A question most often asked by Christians and non-Christians alike is "why do bad things happen to 'good' people?" I say 'good' in quotations because, as Paul writes in Romans 3:10, "There is no one who is righteous, not even one". In light of that this question is technically, fundamentally flawed, as it presupposes that some people are better or more worthy than others. We all do wrong one way or another, so at a base level and in comparison to a Holy God, no one is any more 'good' than another, which is Paul's argument I believe (but that's probably a whole other blog post).

But that aside, taking the question as it is, and assuming that those who just go about their daily lives not doing anything particularly 'evil' or nasty are to be considered as good people, then why should they have horrible things happen? Why should people who maybe even worship God, and live as best they can in accordance with his commands, get cancer for example? Or suddenly lose a child or spouse? Or have to constantly worry how they will pay the bills month to month?

Isn't God good?

Advertisement

Doesn't he care?

Yes. Yes he is, and yes he does.

 

Often with these kinds of questions, people will point to Job. If you don't know the story of Job, basically in a nutshell, he was a good, God-fearing man and then Satan challenges God by saying "[S]tretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face" and then lots of really bad things happened to him (like his house collapsing and killing his family etc.) - you can read about all the sudden calamities in Job 1.

Advertisement

But at the end of the first chapter describing all the bad things happening, verse 22 simply says, "In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing."

Though there is debate about whether Job is a historical account, or simply an allegorical story to try and give an answer to a similar question, I think the principle of the story is that despite the circumstances of life, we should still praise God and keep ourselves righteous in his sight no matter what - to persevere in faith even when those around us doubt - like Job's wife and friends did:

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Tower of Siloam
The Tower of Siloam (James Tissot)

But whether it is allegory, parable or historical, the righteousness of Job is one that is noted by God when speaking to Ezekiel, and James writes about Job's endurance as an example of being blessed by the Lord (Ezekiel 14:13-14; James 5:11).

Advertisement

 

Even the disciples had a similar question in John 9:1-3 when they came across a man who had been born blind, and asked Jesus whose fault it was - the man's or his parents? I find this particularly interesting as the man was born blind, yet they wonder if it was his fault - how could that be? It definitely highlights some interesting theology of the day if there was a general assumption that sin was always someone's fault - like a punishment, even if you were born like that! Jesus simply responds that it was no ones fault, but it was so that "God’s works might be revealed in him" (v.3). This man's blindness was not a divine punishment, but rather just something that happens and something which can be turned around for the glory of God - a sentiment that is echoed in Paul's writing to the church in Rome: "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God..." (Rom 8:28). Whatever is happening or has happened, if you love God, then he is actively working to turn all things for good.

Later in the Gospels we find that there were others who had a similar question for Jesus too in Luke 13:1-5, as they also wonder how can God let such bad things happen to righteous and good people (and possibly to try and trap Jesus with a tricky question):

At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

Advertisement

The people here are referencing an incident where some Galileans were offering sacrifices to God and while worshipping, they were killed by Pilate (whether directly or indirectly by his soldiers, we don't know), mingling their blood with their sacrifices. You can imagine the outcry here - 'how can such a bad thing happen even to those who were worshipping God!?' Not missing a beat, Jesus has a quick answer for them: do you think they were worse than others? Do you think they sinned more than most? Was this God's punishment on them?

The answer is simple: No. 

But Jesus doesn't stop there - in his usual fashion, he turns the question on its head and onto the people asking, and still points out that, yes, they were sinners not unlike any other person, but that wasn't why they died. Bad things happen, but if we waste our time and don't repent and get right with God, then we will all perish as they did - not just physically, as we all will die regardless, but perish in God's ultimate judgement when we stand before him. The point is reiterated by Jesus when he references a local disaster where a tower in Jerusalem collapsed and killed 18 people. No, accidents happen and sometimes they have fatal consequences, but it's not God who caused it or is to blame. These things are no doubt hard and terrible for those involved, but Jesus' ultimate concern and point was that regardless of those accidents and situations, you must make yourself right before God and accept his salvation so you don't just perish in this life, but so you don't also perish in the next (cf. John 3:16; Rom 2:12; 1 Cor 1:18; 1 Pet 3:9).

