Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

This is it.  This is the million dollar question.  I couldn’t imagine an answer to any question that has been sought after by more people than this very one.  It was posed to me from a friend on Facebook.  When I saw it I swallowed hard. It’s not that I don’t have a response.  It’s just that I always feel incredibly inadequate with it.

Let’s make it clear that the bad things we are going to discuss are not those things that happen as a result of our poor choices.  I minister at the county jail.  There, I meet men and women who have made bad choices and are suffering the consequences of those choices.  Even they can often recognize that no one is to blame but themselves.  Rather, what I’d like to talk about is the bad things that happen at no fault of our own.   When we are not to blame. When we didn’t ask for trouble but it came anyway.

Some people have suggested an answer to the dilemma by saying that no one is truly good anyway.  They say that since we are not fully good we should not think it odd when bad things happen to us. The problem with that response is that we know of at least one example in which that is not true. It is the story of Job as found in the Old Testament.  In Job 1:8 we read that God Himself described Job as a “blameless and upright man.”  Therefore, according to God Job was a good man.  Yet, a lot of very bad things happened to him.  He lost his fortune, his servants, his property, and finally his children in the span of one day.  That’s a lot of bad for a man whom God counted as “blameless.”  And, if there is one case of bad things happening to a good man, then there may be others as well.  Therefore, the questions still remains: why?

Throughout the book of Job the question of “why” seems to be at the forefront.  Job wanted to plead his case with God (Job 10).  He knew he had done nothing wrong.  He wanted to hear from God because Job realized that God was involved in what was happening (Job 2:10).

Some might argue that sometimes the bad things that happen aren’t God’s fault.  The truth behind that statement is easy to see.  For example, someone near you might be betray you in a profound way.  I believe that God allows people to make choices. Therefore, in many cases the bad things that happen are the result of someone else making a bad choice.  Yet, what is also very clear is that God allowed the bad thing to happen.  If God is ultimately in control, and something bad has happened, then we can conclude that God must have at least allowed it to occur.  He may not have been the source of the bad, but He didn’t stop it from occurring.  This should give us our first clue about why bad things happen: God must see a purpose in it.

Sometimes I think we get a glimpse of a purpose in suffering.  For example, a doctor might re-break a bone to properly set it.  Or, for a tumor to be removed we may have to undergo an extensive, painful operation.  We undergo these examples of suffering because we see a greater good in the end. It’s obvious, therefore, that some suffering has a greater good attached to it.

Yet, someone might insist that there are plenty of bad things happening around the world that seem to exist without purpose.  No good can be seen coming from it.  What about that kind of suffering?  This is where it gets a little tricky.  This is where we need to set aside our emotions for a moment and try to open up our perspectives a bit.

In Phil 1:29, Paul wrote something quite interesting.  He wrote, “ For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”

Did you get that?  Paul said that for the sake of Christ we were granted two things: to believe and to suffer.  I believe that this suggests that God sees suffering differently than we do.  Rather than viewing it as something to be avoided He must see it as necessary.  But why is it necessary?

Jesus made it clear that He had come to suffer (Luke 24:46).  Yet, in a sense, He continues to suffer.  Paul suggested that when one member of a body suffers, than all the members suffer (1 Cor. 12:26). Since Christ is the head of the body, then Paul might be suggesting that Jesus continues to participate in our sufferings.  If this is the case, then we serve a suffering God.  If our God continues to suffer, then He must see value in it – or He would end it for His own sake.  Yet, He has not.  He suffers.  He is supremely good, yet bad things happen to Him through His creation.  This is why I believe that there is purpose to all suffering: because ultimately the bad things that happen are happening to God.  He must see a purpose in them to allow them.  Therefore, we have reason to trust in ultimate good – even if we don’t see the good – because God is suffering also.

It is for this reason that I believe there can be no suffering without purpose.  We should be encouraged to know that our God is not distant from us in our suffering.  He is not immune to our pain.  He shares deeply in it.  He suffers along side of us.  He weeps with us. He feels our pain.  He knows our hurt.  He identifies with us, and we with Him, through it. It is a meeting place by which we can know our God.  It is a secret place by which we can find Him.  It is sacred ground where He walks and where we might walk with Him.



Dane Cramer is a backpacker, Christian blogger, jail chaplain, amateur filmmaker, and author of two books: Romancing the Trail and The Nephilim: A Monster Among Us.



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