Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

(1 of 9 in a series on “Why do bad things happen to good people?”)

Another topic addressed in the book of Hebrews is the philosophical conundrum, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  The Hebrew believers were facing severe persecution for their faith.  It would be natural for them to wonder why this is happening; why adversity seemed to be the reward for following Christ.  Maybe it would be better to shrink back from such a dangerous faith to the comforts of the Judaism they had known in the past.

By God’s goodness, grace, and revelation we have answers in Scripture to the big issues of life including this one.  But first, let’s start with what the answer is not.  There is a certain brand of theology that, rather than answering the question outright, takes us a step farther back by suggesting that there are no “good” people.  In essence, they are dodging the question by lumping all of us together as “bad” folks.  The implication is that since all of us, believer and unbeliever alike, are poor wretched sinners, we are essentially getting what we deserve.  Whether on purpose or unintended, they are really setting the question aside as irrelevant when inquiring minds want to know, “Does God have answers for this exact question:  Why do bad things happen to good people?”

So let’s start by recognizing that this is a legitimate question to ask and to support that idea let’s challenge the notion that there are no “good” people. For those outside of Christ, their capacity for good is a result of their creation in God’s image and as such they have an ability to so some good things.  For example, when unbelievers work at being unselfish in their marriage or contribute money to a worthy charity, they are in fact doing good.  But we often get so caught up in our “depravity” theology that we insist they have some ulterior motive or some sinister plot behind the scenes.  While something unseemly is always a possibility, we should not, out of hand, dismiss someone’s good works as less than altruistic.

Now for the believer the argument that we are “good” people is even stronger since we not only have a capacity for good, but actually possess a propensity for doing good.  It is our default mode by virtue of the provisions of the new covenant.  We have a new disposition toward righteousness.  So in the spirit of our original question, we are “good” people – we have the mind of Christ (I Cor 2:16), the Spirit of Christ (Rom 8:9), and the righteousness of Christ (II Cor 5:21) – and it is perfectly appropriate to ask, “Why do bad things happen to us?”

The Hebrew believers, and all who fall under the provisions of the new covenant, are “good” people, and thus we are back to our question of how bad things fit into the plan of a God-honoring life.  We will look at the answers from the Bible next time.