Why do bad things happen to good people?

Image: Why do bad things happen to good people?

What the Bible says about suffering

You said what??

People have a lot of ideas about why bad things happen. Here's a couple of odd and unhelpful things I've seen:

  • I teach scripture in my local High school. I remember a girl whose mum had a mental illness. Her former scripture teacher had told her that it was because her family was under a curse.
  • I have a friend who was surprised at a group of ministers who were talking about depression, when they said “If you are depressed, it’s because you have sinned. You need to repent and you will be fine again!”

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Where is the justice in a good person ever having to face trouble, and bad people having it easy? This is exactly what the writer of Psalm 73 was struggling with.

Asaph; the guy who wrote this psalm knew that God had promised to be good to his people who were faithful to him. However, as he looked around, he saw the people who hated God and loved doing the wrong thing having a great time.

  • In vs. 3-5 he says he is jealous of them because they have it so good, face no troubles and don’t worry about the stuff most people need too.
  • In vs. 2 he tells us that he was in such a bad way as he saw the wicked living so happily that he almost gave up trusting God himself! Ouch!

I wonder if you have ever felt like that? Maybe when you as a Christian are having a real hard time in life, while your mates (or enemies) at school who hate God, seem to be living it up? They have the friends, they have the stuff, they have the look, they have the life, but you don’t.

In vs. 13 Asaph basically says “Surely it’s been a complete waste of time trying to live God’s way, it’s gotten me nowhere!”

Some reasons for suffering in the Bible:

At my youth group we looked at a bunch of stories and saw that bad things happen to good people for all kinds of reasons:

  • Joseph (Genesis 37-50) was sold into slavery by his brothers, and imprisoned in an Egyptian Jail for many years. But with God’s help, he was able to interpret the King's dream, and was eventually made second in command of all Egypt. As Joseph said later to his brothers, "you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
  • Jeremiah told the Israelites to turn away from their sins and that God would destroy them if they wouldn’t. He was ignored, abused, and suffered for faithfully telling God’s word to people who didn’t want to hear the truth.
  • Jesus was the only perfect man who ever lived and did bad stuff happen to him? You bet - he was hated by the people he had created, and we killed him. He warned his disciples that because the sinful world hated him, they shouldn’t be surprised to be hated as well (John 15:18-20), and Paul later wrote to his mate Timothy that anyone who wants to live a godly life in Jesus WOULD be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12).

The real question is, 'how will you respond to suffering?'.

It may not always be clear why people who love God have it rough and those who hate him are having a great time, but the bible does tell us to expect this. The question is, what do we do when bad stuff happens to us? The answer is trust God and hang in there.

Asaph (the guy who wrote Psalm 73) remembered some important things when he went to the temple, he remembered that the final destiny of the wicked is their destruction (vs.17 and 27) And he also remembered that his desires in life are fully met in God (vs.23-26).

Sometimes it's hard to trust God when bad stuff happens to us, or when we see it happen to other people we love, but God calls us to trust and enjoy him now, and look forward to the day that is coming when he will make everything that is wrong become right, when he will fully deal with the problem of evil and comfort Christians who have suffered. Bring on that day!

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