Why Do (Seemingly) Bad Things Happen to Good People?

By Professor Bryan Darrell

Why do (seemingly) bad things happen to good people?

It was early in 1998 when I received a phone call from my mother that my oldest sister, Julie, was being taken off of life support. As the victim of a double brain aneurysm which doctors could not fix after a three-hour operation, she would pass into the arms of Jesus later that evening. She left behind a loving husband, five-year-old son, and four-year-old daughter.

My world was rocked and I was wrecked.

As I packed the car to begin the drive to South Dakota for the funeral, I began wrestling with some questions that many of you have already wrestled through during the tough times in your life. “Is God really good?” “Does God really have my best interests at heart?” “Why is life not really fair sometimes?” “Why do bad things happen to good people?” These are not the questions to be asking in the midst of the grieving process, because no answer will suffice at that time. But after the funeral and burial of my sister, the Bible was searched for possible reasons why bad things happen to good people. While there is certainly much more that can be said about this topic, here’s a few things that may help you in the midst of your affliction.

  1. God may allow affliction in our lives to provide an opportunity to manifest his power. In John 9:1-3, the disciples asked Jesus why a particular man was born blind. Their assumption was that either the man sinned at birth or the man’s parents had sinned. Jesus rejected the idea that all suffering must be a punishment for sin, and he answered, “This happened so that the power of God may be seen in him.” God’s power may be manifest immediately through healing or over time through the slow spread of a disease rather than a quick spread. Look for the display of God’s power in the midst of affliction.
  2. God may allow suffering in our lives to demonstrate genuine faith to other creatures, whether spiritual or physical. The first two chapters of Job reveal to Satan and Job’s wife that Job served God out of genuine love, not because it resulted in God’s blessings. If we turn away from God in the midst of our affliction, we are telling those watching us that Christianity doesn’t give any better answer than any other ideology. God needs people today who will love and serve him because he is worthy of their devotion, not because it pays to do so.
  3. God may allow affliction in our lives to remove our boasting. Affliction reminds us that we are not self-sufficient and we need to rely upon God. Paul mentions this regarding his “thorn in the flesh” requests for removal in 2 Corinthians 12:7.
  4. God may allow affliction to demonstrate to others what being the “body of Christ” means. 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 tells us that we are all related to each other through Christ as a human body is made up of different parts. We need each other. A suffering Christian needs to experience the compassionate love of Jesus through the actions of other believers. Suffering also allows other believers the chance to express Christian love to those in need. In order to give us opportunities to minister, God may allow affliction to strike another member of the body of Christ. May God give us the spiritual eyes to see, ears to hear, feet to walk towards, and hands to help those who are suffering in our communities. Reach out to your neighbors and ask if they need any help with anything.
  5. In theological terms, God may allow affliction to help believer’s sanctification. Affliction can refine someone’s faith (1 Peter 1:6-7). It can create intimacy with God (Job 42:5). It can help the believer stop sinning (1 Peter 4:1-2). It can produce perseverance (Romans 5:3-4; James 1:3-4;    1 Peter 5:10). Affliction gives the believer opportunities to imitate Christ (1 Peter 2:23, 3:17-18).

The biggest impact in dealing with the loss of my sister has been in the area of ministering to others who have lost their siblings. Being caught up in grieving didn’t allow vision of the bigger picture, but it is now in view for me as God saw it back then. Over the past twenty plus years, 5 of my high school friends have had to deal with the loss of a brother or sister before their expected time, and they have turned to me for help.

Deuteronomy 29:29 tells us that the secret things (or secret motives) belong to the Lord while the things (or motives) that we know belong to us and our children forever. We may not fully understand our afflictions on this side of heaven, but God does. He has our best interests at heart, and I have learned much through my affliction that I could not have learned any other way. God is good even when we don’t fully understand. That has to be enough for now, until we see Jesus face to face.