Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?


Open the newspaper, turn on the television news, click onto any of the hundreds of news websites and you will see it: bad things happen to good people every day. We see reports of natural disasters taking the lives of tens, hundreds, even thousands. We read of people dying at the hands of terrorists and man men, almost on a weekly basis it seems these days. Then there are the tragic stories of folks dying in freak accidents, the fault of no one or no thing, such as the case of the couple who recently had such a tragic accident on their motorcycle. Frequently these incidents lead us to wonder why bad things happen to good people.

The answer is not usually an easy, clear-cut one; many times we are left with no real satisfying answer to the question. But often we wonder why God let these things happen and even blame Him for these things. For some, perhaps many, folks the reasoning goes something like this:

  • The world is filled with suffering and evil
  • God created the world
  • Therefore God is to blame

While the first two points are unquestionably true, the final point, the conclusion, is a far cry from the correct answer. The truth is, and we rarely want to hear this truth, that we, human beings, are the ones who hold the bag of responsibility in the end. Let us examine, biblically, why it is I say that the blame lies with us, not upon God.

God created the world good

Gen 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Gen 1:31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

God made the whole of creation absolutely perfect. At this point there was no death, no sickness, no “anything” that was not good.

God created people with the ability to choose

Gen 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

In many places in God’s Word it is made clear that we have a choice, freewill, as to what we will do in a given situation. Joshua presents one of the most memorable and often quoted examples of this:

Jos 24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

And Jesus Himself asked a similar question of the Twelve:

John 6:67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?

It has been said that the single biggest thing that sets people apart from animals is the fact that, being made in God’s image, we have a God-consciousness and can make moral decisions that animals don’t have and can’t make. God made us for His pleasure, to honor and worship Him; He made us to love Him. If we had no choice in the matter we would be robot-like and would not be able to truly love God – or anything, anyone else for that matter. Therefore, God gave us the gift, responsibility, really, of freewill choice. And it is a gift that humans often don’t use well history teaches us.

People chose evil

Gen 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:

Gen 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

God gave Adam and Eve the choice or obey Him or to disobey Him; they chose to disobey, they chose evil. Adam and Eve chose sin.

Their choice brought evil into the world

Rom 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

J. B. Phillips, an English Bible scholar, translator, author and clergyman, wrote, “Exercise of free choice in the direction of evil … is the basic reason for evil and suffering in the world.” When we are tempted to blame God for the bad things and evil in this world, we need to stop and remember that is was us, mankind, that introduced sin and evil into the world – not God.

Their choices had lasting consequences

Since the Fall in the Garden of Eden the world is no longer good. The Bible explains it like this:

Rom 8:20-22 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, (21) Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (22) For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

Adam and Eve’s action brought on not only their spiritual death but also a curse on all creation. Nature began to revolt, if you will, under this curse: genetic breakdown began, pain and death became a part of the human experience, as well as the plant and animal kingdoms. The good creation was now marred and no more. We now live in an unjust world that made is chaotic and unfair by a humanity rebelling against its Creator.

When we hear about children starving in third world countries what is our first thought? I’m going to make a stretch here and guess it isn’t maybe we should not be so indulgent, the ones with plenty and make a very concerted effort to help the less fortunate. Did you know that the earth produces enough food to provide every person on it with three 3000 calorie meals each day? God provides; we just don’t steward well.

When an innocent person is killed by a drunk driver do we think that blame lies with God for allowing it? What about the choice the driver made, the series of choices actually, that were wrong, evil, and culminated with the death of an innocent person? It is, again, humans using their freedom of choice to do evil, not good, that caused this bad thing to happen.

We could go on and on with illustrations and examples but I think these two give you a pretty solid idea of where the real blame or responsibility lays: sinful people making sinful choices cause evil and bad things to happen.

Okay, you say, what about earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters, what about disease, what about cancer? Surely God must bear the responsibility for these things that just happen, that no one caused by making an evil choice, right? No, He doesn’t. These things were never a part of His plan for humanity or the earth. Remember, when Adam and Eve chose to sin in the Garden they brought devastation upon the whole of creation; without their sin there would be no natural disasters, there would be no genetic breakdowns that lead to disease, there would be no cancer. Again, people making bad decisions caused bad, very bad, things to happen.

Now for a moment, think about all of the good things that happen to us. Think about all of the unexpected, and undeserved, blessings that happen in all of our lives. Perhaps the question we should be asking is not “Why do bad things happen to good people?” but “why go good things happen to bad people?”

New Day, New Year, New Challenge

If your Facebook newsfeed is anything like mine, you’ve seen more than your share of New Year’s Day posts: from resolutions to lists, thoughts and wishes, and about any thing that one associates with a “new start”. When the calendar rolls over from one year to the next it seems we all, or most of us, begin to think about how the new year can or will be better than the old. And many folks are seemingly quite happy at the thought of January 1 coming to begin with a fresh start. Well, I hate to rain on the proverbial parade but January 1 isn’t really going to change the situation that most folks are in on December 31. In truth, almost all of us are only going to be 24 hours older but not any “different” on this celebrated New Year’s Day.

You may be wondering at this point what my point of this post is, and maybe even thinking I’m being a bit of a “downer” but that’s not my intention. I don’t mean to infer that we can’t begin to work toward making our lives/situations better or make whatever changes we need, plan on, or desire to make the coming days and weeks better; we absolutely can, and should. But let’s be honest – most resolutions don’t make it through February but are merely a half hearted attempt to busy our minds through the winter cold. So, what am I thinking?


