“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet."--Matthew 5:13

Monday, August 27, 2012

If God is Good, Why Does He Allow Bad Things to Happen to Good People?

“Trials, above all other things, have a tendency to distinguish between true religion and false.”—Jonathan Edwards

Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? This is an age old question that continues to be asked to this day. Numerous books have been written on the issue. Multitudes of people have flocked to conferences regarding this question. If God is good, as He claims He is, then why does He allow bad things to happen to good people? Many who grapple with this question have lost a loved one in a horrific accident or to a dangerous illness. Some have responded by coming to the conclusion that there must not be a God. If so, why would he let horrible things happen to seemingly good and innocent people?
This past weekend, a college classmate of mine, Nolan Price, was killed in a motorcycle accident. He was only 21 years old. Why did God choose to allow this horrible accident to happen to one of His children?
In February, my father was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He  was given less than five years to live. Lou Gehrig’s Disease is a degenerative muscle and nervous system disease. It is a very slow and painful way to die. Why would God allow this disease to happen to someone who has given the last 24 years of his life in service to Christ?
Why does a good God allow bad things to happen to good people? This is a question that is difficult for anyone to answer. The fact is, we really do not know the answer to this question. But we do have some clues by looking at scripture.
First of all, there is no one who is good. Romans 3:10-12 says:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
    no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”
Therefore, to say that bad things happen to good people is truly false. We are all born sinners (Romans 3:23), and the penalty for that sin is death (Romans 6:23).
             However, while no one can do good deeds to merit eternal salvation, it is possible for sinners to do good things on this earth. It is possible for human beings to act selflessly for the greater good of mankind. It is possible for people to participate in charitable altruism. Through human eyes, these people are good and they do good things on earth. But there was only one good man to live on this earth and that was Jesus Christ, who never sinned.
Secondly, bad things happen to people, not necessarily because they are more evil than others. In Luke 13, Jesus mentions two tragedies that occurred during those times. The first tragedy was Pilate’s human sacrifice of the Galileans. The common assumption of the day was that God allowed this tragedy to happen because of the Galileans’ sin. Jesus rebukes this assumption by rhetorically asking, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Jesus again mentions a horrific accident in which a tower in Siloam fell, killing 18 people. Jesus again asks the crowd, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Jesus’ point is that these people were no less or greater sinners than anyone else. God, in His sovereignty, allowed these tragedies to occur. He urges the listeners to repent, or they too will perish, albeit eternally.
Bad things happen to people, not because they are living in sin. Yes, God does at times punish people based on specific sins. But we must not jump to the conclusion that certain natural disasters and other tragedies occur due to sin. If not for the grace of God, we too would perish.
So how should we as Christians respond to the fact that God allows bad things to happen to good people? Was it really a bad thing that Nolan Price, a follower of Christ, was suddenly whisked away to heaven in the blink of an eye? Is it really a bad thing that my dad has been diagnosed with a terminal illness? Romans 12:12 offers three responses to how we should handle horrible situations.
“Rejoice in hope” The future reality of living with Christ and enjoying Him forever should inspire us to respond in joy. Our God is alive. He is living in heaven as we speak. Let us rejoice in the future that He has given us through His death and resurrection; a future of eternity without sin, pain, and suffering. Rejoice in what the future holds. Show the world that death cannot conquer a Christian.
“Be patient in tribulation” As Christians, we will suffer. We are not immune to the suffering of this world, and actually, we will most likely suffer more in this world because we are believers. We should be patient during these times of trial. Remember the example of Job, who lost his family, his possessions, his wealth, and his health. Yet he still glorified the name of the Lord. The Lord has allowed His people to endure tribulation for the distinct purpose of bringing honor to His name through our praise of Him.
“Be constant in prayer.” Live your life as if Christ will return today. Be consistently in prayer. Prepare your hearts for the coming of the Lord. Be in fervent prayer for the perseverance of other believers and for the salvation of sinners.
            Ultimately, we as Christians do not always have the answers regarding God’s purposes. However, we can rest assured in His sovereignty. He truly is a good and gracious God who loves His people unconditionally. May we constantly praise His name for His grace and mercy for saving us from our sin and bringing us into a proper relationship with Him.