I am asked often why bad things happen to good people. Personally, I believe there are four basic reasons why bad things happen to people — good or bad.
The worldview that says, “Bad things only happen to bad people,” will be a very disappointing one for you, because bad things can happen to anyone, and for all sorts of different reasons. I don’t think it is possible to judge why another person has experienced something negative in their life. Since any one person can fall victim to any of the four reasons listed below, it is outside credibility that you can accurately say, “I know why so and so is going through that.” No you don’t.
In fact, as a Christian myself, I often get frustrated by the phrase “Everything happens for a reason.” The implication is that God was responsible for, or encouraged, the murder, suicide, rape, car accident, or lie. God never condones sin. Never. God is not responsible for the murderer’s decision to take a life. The reason for the murder is simple: The murderer decided to kill.
Even in an attempt to be comforting, we must be careful of what we say. Don’t forget that God created all of us with a free will.
I believe that God can take the consequences of a situation and turn it around to your good, but I don’t believe that God ordained anything that involves sin.
If a person commits suicide, I don’t believe that God willed it. I do believe that the consequence of that situation can be turned eventually to a greater good. God gave us a free will, and if a person’s free will decides to take his own life, that was not God’s plan.
Let’s take each of the four reasons that bad things can happen to good people and examine them.
REASON #1 — GOD WILL TEST PEOPLE
Take a look at the following verse:
2 Chronicles 32:31 — Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.
You might argue that God should already know what was in his heart, but the honest truth is, until we are faced with a set of circumstances, we really don’t know what we’ll do. We always hope that we’ll face adversity with courage and integrity, but until you actually face it, you don’t know. God may know, but He needs to show you.
If you believe in God, you will be forced to understand that God often puts us through bad things. There could be any number of reasons for this, but simplest explanation is found in the following verses:
James 1:2-4 — My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
If a bodybuilder wants to be stronger, he must put his muscles under the pressure and pain of the weights. Only the pressure and weight of this action will cause his muscles to grow as he wants them to.
Haven’t you ever heard of the phrase “No pain, no gain”?
Bad things will make you stronger. God knows this. As parents, we know this too. We often let our children come under stress or pressure to teach them to be stronger. I never prevented my children from falling down when they were learning to walk. Falling down taught them to walk faster and better. It also taught them how to fall.
Why would God be any different? If you think that serving God, or believing in a God, will keep you from suffering, you are wrong.
A loving God will allow you to suffer bad things — but with purpose. To give us strength for the tasks of life, we may first have to suffer in order to gain that strength. So much of being a good father, for me, is the result of the trials in my life. Could you imagine trying to raise children without ever knowing what rejection was? Or what it meant to be made fun of? Or having never experienced any sort of pain whatsoever? The greatest men and women in the present and in history are almost universally men and women who have also suffered greatly.
REASON #2 — SATANIC ATTACK
Think about this verse from the Bible:
Luke 13:16 — And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?
If we were to examine the story of Job in the Old Testament, we would find that Job was a righteous man. In fact, the Bible claims that he had a very close relationship with God. Yet, God allowed Satan to attack Job just to prove a point. Satan took away everything that Job had, except his life. All so God could prove to Satan that Job wouldn’t betray Him.
Sounds harsh doesn’t it? But the fact remains that there is a Satan and that God may allow Satan to attack us.
These types of attacks are generally designed to disillusion you, discourage you, or shatter your faith. I believe that if you can weather these attacks, you’ll find, as did Job, something greater on the other side.
REASON #3 — A SIN-CURSED WORLD AND MURPHY’S LAW
Murphy’s law states, “That which can go wrong, will go wrong.” Personally, that is a bit pessimistic for my tastes, but there still remains a measure of truth in it.
If your car breaks down, it doesn’t mean that God did it or that the devil did it. It could be because it just broke. It can happen to anyone, at anytime. And it is not necessarily a reflection on your Christianity or lack thereof.
Ecclesiastes 9:11 — I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
When God cursed the earth in Genesis 3:17-19, He warned Adam that the earth would no longer be his ally. Weeds would grow. Problems would happen. Adam would need to sweat and toil. This is no longer about Adam, but about a cursed earth. Sometimes things happen. Can God intervene? Of course He can! But I don’t assume that His intervention, or lack of it, is a reflection of my Christianity. Many times I feel that God doesn’t intervene just to see how I’ll handle the problem. Clothes wear out, electronics break down, and bodies get older.
Part of God’s curse on the earth means that natural disasters are just part of life. God or the Devil isn’t to blame either. I believe that God is capable of directing such disasters, but I don’t believe He is responsible for every natural disaster in history. Hurricanes strike Christian houses as much as they do atheist houses. Christians died in the World trade center as much as atheists did. Christians are injured in car accidents as much as atheists are.
Can God intervene? Absolutely. And Romans 8:28 tells us that God can work everything for good. God can take the most negative circumstances and turn them for good. This does not mean that God is responsible for the negative circumstances.
REASON #4 — THE CONSEQUENCES OF OUR OWN ACTIONS
This, I believe, is one of the main reasons why things go wrong in our lives. You made a bad decision. The consequences of that action is not God’s fault, the devil’s fault, or chance’s fault. It is your fault.
If you smoke and end up with lung cancer, that is your fault. Not God’s. Not Satan’s. In fact, it is yours. The decision was yours to make and you made it.
I heard a story, or a joke, one time that I think illustrates this point.
A preacher lived in a little town nestled in a valley below a lake. Eventually, the dam on the lake suddenly and inexplicably began to give way, threatening the small town with imminent destruction. As the flood waters rose, a man in a 4×4 truck drove up in several inches of water to the preacher’s house and yelled, “Preacher! Jump in! I’ll get you out of here!”
The preacher responded, “No! I trust God. He’ll take care of me!”
Frustrated, the driver drove off. The waters continued to rise, and soon a man in a rowboat rowed up to the preacher’s house. He yelled, “Preacher, hop in. I’ll row you to safety!”
The preacher returned, “I’m okay. I have faith in God! He’ll take care of me!”
Eventually, the man rowed off.
Well, not long after, the water was lapping the roof of the preacher’s house and the preacher was standing on top of the roof. A helicopter swooped down and lowered a rope ladder. A man’s head poked out of out of the fuselage, holding a megaphone. “Preacher! Grab the ladder! We’ll fly you to safety!”
The preacher waved them off. “God will protect me! I trust God!”
Frustrated, the pilot flew off.
The preacher drowned. He found himself standing before God, and he began scratching his head in confusion. He said, “God? I don’t understand. I put all my faith and trust in you. And I trusted that you would take care of me. But I drowned. What happened? What did I do wrong?”
God answered, “Idiot! I sent the 4×4, the boat, and the helicopter. You didn’t take any of them!”
Your decisions have consequences, and God is under no obligation to bail you out of them. In fact, the consequences are how we learn. But don’t be surprised if you get hurt from a decision you make. That is not God’s fault.
God gave you a brain. If you jump off a cliff and half way down you change your mind and ask God to save you, God is under no obligation to do so. He gave you a brain that ought to have said, “Don’t jump.”
There are four reasons why bad things happen to good people.
- God may be building or testing you.
- Satan may be attacking you…just weather the storm.
- Things go wrong. It may be no one’s fault. Or it just went wrong. In fact, things happen.
- You blundered. You made a mistake or made a bad decision, and now you have to live with the consequences. That is no one’s fault but your own. Even good people make mistakes.
Realizing these simple truths will help you in dealing with life’s problems. First, you won’t be judgmental about others, nor will you lose your faith in God if you are a believer, nor will you blame God for things that aren’t His fault.