Saturday, July 7, 2012

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

A question frequently asked. A question infrequently answered. I suspect that most of the time, we just want to figure out how to have more good things come our way, and we are frustrated with our inability to figure out the formula. We have been told that God is good, and we believe that we are good, and good plus good should equal even more goodness. But frequently it doesn’t seem to work out that way. As good as we believe we are, or someone close to us is, sometimes it just seems like bad things just keep piling on them or us unjustly.
This paper will pull back the veil on the spiritual realm from which good and bad comes, and show who is a truly good person.  This paper will not seek to reveal specifics such as why did this bad thing happen to this good person, but rather, will seek to give you understanding of the principles involved, so that you can make appropriate changes yourself, and thus change your life dramatically for the better.

God’s Desire is Goodness

I would like to suggest that a greater understanding of good and bad things in relation to good and bad people lies in seeing things from God’s perspective. If God is so frequently accused of causing bad things to happen to good people, then let’s look into the mind of God and see what He says about this topic for ourselves. Does God really want good things to happen to us, or is this just a lie that people tell, and God is really just indifferent, or at worst, mean and vindictive?
In the book of Jeremiah, we are told:
Jeremiah 29:11-13  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.  (12)  Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  (13)  And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
Jeremiah says that God’s thoughts toward us are of peace, and not evil, that we might be given by Him a future and a hope.  That sounds good, let’s also look at a couple of the Psalms and see what others have to say about this:
Psalms_84:11  For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly.

Psalms 91:1-4  He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.  (2)  I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust."  (3)  Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence.  (4)  He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.

Psalms 91:9-11  Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place,  (10)  No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;  (11)  For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways.

The Psalmist here corroborates what Jeremiah said.  In Psalm 84, the Lord is a sun and shield. This means that when we lack understanding, he will give it to us kind of like when we have an “aha” moment and the light is turned on. And He is a shield and protects us from evil.  In Psalm 91, God is trustworthy, and will keep us from being trapped by bad things, and from sickness.  He provides a refuge for us. Indeed, it is plainly stated in verse 10, no evil will befall us, nor shall sickness come near our dwelling.

Conditional Goodness

There are hundreds of other passages that speak of the goodness of God, and His desire for good to us. A study of these passages clearly shows that when bad things happen to good people, this is not God’s desire for us. But there is a clue in these passages that might help us to understand what is really going on when we see so much bad happening to so many good people.
Notice that there is an overriding theme of drawing close to God in these passages. In Jeremiah, we read that God will hear us if we call to Him and pray. The implication here is if we seek Him, He will acknowledge us, with goodness. In the Psalm 84, we read that no good thing will be withheld from us, if, we walk uprightly. In the Bible, walking uprightly means to walk by faith, believing in God. In Psalm 91, these good things are conditional upon our drawing close to God, abiding under His shadow, making Him our dwelling place, etc. meaning that we are searching Him out and are drawing close to Him. The negative implication here is important. If we are not under His covering, we are exposed, in the same way that chicks are exposed if they chose to run in the wild, outside the hen’s covering.
So what we have read so far is that God’s desire for us is goodness, and that goodness is available to all those who draw close to Him. So does this mean that if we are not drawing close to Him, that bad things will happen? Let’s look at some more passages and see what we can learn.

Conditional Badness

In the Old Testament we find the history of the Israelites. The New Testament tells us that the Israelites and their history is for our example. (1 Corinthians 10:1-11)  Their history reveals some astonishing truths regarding good and bad things, good and bad people. In this passage from Leviticus, we read of God’s promise of goodness, and again, we see the condition. If they walk close to God, they will be prosperous.
Leviticus 26:3-7  'If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them,  (4)  then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.  (5)  Your threshing shall last till the time of vintage, and the vintage shall last till the time of sowing; you shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.  (6)  I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none will make you afraid; I will rid the land of evil beasts, and the sword will not go through your land.  (7)  You will chase your enemies, and they shall fall by the sword before you.

