The Question: Why do bad things happen to good people?
Well, both bad and good things happen to both bad and good people.
The Question/Argument (Continued): Right, but where is God, why doesn’t he prevent it? How can he be ‘good’ when he ‘lets’ those things happen? If He’s all powerful but not doing anything about it then He’s not good, if He’s willing to do something about it but not able to then He’s not God.
This is a pretty common one that both Christian’s and non-believers struggle with, and there are a few things to consider when thinking about this question. I think also this question goes hand-in-hand with the, “Why hasn’t God healed me?” question that’s commonly asked.
First of all we live in a very entitled and selfish society, so one thing to understand is that God does not OWE anyone on this earth anything, period. God doesn’t OWE you or me nice things, good health, money, comfort, etc. We don’t deserve anything, we are not entitled to anything, and He does not owe us anything. In fact quite the opposite.
God already gave us the ultimate gift: he sent his only son to die for us so that we would have a way to reconcile ourselves to Him. There is nothing we could do to even begin to repay that gift, but the great thing about God is he doesn’t expect us to repay him, he doesn’t keep a balance of what we owe. He loves us regardless of what we do and simply desires us to love Him.
Take a look at the story of Job in the Bible (The entire book of Job tells the story). Here was a righteous (a really, really ‘good’) man, who God ‘let’ a bunch of awful things happen to. Job 2:10 shows the attitude Job has towards God: he didn’t expect or demand good things to continue happening because he followed God, but he accepted the adversity and trials along with the blessings. Job continued to trust in God despite rough (really rough) circumstances and, although he does complain and does ask God to remove these circumstances, he doesn’t lose faith or love for God even though they continue.
In fact, Job learns a valuable lesson: while he was a ‘good’ person, he viewed himself as righteous and tried to justify himself rather than God (Job 32:1-2). He came out of that terrible situation with a better understanding of God and of himself (Job 42:1-6), and a very humbling realization: that God is God and he (Job) was not. This trust and humility are what ended up blessing Job at the end of the trials.
God desires love from us. Love is not conditional on circumstances or gifts or how great things are going. If we only ‘loved’ God when things were going well and easy in our lives, and rebelled and blamed Him when things got tough, that wouldn’t really be love would it?
Secondly, we live in a fallen world. There is evil existing all around us and every one of us has added to or facilitated that evil personally at some point or another. As such we are all subject to the consequences of our actions and the actions of those around us, both good and evil.
Matthew 5:43-48 talks about loving others regardless of circumstances and their feelings towards us, just as God loves us. It says ‘rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous alike’, meaning we all have good things and bad things that happen in our lives because that’s the world that we live in; it’s not perfect (yet), because we choose to make it that way when we disobeyed God.
If God decided to make it so that nothing bad ever happened to anyone who followed him what do you think would happen? Your first thought may be, “Well it would be great, I’d know God cares and is good and I’d live happily ever after.” However I don’t believe that would be the case.
What would happen (due to the fact that we live in an evil world) is that after a while of everything going your way, you would begin to expect things to continue going your way, you would take for granted the good things God did for you and expect even more. You’d get prideful and start thinking that it’s because of how good of a person you are that these good things are happening, and you’d start believing you deserved those things.
What happens when parents ‘spoil’ their children with constant gifts and never discipline them or expose them to anything they think isn’t ‘good’? That child becomes extremely conceited and arrogant and expects and even demands those ‘good’ things to continue. Do the parents not love their child? Do they not want the best for their child? Are they bad parents if they don’t constantly give those things to their child? No, I’d say the opposite in fact. Children that are never taught or experience the consequences for their actions, and are brought up being given whatever they want and sheltered from everything turn out to be self-entitled, arrogant brats.
God isn’t some magical ‘police’ entity that ensures bad people get punished and good people get rewarded. He isn’t there to ‘force’ people into being good. He desires us to love Him as a parent desires the love of their child, but love cannot be forced. He could make us fear Him, He could take away things from us, or give things to us (aka, he could make us ‘want’ to be on his ‘good’ side), but he cannot force us to love Him.
Many people seem to think God is just there to grant wishes like their own personal genie, and when things don’t work out the way they want, they blame God and try and convince themselves God isn’t good because he didn’t do what they believe is good or should have been done.
The fact is bad things happen because we live in a world with evil in it, which is the result of our choices. God does give us great gifts and desires the absolute best for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11) and I believe if we put aside our own selfish ambitions and focus on His will and His plan for our lives we will find a genuine, lasting happiness and contentment. I’m not saying we won’t have hardships or struggles or nothing ‘bad’ will happen, I’m saying we will have peace through God despite any circumstances (Philippians 4:6-7) and live a fulfilled and meaningful life before joining Him in paradise.