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 for another day).

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?

Advertisement

Isn't God good?

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, "stretch 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.”

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?

Advertisement

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 (called Christological hermeneutics) 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.

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).

Advertisement

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.

 

Contribute on Patreon

Enjoying this? Consider contributing regular gifts for this content on Patreon.
* Patreon is a way to join your favorite creator's community and pay them for making the stuff you love. You can simply pay a few pounds per month or per post that a creator makes, and in return receive some perks!

Subscribe to Updates
Order my new book today from Amazon or fortydays.co.uk

Subscribe to:

Have something to say? Leave a comment below.

Leave a comment   Like   Back to Top   Seen 177 times   Liked 0 times

Subscribe to Updates

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

Order my new book today from Amazon or fortydays.co.uk

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

40 Days with the Fathers: Companion Texts OUT NOW!

| 08th May 2019 | Early Church

40 Days with the Fathers: Companion Texts is now available to buy as Paperback or Kindle! I am happy to say that the new book is now available in paperback and Kindle format on Amazon! Other eBook formats will be available soon as it rolls out. This book is the companion to my other book (40 Days with the Fathers: A Daily Reading Plan), and includes twenty-three Early Church texts in full—including all additional footnotes from the original editors and translators so that you can get as close as possible to reading these ancient texts without needing to know ancient Greek or Latin. It's structured in such a way to read a chapter a day over a 40 day period which will help digest these long texts, and also serve as an easy introduction to what is often the more scholarly/academic side of things. Order your copy today to get the Paperback at the special low price of £19.99 (RRP: £21.99)! In the UK? Go to Amazon.co.uk In America or worldwide? Go to Amazon.com Thank you for your interest and support of my work! Luke J. Wilson...

40 Days with the Fathers: Source Texts Companion Book

| 02nd March 2019 | My Books

Available soon will be a companion book that will include all of the source texts in full, which I had hoped to get out in time for Lent, but it’s unlikely to be ready in time this year. So if you have my book and would like to read along each day with the Church Fathers as well, I’ve compiled a list of online sources where you can read the original texts. If you don’t have the book and would like it, you can order it now from Amazon and still get it in time for Lent by clicking the following link: Amazon.com; or if you would like to pledge some support towards my book writing in return for some nice perks, you can do so on my Patreon page: https://patreon.com/LukeJWilson. If you would like to be notified of the release of the new Companion Book, you can sign up to the mailing list at the top of the homepage at https://fortydays.co.uk.  Day One: The Didache http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0714.htm Day Two & Three: Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0101.htm Day Four: Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0136.htm Day Five: Ignatius, Epistle to the Ephesians http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0104.htm Day Six: Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0105.htm Day Seven: Ignatius, Epistle to the Trallians http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0106.htm Day Eight: Ignatius, Epistle to the Romans http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0107.htm Day Nine: Ignatius, Epistle to the Philadelphians http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0108.htm Day Ten: Ignatius, Epistle to the Smyrnæans http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0109.htm Day Eleven: Epistle to Polycarp http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0110.htm Day Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, Seventeen: Justin Martyr, First Apology http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0126.htm Day Eighteen, Nineteen, Twenty: Cyprian, On the Unity of the Church http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/050701.htm Day Twenty-one to Twenty-nine: Athanasius, Life of Anthony http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2811.htm Day Thirty: Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures XIX http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310119.htm Day Thirty-one: Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures XX http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310120.htm Day Thirty-two: Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures XXI http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310121.htm Day Thirty-three: Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures XXII http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310122.htm Day Thirty-four: Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures XXIII http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310123.htm Day Thirty-five, Thirty-six: Ambrose of Milan, Concerning the Mysteries http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3405.htm Day Thirty-seven: Leo the Great, Letter XXVIII (the Tome) http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3604028.htm Day Thirty-eight: Leo the Great, Sermon XXI http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/360321.htm Day Thirty-nine: Leo the Great, Sermon XLIX http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/360349.htm Day Forty: Leo the Great, Sermon LXXII http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/360372.htm ...

