"Why do bad things happen to good people?" People ask this question when faced with tragedy, trials, despair or extreme circumstances. You may have even asked yourself this question and struggled to find answers. It's not the kind of question you ask when you're relaxing at the beach with your friends or playing an entertaining game with them. Most of the time it arises when we're unprepared. It is often coupled with frustration, depression, anxiety and anger. Sometimes it's asked in innocence by people with a genuine desire to understand what seems impossible to understand. Other times it's a cry from people who have suffered or whose loved ones have suffered grief and loss. People ask: Why did I/he/she/they fill in the blank_________ get sick, get cancer, die, have an accident, face a disaster, endure this circumstance? Why did this happen and why now? What did I/she/he/they do to deserve this? Why God, why? Is God against me/us/them? Does God even care?
The first time this question really hit home was about twenty years ago. David Albright, an associate pastor of my church, went to school to pick up his second grade daughter. He was waiting in the area reserved for cars picking up children when his daughter rushed out and upon seeing her dad's car, started running toward it. At that very moment another parent who had just picked up their child started to pull away. David watched in horror as the car struck his little girl. She died right before his eyes. He was extremely angry with God and left the ministry. How could God let that happen to such an innocent child? He couldn't forgive God and decided that that wasn't the kind of God he wanted to serve. A few years ago a friend told me that he finally returned to church. When tragedy happens, people want to make sense of what's going on and when answers are insufficient, people can become angry and bitter. The problem one encounters is trying to find a correlation between good people and bad circumstances. [Identifying a person as good or bad is subjective, thus it is italicized.] Sometimes bad circumstances are a result of people's actions. Sometimes bad circumstances are a result of natural disasters, i.e. fires, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, etc. I want to focus on people-to-people situations rather than addressing people versus the forces of nature. This is by no means a comprehensive exploration of answers. It is intended to provide you with some "food for thought."
One problem encountered in trying to answer the age-old question of "Why do bad things happen to good people?" is that it seems to violate biblical principles. The question assumes good people should reap what they've sown—good things. Isn't that what the bible says? The often quoted verse to support that premise is Galatians 6:7, Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. Another verse is, The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. (2 Corinthians 9:6) The message is clear, good people should reap good things, right? People may declare, "We've been good people who have served God faithfully so what went wrong? God either messed up and ignored the rules, didn't pay attention or wasn't interested in us. Whatever the reason, we're suffering and God has failed us." That is far from the truth and I have two points for you to consider. First, we are making a false assumption and second, we are missing vital information.
First, we assume God controls the actions of every person. We need to remember God created humanity with free will. God did not make us robots. We are free to choose our actions, good, bad or indifferent. Consequently, the world is full of people who do good things, bad things or things that are indeterminate. We live in an imperfect world full of imperfect people. The result: sometimes life isn't fair. We've seen that all too often. Bad things DO happen to good people and sadly we've seen good things happen to bad people. It appears that the law of sowing and reaping is non-existent. If not, how does one explain the discrepancy when bad things happen to good people? It's most likely due to the weeds growing in our garden. God told Adam he would have to deal with thorns and thistles (weeds). Jesus told us in the parable of the Sower and the parable of the Weeds that an enemy has sown weeds. It may seem that weeds have gained the upper hand but it won't always be that way. Someday the weeds will be pulled up by their roots and that'll be the end of all our sorrow. All will be made right. That reaping has not yet happened. In the meantime, we can choose to sow good seeds of the gospel and continue to fight the weeds that seem to pop up everywhere. My friends, keep weeding your garden and keep the faith.
Second, we must realize we don't have all the facts. Consider how much Jesus suffered. If anyone had a complaint about how badly he was treated, Jesus did. He was perfect and yet he suffered at the hands of bad people. However, he wasn't alone, angels came and helped him. Though he was beaten and crucified and died, that wasn't the end of the story. Bad things happened, yes, but victory was only three days away. We know the story, but the good news is that the best is yet to come. What we might identify as bad may in fact, be something good. In the middle of our suffering it may seem impossible to see beyond our hurt but Jesus said, I will never leave you or forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5) We are never alone, ever! We may never know the whole story of why we're suffering, but God's goodness will always win. Trusting in the middle of the pain is the truest test of our faith. That is when our faith grows the strongest. That is the time to pray, fervently pray that God filsl us with peace.
"Why do bad things happen to good people?" I don't know, but I DO know that in the midst of suffering God is there and understands. You'll never have to go through 'bad things" alone. (Jesus had a different perspective on his impending suffering.)
Let us keep looking to Jesus. Our faith comes from Him and He is the One Who makes it perfect. He did not give up when He had to suffer shame and die on a cross. He knew of the joy that would be His later. Now He is sitting at the right side of God. (Hebrews 12:2 TLV)
Looking to Jesus is the only thing that makes sense when "bad things" happen to good people.