Why does God let bad things happen to good people?” In my 37 years of pastoral ministry, this is probably the #1 question that I have been 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.
WHY DOES GOD LET BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE?
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 murder. 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 murder is evil. Instead, I say this proves that the person who feeds the homeless is evil, and the mass murder is more evil. 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 them to a more comfortably earthly life. No where 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 needed a Savior, because we are all evil. Some 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 and unfair. I don’t remember anything about the funeral sermon the pastor preached that morning. But I do remember after the message, around ten people gave their lives to the Lord. God had a plan in all of this. He placed more value on the eternal souls of those ten people than He did on the earthly life of my friend Bev. The Apostle Paul says 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: We place too much emphasis on this life. We all tend to think that the believer who suffered throughout much of their life was 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 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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