The Reformation: A Sound-Bite History (Book Review)

| 14th February 2019 | Book Review

This short little book on the Reformation and some of the leading men who helped to kick-start it and continue to fan its flames has been very enjoyable to read. It really is a “sound bite history” as the chapters are short and snappy, and really only cover the absolute basics of each of the Reformers lives. The book has seven chapters, with six of them dedicated to an individual who had a pivotal role in the beginnings of the Reformation: Martin Luther, John Wycliffe, John Huss, John Calvin, Hugh Latimer and George Whitefield. The Reformation:A Sound-bite History I found it to be very educational and easy to read and digest; gleaning just enough information to be easily remembered without it feeling like a heavy and dull historical study. Though, it being written by someone who is a Baptist, if you're well read enough in church history you will likely notice some of the Baptist bias towards certain doctrines that are mentioned as being held by some of the Reformers which grate against typical Baptist views. For example, the frequent implication that anyone who still held to some form of “real presence” in the Eucharist hadn't come to the 'pure Gospel truth' yet (despite this being consistent with historical Christianity prior to the Roman Catholic Church’s specific doctrine of transubstantiation). "Widespread ignorance of church history of one reason why the church often falls into errors which it has fallen into before." But aside from those minor issues, the book did well to not feel like it was pushing a certain viewpoint on you and was just trying to give a decent overview of the historical settings and people involved. Well worth a read, whether you are a Protestant OR a Roman Catholic! I gave this book four stars.  Buy the book here....

Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up (Book Review)

| 30th January 2019 | Book Review

Straight off, this book will challenge you in your thinking and quite possibly in your practice and outworking of life as a Christian—especially if you are from an evangelical/Baptist/non-denominational background. Will the Real HereticsPlease Stand Up The book starts of taking you carefully through some of the practices and beliefs of the early church and those who knew the Apostles personally. It all feels very hopeful and like you're being led onward in a journey towards a certain goal, much of which I'm sure you'll find agreeable in what Bercot points out as discrepancies between early Christianity and today. Then we get to a few points about the Reformation. Some of the critique I think was a little harsh and not necessarily accurate, painting a fairly negative picture of Martin Luther. Some of the points raised were a fair statement against some of the doctrine and theology that came out of the Reformation period (such as Luther being heavily influenced by Augustine's theology more than earlier church fathers). After the high of the first few chapters, these chapters came as a bit of a punch in the gut. I would also recommend looking up all of Bercot's claims as there does sometimes seem like there is a strong bias of opinion coming through certain chapters, which takes away from the feel of the book trying to give an objective look at the topic at hand. But that aside, Bercot leads you back on this journey, aiming to uplift you once again with hope as he takes you towards a positive look at the Anabaptists. I knew before reading the book that Bercot is an Anabaptist himself, so I was wary that this book might just end up being advertisement for that denominational group as the new modern answer for getting back to early Christian practices. Whilst there are positive points made for the early Anabaptist movement being as close as possible to the early second century church, Bercot isn't shy to criticise the group in its modern form as having lost their zeal and passion for the Gospel. After trying to re-inspire you with the hope that it is somewhat possible to restore early Christianity, as the Anabaptists did, before the Church “married itself to the world” as Bercot claims (and I agree with), he finishes off by asking the reader the question of “what now?” and whether we restore the Church to its former glory. Bercot seems to believe so if only the Church would return to simplicity of holiness and pick up its cross and revolutionary banners again “from where the early martyrs left them”. This book is definitely a call to arms in the holiest sense; a call for us all to re-examine ourselves and our churches to see if what were living, believing and practicing is still in line with the New Testament church which the early Christmas bore witness to. Well worth the read for anyone who takes their faith seriously. Buy the book here. Bonus: Francis Chan's "Letters to the Church" Letters to the Church I've also just finished reading this book by Francis Chan before starting Real Heretics. Although it's not dealing with the Early Church aspect of looking at the primitive Church, it still looks at similar questions of how can we get back to a simpler, more pure faith that the Apostles and Jesus began. It's definitely a challenging book and had struck me right where I needed it to. It's helped verbalise some of the questions and issues I've had for the last few years myself any the current form and format of "church". Though Chan is primarily speaking to an American Evangelical audience, much of his points and criticisms still speak well to my British/UK Evangelical experience. If you've felt disgruntled or at odds with how we "do" church in some places, this book may well inspire you to see things differently and to maybe even enact some changes yourself in your local community — even more so if you are a local church leader in some capacity. Well worth the read, and works well to read befo...