Whether Job's story actually happened in a historical sense or not doesn't matter. The principle behind it that God allows or sends Satan to mess with people may or may not be true in a general sense (in that every bad situation was allowed by God to personally test you) - it could be the way God operates sometimes, since Jesus seems to be saying in the Luke passage that basically, bad things happen and it's not divine punishment or that you were a "worse" sinner than others. And since Jesus is the 'visible image of the invisible God' (Col 1:15), the general hermeneutical principle* is to interpret the Old Testament through the 'lens' of Jesus and what he represents, says and does, we must conclude that Job's experience or story principle isn't the norm in light of Jesus' response in Luke 13.

Advertisement

It may not always seem like God cares or is with you, but often when you are in a tough situation it's hard to see beyond it as it can become all-consuming and blinds us to his involvement. This is when we really need to put our trust in God to lead us and comfort us, as we often forget, God is outside of the situation and can see much farther ahead than we can. He can see where we're going and knows where he's taking us - even if we can't see it at the time, God will lead us faithfully on. Like a small child who can't see much higher than their parents knees, they just take their mum or dad's hand and trust that they will lead them in the right direction and not take them somewhere bad. Sure, where they walk may seem scary or worrying, but the parent can see more and will keep the child safe. God is our Father too, we are his children - so in the scary and hard times, we need to just take his hand and trust his leading. Once you've been through something, you are then more prepared for the next time and it won't seem quite as bad because you'll know that God has your back and is looking out for you (cf. Psalm 23:4).

I'll leave you with this verse from James 1:2-4, as I think it sums up these situations perfectly. Times may be tough, but it strengthens us in the process.

My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.

 

Advertisement

 

*Christological hermeneutics

Subscribe to Updates
Subscribe to:
Like   Back to Top   Seen 154 times   Liked 0 times

Subscribe to Updates

If you enjoyed this, why not subscribe to free email updates ?

Subscribe today and get a 10% discount code for the online shop!

Subscribe to Blog updates

Enter your email address to be notified of new posts:

Subscribe to:

Alternatively, you can subscribe via RSS

‹ Return to Blog

We never share or sell your email address to anyone.

I've already subscribed / don't show me this again

Recent Posts

My Upcoming Book

| 09th August 2017 | My Books

It's been a little quiet from me over here, but not for lack of things to write! I have been busy putting together a book based on the Lenten series I recently did this Easter just gone. It has been reformatted for paperback and soon to follow, eBook/Kindle too, as a daily reading plan not just to be read during Lent but can be read as your own personal reading plan over a forty day period of your choosing. The book will also be released with a companion book which will contain all of the full, original texts from the relevant Church Fathers that are included within the forty day plan. You can read more about it, and follow any updates here on this promo page: 40-days-with-the-fathers.html  ...

