Who has never wondered why is it that such bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to such bad people?
First, we need to rethink our definitions of “good” and “bad.” According to the Bible, there are no truly “good” people. Remember that “good” does not refer to the nice guy who walks his dog daily, helps old ladies across the street, and serves at the local homeless shelter. When we are talking about “good” in this context, we are referring to righteousness. To be righteous means that you are blameless before God. Strictly speaking, instead of saying, “that person is good,” it actually would be more accurate to say, “that person is less bad.”
The Bible is incredibly clear in that there is no one who is righteous before God because we are all tainted by sin from birth. We are completely unable to rid ourselves of that sin without accepting Christ as our Savior. Sin is what He is saving us from:
“There is none righteous not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside together they have become useless; There is none who does good, there is not even one. Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
You can also look up Ecclesiastes 7:20, Romans 3:23, and 1 John 1:8 to see more passages that clearly express how there is no one who is naturally righteous or good. That includes you and me.
All of this boils down to one terrifying truth: we deserve Hell. That is the harsh truth of life. There is no sin, no fib, and no bad attitude so small that does not sentence you to that fate. God is a righteous, holy God who cannot tolerate even what we feel is the smallest sin. And this is why the gospel is called the Good News. Christ was the only One who could pay the price for our sin. And He did. And then freely offers us our salvation from what we deserve. All we have to do is receive Him as our Lord and Savior (John 3:16, Romans 6:23, Romans 10:9, Romans 5:8) and follow Him.
Now, let’s go back to the original question and tweak it slightly: “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” In the same way that “good” isn’t the same to us as it is to God, what seems “bad” to us is not necessarily what is “bad” to God. His perspective is so much bigger than ours, and He knows a lot more about the big picture than we do.
We cannot know everything that is inside the mind of God, but what we do know is that God is good (in the definition established above) though our minds cannot fully grasp Him. We live in a fallen world, all of which is touched by sin. But we can rest assured that nothing is outside of God’s control. And He knows the whole story from beginning to end and what will happen after the smoke has cleared. We do not know how the Lord will use certain events to shape the future.
Follow the instructions in Proverbs 3:5-6, which says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
Being angry (and staying angry) with God will get us nowhere fast. So we must trust in the Lord, know He is in control, and know that no matter how bleak things may seem, nothing can change His goodness, or tear His children away from His gift of salvation and eternal life.
We live in a fallen world ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. The word fallen is used in the Bible to describe someone or something spiritually and morally degraded. Israel is described as “fallen” (Amos 5:2), as are angels (Isaiah 14:12; Revelation 12:4) and the glory of mankind (1 Peter 1:24). Each of these has fallen away from the heights of God’s good will for them, fallen into sin, and therefore fallen under the just wrath of God. Those in a fallen state suffer the degrading and deadly spiritual, moral, and social consequences of sinfulness.
Several Bible passages speak of this kind of downfall: 1 Corinthians 10:12 warns Christ’s followers, “Be careful that you do not fall.” Falling into sin is the opposite of growing up in righteousness. In Revelation 2:5, Jesus speaks to the church of Ephesus, which had left its first love: “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.”
The whole world of mankind has fallen:
- from friendship with God into proud estrangement from Him and enmity with Him; this leaves us diseased and dying in every part of our personalities and bodies (Genesis 2:16; 3:2–9; Exodus 15:26; Deuteronomy 30:15–20)
- from our full reflection of His likeness into shattered, distorted images, suffering the results of our brokenness (Genesis 6:5; Matthew 15:19; Romans 1:14-2:16; Romans 3:9–20)
- from joyful obedience to God’s rules so as to fulfill His superlative design for our lives into lawless rebellion and constant frustration and warfare at every level of society (Genesis 3:14–16; James 4:1–10)
- from the beauty, tranquility, and vitality of godly family life into a cesspool of sexual-identity confusion, domestic strife, and aimlessness (Genesis 3:16; Romans 1:14-2:16; Galatians 5:19–21)
- from dominion as trustees of God’s world into a selfish exploitation of the land and the resulting ecological disaster (Genesis 3:17–19; Ecclesiastes 5:8–17; Haggai 1:6)
- from knowledge of God’s enlightening truth into the darkness of ignorance and the confusion of depraved minds (Genesis 2:17; Proverbs 1-31; Judges 1-21; Romans 1:28)
To live in a fallen world means we struggle with sin on a daily basis. We experience heartache and pain. We witness natural disasters and staggering loss. Injustice, inhumanity, and falsehood seem to hold sway. Discord and trouble are commonplace. None of this was God’s original plan for humanity. We fell from our original position in the Garden of Eden. We now live in a fallen world, and all creation “groans” under the consequences of our sin (Romans 8:22).
The good news is that God does not intend His world to forever groan. Through Jesus Christ, God is repairing His creation:
- restoring friendship with Himself in Jesus Christ, giving us eternal life (John 10:10; 15:15; Romans 3:21–31; 5:1–11; 6:1–14; 8:1–4; 8:22–23; 1 Corinthians 15:26; Ephesians 1:3-2:22; Colossians 1:15-22)
- restoring the reflection of God’s likeness in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28–32; 1 Corinthians 6:11)
- restoring His rules for a fulfilling life in Jesus Christ, resulting in true peace and prosperity (Matthew 5-7; Ephesians 5:15–21; James 2:8)
- restoring His design for the family through Jesus Christ (Luke 1:17; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 5:21-6:4; Colossians 3:18–21)
- restoring man’s proper dominion in caring for God’s world (Romans 8:18–21)
Jesus Christ has promised to return, and when He comes back, He will finish setting everything right forever (Isaiah 2:2–4; 25:6–9; 65:17–25; Revelation 20-22). Don’t miss God’s final invitation to all fallen people: “Come!” (Revelation 22:17). All who come to God by faith in Jesus Christ will be restored.
As a pastor once said: “Why do bad things happen to good people? That only happened once, and He volunteered.” The only good person to have ever lived was Christ. None of us are “good”, yet God so loves us, His creation, that He allowed Christ to die for us so we can be saved if we choose to be.
Also, please read Psalm 73 and see the futility of being successful and having all these “good” things happen to us without faith. See how the author expresses his doubts and discontentment only to come figure out that success in this life means absolutely nothing without God. Be like him who can proudly say to God: “I desire nothing on earth but You.”