Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?
Updated: May 5
First things first, according to the Bible, are there "good people?" The biblical answer is two-fold: 1. By nature, no one is good.
"The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one"
- Psalm 14:2-3
"There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."
- Romans 3:10-12
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..."
- Romans 3:23
We are, by nature, sinners and law breakers, and therefore not good. Jesus told us in Mark 10:18 that, "No one is good—except God alone." Therefore, God is the standard for goodness. The bar is set that high!
It may seem as if some of us, at least, possess more goodness than others, but James 2:10 tells us otherwise: "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." If you stumble in your obedience to God’s laws in even one small area, you are a law breaker. This truth is an equalizer. It puts us all on the same level when it comes to goodness or righteousness. I cannot compare myself to a murderer and feel good about myself. Both of us are sinners in desperate need of Christ’s righteousness.
"If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them."
- James 4:17
No one is good – except God alone. It’s like the old fable about the scorpion and the frog. The scorpion wants to see the other side of the river, so he asks the frog for a ride on his back, promising the frog he will not sting him. However, he ends up stinging the frog and right before they both drown, the frog demands that the scorpion tell him why he stung him. He responds by saying, "I can’t help it; it’s my nature." Similarly, it is in accordance with our nature to sin and rebel against God, our Creator.
"For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out"
- Romans 7:18
"You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies."
- John 8:44
The second part of the answer to the question “are there good people?” is:
2. Because of Christ, we are declared good!
As already discussed, we are born with a sinful nature; a nature that does not seek God. We are naturally rebellious and disobedient. However, if our faith is in Christ, the assurance of that faith will be the evidence of a "new self" or new nature.
"…you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator."
- Colossians 3:9b-10
Colossians chapter three (verses 5-9) tells us that the following behavioral traits belong to our earthly, sinful nature:
That same chapter (verses 12-15) lists characteristics or virtues of the new nature, or "new self" ("which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator"):
Because of Jesus, we have a "new self." That new self is continuously being transformed into the image of Christ Himself.
"And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."
- 2 Corinthians 3:18
Our old nature is sinful and deserving of God’s wrath, but Christ bore our sin on the cross. By dying for us, He paid the penalty for our sins, satisfying Almighty God once and for all. By His wounds, we have been healed. If our faith is in Christ, we no longer live in bondage to sin, and in fear of the wrath of God. We are free! Instead of our own dirty garments, we live as if clothed in a robe of righteousness!
"He himself bore our sins" in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; "by his wounds you have been healed"
- 1 Peter 2:24
"I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels."
- Isaiah 61:10
All of this background is necessary to answer the question, "Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?"
You could look at it this way: Only one time did a bad thing happen to a good person. That person was Christ. The bad thing that He suffered was the punishment that our sins deserved.
We are only good because He has taken our sins and is transforming us into His good image. The question though still remains: Why do bad things happen to those who have faith in Christ?
1. God uses pain to get our attention. "We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world." (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain).
2. God uses pain to help us grow.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
- James 1:2-4
"Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."
- Romans 5:3-4
3. God uses pain to discipline us, that we may share in his holiness.
"Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all…. but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."
- Hebrews 12:7-11
Bad things certainly happen, but God is working everything out for our good and for His glory (Romans 8:28).
Blog by Kristi Walker of CrossWay International Baptist Church. Published on 27. April 2020 from Berlin, Germany. Photo by Tobias Jelskov on Unsplash.