
Featured Commentary: Where We Aren’t ~ Pete Garcia