In reality every day is a gift from The Lord. Other than Christmas and Easter, every day should have the same preciousness attached to it, the same New Years-type of forward looking, enthusiastic feel to it. God’s blessings are new each day. His forgiveness is available always. And the things He can do through and with you are limitless every day. Don’t sell yourself The Lord short by thinking that New Year’s Day is the day for starting fresh; each new day is an opportunity for us to be humbly obedient and make a difference in our own lives and in those around us.

I challenge you to live out this year as if each day was New Year’s Day. I think if we all took this fresh attitude every day we could see great things happen in our lives and in God’s kingdom.

II Corinthians 12:7-9

Isn’t it good to know that Paul suffered pain and tribulations his life, as we still do today? Praise God for His Sovereign plan, even when we don’t understand it!

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (II Corinthians 12:7-9 NKJV)


Accepting God’s Plan

Accepting God’s Plan
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Job 24:1–25

David, in Psalm 139, makes the appropriate comment, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it” (v. 6). If David lived today, he would write, “This blows my mind.” The vastness of God’s inscrutability has a way of doing that to us—and so it should.

If nothing else, the study of Job reveals that we don’t fully understand God’s ways. We cannot explain the inexplicable. We cannot fathom the unfathomable. So let’s not try to unscrew the inscrutable.

If only the men who considered themselves Job’s friends had acknowledged that. It would have been so much more comforting to Job, sitting in such enormous misery, longing for an arm around his shoulder and someone honest enough to say, “We’re here, but we don’t understand why this is happening any more than you do. God knows, but we’re here to be with you through it. God is doing something deep and mysterious, but it is so beyond us we cannot understand it either.”

May I go one step further? God doesn’t have a “wonderful plan” for everybody’s life. Not here on earth, for sure. For some lives His plan is Lou Gehrig’s disease. For some lives (like Job’s) His plan is a life of pain. For others, heartbreak and brokenness, blindness or paralysis, or congenital complications. For many, His plan is to answer no to their requests for healing. But we don’t like that. Some won’t accept it. In fact, they go so far as to say, “If you believe that, you lack faith.” On the contrary, I say if you believe that, you believe the Bible!

The Bible describes the lives of people who don’t get well, who don’t quickly get over their problems, who don’t easily overcome accidents or illnesses. God’s Word pictures its heroes, warts and all. They hurt. They fall. They fail, and on occasion, by His grace, they succeed.

How well do you accept the unfolding plan of God for your life?

Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives(Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Walk by Faith, Not by Sight

Walk by Faith, Not by Sight
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Job 1:1–12

Without Job’s knowing it, a dialogue took place in the invisible world. As the Lord and Satan had their strange encounter, the subject quickly turned to this well-known earthly man. The Lord calls Satan’s attention to Job’s exemplary life, and Satan responds with a sinister sneer. “Of course, who wouldn’t serve You, the way You’ve prospered and protected him. Take away all the perks and watch what happens; the man will turn on You in a flash.” God agrees to let the Adversary unload on Job.

And so, in today’s terms, the Lord bet Satan that Job would never turn on Him. Philip Yancey refers to that agreement as the “divine wager.” Satan instigates a sudden and hostile removal of all the man’s possessions, leaving him bankrupt. Within a matter of minutes, everything he owned was gone.

This brings us to the first lesson worth remembering: we never know ahead of time the plans God has for us. Job had no prior knowledge or warning. That morning dawned like every other morning. The night had passed like any other night. There was no great angelic manifestation—not even a tap on his window or a note left on the kitchen table.

In one calamity after another, all the buildings on his land are gone, and nothing but lumber and bodies litter the landscape. It occurred so fast, Job’s mind swirled in disbelief. Everything hit broadside . . . his world instantly changed.

You and I must learn from this! We never know what a day will bring, whether good or ill. Our heavenly Father’s plan unfolds apart from our awareness. Ours is a walk of faith, not sight. Trust, not touch. Leaning long and hard, not running away. No one knows ahead of time what the Father’s plan includes. It’s best that way. It may be a treasured blessing; it could be a test that drops us to our knees. He knows ahead of time, but He is not obligated to warn us about it or to remind us it’s on the horizon. We can be certain of this: our God knows what is best.

Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Divine Touch

The following is a reply to one of last weeks devotions: the one about how it might be when Jesus returns. It came from a lady I’ve known since junior high and with her permission I share it with you:

“This message reminded me of the first time I really felt God was talking to me. About 6 or 7 years ago my dad was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm that was so large it could burst at any time. The next morning I was driving to work and it was storming really bad. I was thinking about my dad and what if he died and how we would handle it. Needless to say I was crying as I was thinking. While stopped at a red-light, a sunbeam came out of the pitch black sky and shined right on my car. I had the most awesome feeling come all over my body. I looked up and said ” OK God, I know it’s in your hands and it will all work out” My dad later had surgery in Cleveland. He had a 15% chance to make it through the surgery and less than 5% chance of walking again. My dad walked out of that hospital after recovering from surgery!!!
Who says miracles don’t happen!!!! -Cathy”

Cathy says this event still gives her goose bumps whenever she thinks of it; I can understand that. To know that the Master Creator has just touched a person or part of your life out of His divine love is an awesome thing. What a wonderful God we serve!

Mark 10:27 And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.