Throughout the history of the Israelites, we see that they turned their back on God, and the results are recorded over and over again for us.  The following passage from Jeremiah is one example.
Jer 14:1-7  The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah concerning the droughts.  (2)  "Judah mourns, And her gates languish; They mourn for the land, And the cry of Jerusalem has gone up.  (3)  Their nobles have sent their lads for water; They went to the cisterns and found no water. They returned with their vessels empty; They were ashamed and confounded And covered their heads.  (4)  Because the ground is parched, For there was no rain in the land, The plowmen were ashamed; They covered their heads.  (5)  Yes, the deer also gave birth in the field, But left because there was no grass.  (6)  And the wild donkeys stood in the desolate heights; They sniffed at the wind like jackals; Their eyes failed because there was no grass."  (7)  O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us, Do it for Your name's sake; For our backslidings are many, We have sinned against You.

Clearly, bad things were happening here, and we read that the cause was their iniquities and backsliding. In other words, they turned away from God and did what seemed to be right in their own eyes.  I don’t believe this is the result of a vindictive God, this is simply what happens according to God’s spiritual principles when someone or some nation turns so their back is to God.

Our Response

To me, these principles are like physical laws. No one argues with the Law of Thermodynamics, or the Law of Gravity. These laws describe physical things as they are, and mankind has no power to change them. So to, the Bible describes God’s spiritual realm as it is, and mankind has no power to change it. Our response is to either accept things as they are, or reject them. But as rejecting the Law of Gravity won’t save you from harm if you jump off a building, so too, rejecting the Biblical principles of the spiritual realm will not render them ineffective either. Like gravity, we live under the power of Biblical principles even when we are unaware of it.  Listen to this passage from Isaiah, who muses about the greatness of God and the smallness of man:

Isaiah 45:9-10  "Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him who forms it, 'What are you making?' Or shall your handiwork say, 'He has no hands'?  (10)  Woe to him who says to his father, 'What are you begetting?' Or to the woman, 'What have you brought forth?' "

This passage in Isaiah agrees with the foolishness that ignoring God won’t make His principles ineffective.  Here is another passage from Job that exhibits the same folly. God is talking to Job:
Job 38:2-12  Why do you talk so much when you know so little?  (3)  Now get ready to face me! Can you answer the questions I ask?  (4)  How did I lay the foundation for the earth? Were you there?  (5)  Doubtless you know who decided its length and width.  (6)  What supports the foundation? Who placed the cornerstone,  (7)  while morning stars sang, and angels rejoiced?  (8)  When the ocean was born, I set its boundaries  (9)  and wrapped it in blankets of thickest fog.  (10)  Then I built a wall around it, locked the gates,  (11)  and said, "Your powerful waves stop here! They can go no farther."  (12)  Did you ever tell the sun to rise? And did it obey?

It seems clear that our response to what we have read so far is one of humility and acceptance. Rebelling against God will get us bad results. Drawing close to him will get us good results. Deuteronomy give us a great set of actions to take in response to what we have read.

Deuteronomy 11:18-21  "Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  (19)  You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.  (20)  And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates,  (21)  that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth.

How to Draw Close to God

To be sure, we should clearly understand that there is no formula or set of carefully followed rules that will turn the hand of God in your favor. There is nothing that you can do that will cause God to see you as good enough to merit His goodness.  You may have noticed the conditions God places on His blessings are to draw near to Him. To draw near to God, you must first believe that He exists, and then you must talk about it with other people. Let’s see what the Apostle Paul had to say about this in the New Testament:
Romans 10:8-10  All who are acceptable because of their faith simply say, "The message is as near as your mouth or your heart." And this is the same message we preach about faith.  (9)  So you will be saved, if you honestly say, "Jesus is Lord," and if you believe with all your heart that God raised him from death.  (10)  God will accept you and save you, if you truly believe this and tell it to others.

Here again, in the New Testament, we read the consistent message that we are acceptable to God, if we draw near to Him. Paul gives us some important insight into how we can begin to draw near to God, by honestly saying that “Jesus is Lord”, and believing that God raised Him from death. The act of believing will naturally bring you closer to Him, and making the statement that “Jesus is Lord” verbally to others will endear you to Him.
In this next passage, Paul is speaking to people who have just started believing, and tells them that he is praying that they come to know God, and that God will make them truly happy.
Colossians 1:9-11  We have not stopped praying for you since the first day we heard about you. In fact, we always pray that God will show you everything he wants you to do and that you may have all the wisdom and understanding that his Spirit gives.  (10)  Then you will live a life that honors the Lord, and you will always please him by doing good deeds. You will come to know God even better.  (11)  His glorious power will make you patient and strong enough to endure anything, and you will be truly happy.

I pray that you will consider drawing close to God today, and begin to receive the goodness that He has for you.

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