Why do bad things happen to good people? This is a good question, and one that needs to be answered. Though to be honest, we cannot answer this question fully. We can only answer in generals and not so much in specifics, though we might be able to take the generals and apply them to specifics. Yet, each bad thing must be weighed in its own circumstances and own merits. There are four answers that I would like to give to this question. I like to keep my posts under 1,000 words, so I will be brief (and in some manner general) as I list my points.
- Bad things happen to good people because good people make bad decisions. In this case, we are talking about consequences to bad decisions. Let’s say a person gets diagnosed with sclerosis of the liver. He’s a good dad, a loving husband, and a hard worker, but he also drank pretty heavily. It’s a natural consequence of choosing to drink heavily. He may be a great guy, but he made some bad decisions, like imbibing a bit too much. One may argue that he was an alcoholic and couldn’t restrain himself. That might be true as well. It doesn’t stop the fact that this would be a natural consequence to a bad (or many bad decisions), in the case of alcoholism, the first decision to drink would have been the bad decision.
- Bad things happen to good people because we live in a fallen world. In this case, we are talking about the dangers of living in a world gone horribly wrong at the fall of Adam and Eve. Let’s say that person gets diagnosed with sclerosis of the liver, but doesn’t over-imbibe, or doesn’t imbibe at all. In this case, it is simply that we live in a world that is hostile to humanity. Viruses, bacteria, diseases, etc. are attacking our bodies at every moment. Being a “good person” does not immunize anyone from those attackers. Because a person is good does not mean that they have a good immune system.
- Bad things happen to good people because God is going to do something amazing to display His glory. That was the point in John 9 when Jesus and His disciples encountered the man born blind. Was this his parents’ sin or his own that caused his blindness? It was neither, Jesus informed his followers. It was so that “the works of God might be displayed in him,” (v. 3, ESV). Not everyone that goes through suffering is going to have a miracle that gets them out of suffering like this man did. Not everyone born blind will receive sight. Not every cancer victim will be healed. Not every homeless family will recover. However, a few will receive such a miracle.
- Bad things happen to good because because, in reality, there are no good people. I understand what we mean by good. Typically we mean kind or nice or lovable/loving people. As R. C. Sproul, Jr. said, “Why do bad things happen to good people? That only happened once, and He volunteered.” Of course, he is referring to Jesus, the only actually good person. As Paul wrote, “None is righteous, no, not one,” (Romans 3:10) and then, quoting Psalm 14, “No one does good, not even one,” (Romans 3:12, ESV).
So let’s go back quickly to my third reason. Not one person deserves a miracle. We can hope for one and pray for one, but God is not unjust if He does not send one. He is merciful and gracious if He does. But He is just as merciful and gracious if He does not. God’s being is not dependent on the person to whom He is being. His being is simply His attribute, His character. He is beholden to no one, except Himself. God made a lot of covenants with man in the Bible, but not once do we see man make a covenant with God. We cannot bargain with God. We can make vows if we like (even vows we really do not intend–or can even hope–to keep), but God is not beholden to our vows, only His own.
That being said, as a concession in number 3, in the end God will do the miraculous for all who have placed complete confidence in Christ Jesus: “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed,” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52, ESV). If you’ve never read the verses following the ones I quoted, go back and read them. What a miracle! What a day of glory will that be unto our God! So may we endure through the suffering knowing that one way or another, we will not always be as we are.