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Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?

This is a question that all of us are likely to ask at some point in our lives.  When tragedies occur and good people suffer or die, we naturally want to understand why, especially when such things happen to our loved ones or ourselves.  We want an explanation because our sense of justice is violated when bad things happen to good people.  In our minds, justice means that good is returned for good and evil for evil.  Therefore, when good people receive evil, it leaves us confused and despondent.


The answer to this question is not as difficult to understand as it is to accept.  The emotions that are present after a tragic event may prevent us from grasping the truth about what has happened or from coming to peace with it.  Those emotions must be handled carefully, and often time is the only remedy to ease the anger, fear, and sadness.


As we heal emotionally, perhaps then we can begin to find an answer for our question.  First of all, we must be spiritually minded.  The only answer that will give us a sense of peace and satisfaction comes from a spiritual understanding given through the word of God.  If we try to make sense of such tragic events solely by the wisdom of men or the reasoning of the world, we will never have peace.  However, God has an answer.


With our minds set on spiritual things, let us reconsider our premise that justice means that good is returned for good and evil for evil.  The premise is correct, but the application in the physical world is not always present.  Justice is not always done in this world, and God did not promise that it would be.  The ultimate justice that God has promised will be delivered at the Judgment when each soul “will be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:12; Heb. 4:13).  The spiritually minded understand this, but the worldly minded cannot understand.


The Scriptures bear witness to a history of injustice by men in this world, going all the way back to when Cain murdered Abel (Gen. 4:1-15).  Abel offered a pleasing sacrifice to God, and Cain murdered him because of it.  How could this be fair and just?  In this world, Abel could not receive justice because he was dead, but the spiritually minded person understands that Abel’s good deed will be rewarded in the spiritual realm where he is alive.


In this example of Cain and Abel, we also understand that Cain’s choice to do evil did not only affect himself but also Abel.  This demonstrates the truth that God has given us the ability to choose between good and evil, and it is possible that one person’s choice to do evil can affect another person who is innocent.  In fact, we live with the ever-present effects of the evil choices of Adam and Eve, who introduced sin and death into the world (Gen. 3; Rom. 5:12-21).  Likewise, we live in a vastly different climate than those who lived until the time of Noah because God punished Noah’s generation for their sin (Gen. 6-8), so we suffer storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other destructive natural phenomena.


Therefore, we must understand that the things that an individual suffers in this world are not always direct results of his own choices.  The nature of the world in which we live and the free will of mankind mean that sometimes people get sick and die, get injured, injure each other, kill each other, and many other things that lead to suffering.  This is the way the physical world is, and there is nothing that we can do to change it.


Please do not let the cold reality of this world leave you feeling hopeless.  If this world was all that we had, we would be a pitiful race indeed.  However, God has promised “a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2Pet. 3:11-13).  Our tendency may be to blame God when these bad things happen, but we must realize that He is the solution for our suffering, not the source.  All suffering comes from the work of Satan and the consequences of sin, whether ours or someone else’s, and God has provided salvation from sin in Christ Jesus.  Jesus Himself sympathizes with our suffering because He also suffered injustice in this world and knows the plight of man (Heb. 4:15).


The limitations of this space do not allow for a more thorough answer, but studies in the books of Job and Revelation are recommended.  James wrote, “You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful” (Jas. 5:11).  The most comforting thought for any of us is to know that ultimately we are in the hands of a compassionate and merciful God who is infinitely wiser than any man.  His judgment is right, and the sufferings of His people in this world will be forgotten in eternity.


Stacey E. Durham



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