Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” – 1 Peter 4:12-13

I often hear the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people.”  The question comes from doubts of God’s justice and mercy, and even His sovereign authority.  There are two common misconceptions to this question that we need to explore. 
The first misconception that the person is good and that we can judge that.  Romans 3:12 says “There is none who does good, no, not one.”  What makes us think that any man is so good that he does not deserve full justice?  Just because a person lives above the normal level of sin does not mean that they are good.  Our judgment of good and evil are tainted by our hearts, which are continually evil (Genesis 6:5).  God looks upon the heart of man (1 Samuel 16:7), and judges based according to what He sees.  We cannot judge whether a man is good or bad because we do not see the heart.  Only God can rightfully judge a man.

The second misconception is that everything that hurts or harms a person in this life is a “bad” thing.  Yet, when we discipline our children we don’t see what we’re doing as a “bad” thing, but we understand it to be what is needed to prune the child into the adult we want them to grow to be.  Can we not see the same in God’s choices?  Proverbs 3:12 says “For whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.”  The most loving thing God can do for us is to correct us.
Given that we are not good, when we receive evil in return for evil, God is only exercising justice.  Justice is by definition getting what we deserve.  But - we don’t always get what we deserve!  God is also merciful.  Sometimes we receive mercy, which is getting a reprieve from what we deserve.  In fact, I believe we receive mercy so often that we fail to see it.  Each and every one of us, day in and day out, commit the same sins, knowingly and without shame, and yet we live.  That’s mercy from a Holy and Sovereign God!

Those misconceptions aside, we have to understand that not all evil that enters our lives is because of our sins, and some people good - and a rare jewel when we find them.  To these God also allows evil, but it is for their good. 
Consider Job.  God said that “there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil” – and he said it to the devil himself, willingly turning Job over to Satan.  According to God, Job had not deserved any of what was about to befall him, and yet within a matter of minutes, he lost all his livestock, all his servants, and finally, all his children – seven sons and three daughters.  God’s purpose was to test Job, and Job withstood the test in such a great way!  Job 1:21-22 records Job as saying “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.” and says that in all of his pain, he did not charge God with any wrong.     

Sometimes those who are the best of men are tested and tried by God, and the tool for the test is evil itself.  The end result for Job was that God “blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning” and gave him an even greater amount of wealth and gave him back seven sons and three daughters.  He lived to see his children and four generations of grandchildren, and it was said that there were none found in the land as beautiful as his daughters.  He died at the ripe old age of 140, enjoying it all for longer than he had the other. 
God’s blessings will always make the test worthwhile.  His plans for us are good and “not of evil” (Jeremiah 29:11) because God wants us to have one thing more than any other – an intimate relationship with Him.  He seeks to cause us to lean in to Him in the midst of our pain and suffering in this world.  When we are weak – He is strong (2 Corinthians 13:9).  If we never experienced pain and suffering, we would never seek out God.  We would not know what to be thankful for because blessings and the good things of life would be all we know.  But God wants a loving relationship with us.  He wants to be our Father, the One that provides for us.

Even with His own son, Jesus Christ, He allowed evil and suffering.  He allowed Him to be misunderstood, hated, rejected, wrongfully accused, assaulted, hunted, and murdered.  Peter realized this and gave us advice for those times when we receive evil in this world.  He said for us to not thing it is so strange, and to understand it is a trail.  He said for us to rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” (1 Peter 4:13).  That glory lies within us, through His Holy Spirit.  It is revealed when we withstanding the test, and the beauty of His Spirit, His divine nature, shines through. 
Instead of questioning God’s will and why bad things happen to good people, we should pray that God gives them the courage and strength to withstand it, so we can see His glory revealed in their lives.

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