September 10, 2021
Three Reasons God Allows Bad Things to Happen to Good People
As we approach the anniversary of 9/11, there is no better time to ask this question: “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?” In my 38 years of pastoral ministry, this was possibly the #1 question that I was asked.
Let me first say that I do not have a complete answer to this question. No one does. Running the universe is extremely complex, with a lot of moving parts. Just because God is smart enough to make all the correct moves, doesn’t mean that I am smart enough to understand what He is doing—or why He is doing it. Isaiah put it like this:
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. (Isa. 55:9 NLT)
But there are some answers that, in my finite understanding, I can offer that I hope will be of some help.
Reason #1: There are no good people! This is a difficult concept for some people to grasp. We base our goodness on a comparison with others. We “grade on the curve.” Surely a person who sacrificially feeds the homeless is better than a mass murderer. And I would agree with that. But I disagree that the end result of that scenario is that the person who feeds the homeless is good, and the mass murderer is evil. Instead, I believe this only indicates that the person who feeds the homeless is less evil than the mass murderer. Paul says in Romans 3:10,
“There is no one righteous; not even one.”
People, even Christian people, have the wrong idea that living a good life (as judged by human standards) somehow entitles us to a more comfortably earthly life. Nowhere does the Bible teach this. God does not see us as “good.” He sees all men and women as evil. That’s why Jesus died, and why He died for everyone. Everyone needs a Savior, because we are all evil. Some of us are just more evil than others.
Reason #2: God has a purpose for our temporary suffering. When I was 18 years old my friend Bev passed away after a long battle with leukemia. She was 19. This seemed unnatural, unfair and even cruel. I don’t remember anything about the funeral sermon the pastor preached that morning. But I do remember that after the message, around ten people gave their lives to the Lord. God had a plan in all of this. The Apostle Paul put it this way:
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (Rom 8:28)
Reason #3: In the context of eternity, our suffering in this present life doesn’t matter as much as we think it does. We all tend to think that the believer who suffers throughout much of their life has been somehow cheated—especially when we see a truly evil person seemingly enjoying a luxurious life. But fast forward about one million years. Where is that truly evil person, if he/she died without Christ? And where is the believer who had suffered in their earthly life? Our time on this earth is so short, and eternity is so long, that temporary suffering while on this earth is just a dot on the timeline of our everlasting lives. Paul put it this way:
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. (Romans 8:18)
I realize that these three points do not totally answer the question: “Why God lets bad things happen to good people.” Remember, running the universe is way more complicated than we will ever be able to understand. Or to put it more simply: We are playing checkers while God is playing chess!
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