Why do bad things happen to good people?
Why do good things happen to bad people?
Both of these questions have puzzled not just Christians, but all philosophers for centuries.
In their book, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek think these questions do not start with the correct presuppositions. Namely, that any person can be considered “good”. Appendix One in the book is written as a dialogue between an Atheist and a Christian. We will pick it up at the Christian’s response:
Christian: We’ve already pointed out that there are good outcomes for pain and suffering. But we also need to point out that the question makes an assumption that isn’t true.
Atheist: What’s that?
Christian: There are no good people!
Atheist: Oh, come on!
Christian: No, really. Some people are better than others, but no one is really good. We all have a natural bent toward selfishness. And we all commit sins routinely.
Atheist: I do more good things than bad.
Christian: By whose standard?
Atheist: By society’s standard. I’m a law-abiding citizen. I’m not a murderer or a thief.
Christian: That’s the problem. We consider ourselves good people only by the standards of bad people. We judge ourselves against others rather than against an absolute standard of good…
And the conversation continues. The question should be phrased: Why does anything good happen to anybody?
Jesus’ reply to the man with many possessions in the Gospel according to Mark, chapter 10, verse 18 reads, “Why do you call Me good?…No one is good but One – God.” The young man has kept almost all of the commandments but has fallen in one of them. James says that falling in one of them makes you guilty of all of them (James 2:10). The bottom line is that we are all sinners (bad people) depending on the grace of God to bring us through this world and into eternity with Him.
So when you are debating some of the big questions in life, try rearranging the questions until you get the right one. Don’t ask a question that starts out at the wrong point, because it will only yield a false answer.
Although all things might work together for good to those who love the Lord, God’s timing on the good things does not have to correspond to our timing. A death of a dedicated Christian man who leaves behind a wife and two kids; a teenager that was having huge relational and evangelistic impacts at her local school who dies suddenly to a brain tumor; a head on collision that wipes out an entire family of devoted believers; a spouse that gets an uncureable disease and has to be taken care of until they pass away which will probably take fifteen years of pain and suffering… The list can go on, but the point is that what we see as unfair, untimely, unjust, etc… can and is used by God to do great and amazing things. Christians are not guaranteed freedom from pain and suffering, and even death. They are only guaranteed hope, love, joy, contentment, grace, etc… to see us through the pain and suffering.