The Resurrection as a historical event

| 29th April 2017 | Easter

Table of Contents Jesus was raised bodily – and historically The resurrection is what makes Christianity unique! Evidence from Paul The mystery of the resurrection The nature of the resurrection The resurrection is more than physical What with Easter still ringing in our ears, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the topic of resurrection, but from a historical standpoint and why we can trust it as a real, world-changing event. So, what really is the resurrection? How will we be resurrected, and what does it mean for us that Jesus rose again? Let’s explore what this means for us as Christians, and see what the Scriptures say. Jesus was raised bodily – and historically Let’s look at the way Jesus was resurrected first, since he is the “firstfruits” of the resurrection (1 Cor 15:20-23). The historical, bodily resurrection of Christ is central to our faith. Without it, we may as well pack up and go home, which Paul makes clear to the Corinthian church: 1 Corinthians 15:12-15 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. I saw a survey recently about this very topic, which suggested that a worrying amount of self-identifying Christians in Britain don’t believe that the resurrection of Jesus happened at all! Fewer than one-in-three Christians in Britain believe “word-for-word” the Biblical story of Jesus rising from the dead … A survey for the BBC carried out to mark Palm Sunday found that 23 per cent of those calling themselves Christians “do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead” at all. [Source: telegraph.co.uk] The resurrection is what makes Christianity unique! Despite the misinformation that circulates on the internet, Jesus isn’t just a carbon-copy of previous “dying and rising gods” from Egypt and Greece – mainly because none pre-date Christianity! The consensus among modern scholars — nearly universal — is that there were no dying and rising gods that preceded Christianity. They all post-dated the first century. [Source: y-jesus.com] It’s this uniqueness and reality which impacts our lives and changes us from within, because the “Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells” in us (Rom 8:11)! Think about that for a moment. The power that raised Christ from the dead – that incredible force of God; the very life giving Spirit of the universe, dwells in US! Christians might do all those [good works], but that is not the core of their faith. It is the result of their faith. They do those things as the musician plays music or the athlete plays his sport. They do those things because they are talented and it gives them joy. So the Christian does these good things because he has been filled with the Spirit of the risen Jesus Christ and he does those things with joy because he wants to. [Source: patheos.com] Recently, the Shroud of Turin has been in the news again, as it has been recently authenticated again, which shows that it may not be a medieval forgery or piece of art! If you’ve not heard of this “Shroud of Turin”, it’s an ancient burial cloth which bears the image of a man who has been crucified, obviously meaning to be of Jesus. It attracts attention because of its unique nature and that it appears to be a negative image somehow imprinted on the cloth in an inexplicable way: Giulio Fanti of Padua University ... In 2012 … concluded that an electrical charge in the form of radiation is what likely caused the man’s image to be imprinted on the Shroud. He has also dated the Shroud to th...

Lent Day 40: Leo the Great: Sermon LXXII: ON THE LORD'S RESURRECTION, II

| 15th April 2017 | Lent

Day Forty: St. Leo the Great: Sermon LXXII: ON THE LORD'S RESURRECTION, II Who: Leo the Great, also known as Pope St. Leo I (the Great), was Pope from 440-61 AD. Place and date of birth unknown; died 10 November, 461. Leo's pontificate, next to that of St. Gregory I, is the most significant and important in Christian antiquity, as he tried to  combat the heresies which seriously threatened church unity even in the West, such as Pelagianism. What: A sermon on the Gospel, incarnation and resurrection of our Lord. Why: To encourage the Church in the power of the incarnation and the true faith and the nature of Christ and to give a new meaning to Passover in light of Jesus When: Between 440 and 461 AD You can find today’s reading on page 195 here: lentfatherscomplete.pdf   Here we are, at the final day of Lent. I hope you've found it an interesting journey through Church History, covering various authors and topics from the first four centuries of the Church. And what better way to end this series than with a sermon on the resurrection! “The whole of the Easter mystery, dearly-beloved, has been brought before us in the Gospel narrative”, Leo declares as the opening statement of this sermon. What is this Easter mystery? “The cross of Christ, which was set up for the salvation of mortals” which is both a “mystery and an example” for us to follow. It's “a sacrament where by the Divine power takes effect” and “an example whereby man's devotion is excited” to be “inseparably united to” Christ, who is “the Way that is of holy living, the Truth of Divine doctrine, and the Life of eternal happiness (Jn 14:6). Christ took our nature upon Him for our salvation In the beginning, when the “whole body of mankind had fallen”, our merciful God had purposed in himself to make a way to reconcile “His creatures made after His image [...] through His only-begotten Jesus Christ”. Leo goes on to say that if we had not fallen from how God made us, we'd have been happy; but now we can be happier if we remain in what he has remade us to be through his Spirit. Jesus was “excluded [from] all taint of the sin which has passed upon all men”, that taint being “weakness and mortality, which were not sin, but the penalty of sin”. The “Redeemer of the World” suffered these things for our sake, “that they might be reckoned as the price of redemption”. In us is the “heritage of condemnation”, but in Christ is the “mystery of godliness” (1 Tim 3:16) Through the enemy, Jesus had “His spotless flesh” tortured. Because of this, because Jesus willingly went to die for us, now “believers in Him might find neither persecution intolerable, nor death terrible, by the remembrance that there was no more doubt about their sharing His glory than there was about His sharing their nature”. Set your minds on things that are above Following on with the previous thought, Leo goes on to explain that, “in Christ we are crucified, we are dead, we are buried; on the very third day, too, we are raised”; which is why Paul writes to the Colossians, Colossians 3:1-4So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. We achieve this raising by the power of Christ with us, who lifts us up, because he is with us, as he promised: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20). This in itself fulfills the promise that his own name means, prophesied by Isaiah when he said, they “ ... shall name him Immanuel” (Isa 7:14), which means “God with us”. But even in Christ's ascending, he has not forsaken us, because even though he sits at “the right hand of God” (Acts 2:32-33), he...

