Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

We all know how this goes. The nicest guy at the office gets laid off. A small child down the street gets hit by a car while riding his bike. A young girl gets leukemia, or a baby is born with Cystic Fibrosis. The list is endless. Why do bad things happen to good people?

The Bible teaches very clearly that the world is messed up, through no fault of God’s. For people to be human, in the image of God, it was necessary that they have the power of choice. But since people are not God, they have the capability of making the wrong choice. But that doesn’t explain the half of it.

More of it rests in the necessary idea of cause-and-effect. Our world couldn’t function without it, since it’s a requirement of living in time and space. Because we live in time and space, and a world with the laws of physics, there are causes, and then subsequent effects. The wind blows, and a leaf waves in the breeze. A tree falls, and whatever is in its path gets scraped, broken, or crushed. It’s the way the world works, and no one would disagree with that.

And so people get laid off, get in accidents, get diseases, and get scraped, broken, or crushed. It’s how the world works.

I think the cruncher comes in at a deeper root to the question: We expect God to stop that from happening. Well, let’s see. Do you want God to stop it all, or just some of it? Hmmm, if he stops only some of it, and doesn’t happen to pick the bad thing that might happen to YOU, then you’ll think that wasn’t fair, so I guess he has to stop all of it. That means he has to control every motion your body makes so that you never run into a table or trip over a tree root. He has to control every motion everybody makes, then, so that they don’t accidently do something to make something bad happen to you. Well then he has to control their minds, too, so that nobody fires you unfairly, or no doctor makes a bad decision, or no financial advisor gives you bad advice. OK, so God has to control all movements, all thoughts, all words, all attitudes, the way we hear things, the way we speak, and what we feel. You know what? We’re not human any more. We’re just robots. We make no decisions ourselves. We only speak the script. We don’t feel anything. Is this the world you want?

By necessity, because we are human, and we live in a world of cause and effect, bad things happen to everyone. So do good things, by the way. God’s role is not to protect you from every bad thing in the cause and effect process, nor to make sure every good thing comes your way, but to give you spiritual life, to remake you into a new creation, and to transform you into his likeness. Despite that we hate all the bad stuff, God doesn’t make it his business to intervene every moment in the cause and effect process. If he didn’t intervene in yours, you’d accuse him of being unfair. If he intervened in everyone’s we’d cease to be human and our world would cease to function. You know, we can’t have our cake and eat it too.

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