Lent Day 39: Leo the Great: Sermon XLIX (On Lent XI)

| 14th April 2017 | Lent

Day Thirty-nine: St. Leo the Great: Sermon XLIX (On Lent XI) Who: Leo the Great, also known as Pope St. Leo I (the Great), was Pope from 440-61 AD. Place and date of birth unknown; died 10 November, 461. Leo's pontificate, next to that of St. Gregory I, is the most significant and important in Christian antiquity, as he tried to  combat the heresies which seriously threatened church unity even in the West, such as Pelagianism. What: A sermon on the season of Lent as the Easter festival approached. Why: To encourage the Church to fast during this season in order than they may put away temptations and overcome their vices, to be guided by God in all things. When: Between 440 and 461 AD You can find today’s reading on page 191 here: lentfatherscomplete.pdf   Today's reading is a Lenten sermon from Pope Leo I that he preached in the run up to the Easter festival, in which “the greatest and most binding of fasts is kept, and its observance is imposed on all the faithful without exception; because no one is so holy that he ought not to be holier, nor so devout that he might not be devouter.” Lent is a time of self-reflection and discipline, a time where we look at the life of Jesus and mourn his death as the disciples did, before we realise the reality of the resurrection which comes in a few short days. “Who is there who would not wish for additions to his virtue, or removal of his vice?” Leo asks rhetorically, referring to the benefits of the Lenten fast and discipline. “Blessed, therefore, is the mind that passes the time of its pilgrimage in chaste sobriety, and loiters not in the things through which it has to walk”. Leo refers this back to what Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 as a way of living in such a way that we don't get too caught up in this life and this world that we forget about the divine promise and the life we are called to live. Matthew 7:14For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it. “...although that which [the flesh] desires is short-lived and uncertain, yet men endure toil more willingly for the lust of pleasure than for love of virtue”, which leads to the why the wide road is filled with unnumbered people who chase after the visible. But the narrow path, for those who prefer the eternal, unseen things, is few and far between, but by hope we will be saved (2 Cor 4:18; Rom 8:24). Satan robbed of all his tyrannic power It is during this season, Leo goes on to say, that Satan is “consumed with the strongest jealousy and now tortured with the greatest vexation” due to the great number of people fasting to renew their faith and discipline in following Christ. Even those who had slipped into worldly cares, become lukewarm or were just weak in faith, “furnished [themselves] with spiritual armour” and renewed their enthusiasm! Through Jesus's victory on the cross, many people turned to faith, and so Satan was “driven from the hearts of those he once possessed” and was stripped of his power over such people. But as James wrote, “all of us make many mistakes” (James 3:2), so we must all be willing to forgive one another, in order that we don't violate the holy command in the Lord's prayer which we bind ourselves to, where it says, “forgive those who sin against us” (Luke 11:4); if during this time, Satan brings temptations or divisions amongst the Church. Our duties during Lent Leo goes on to say that we must strive to be peacemakers because they will be blessed and “called children of God” (Matt 5:9), so especially now, any discord or enmity between other believers should be rectified and reconciled; otherwise, “let no one think to have a share in the Paschal feast that has neglected to restore brotherly peace”! Aside from forgiveness and reconciliation amongst ourselves, Leo also says that our fast-times should be “fat and abound” with regards to almsgiving and care of the poor. “Let...