Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? And Vice Versa

The cliche question I was doomed to ask during this blog series. People often use this question to disprove a loving God. How could a God who loves us allow such terrible things to happen to such good people? It’s a toughy. Good people don’t deserve to lose a child or get cancer or have their identity stolen or be raped. And bad people–the ones who you know are just out for themselves, who are selfish, or rude to you or never do what they say they’re going to do or cause genocide–don’t deserve to make all the money they do or have perfect children or get the last diet coke from the machine.

So why do bad things happen to good people and good to bad? The answer I found sufficient was: It’s a part of God’s plan and good will somehow come of it. That was sufficient for about a second, until I didn’t see good come from something tragic that happened to someone. Instead, the bad thing that happened to the good person wrecked the family or destroyed the business or caused a domino effect of other terrible things. Meanwhile, bad people continued to thrive and make ‘A’s and buy fancy cars without being brought to their knees like the good people.

That answer no longer being sufficient, I’ve decided this: we have absolutely no clue what the definitions of “good” and “bad” are. Therefore, have no right to throw those words around like we own them or even partially understand them. When God created the earth He methodically declared the individual creations good. And here we are running around that earth declaring our own things and occurrences good or bad. We have taken God’s word and warped it to meet our points of view that are so incredibly limited we could not, even if we dedicated our lives to it, begin to expand them to the width necessary to know what’s actually going on here.

So the question dead ends. And the words used in the question are meaningless. We made up this question in attempt to convince ourselves we are capable of quantifying our lives and determining their meaning. We made it up in attempt to be our own gods, and I think it’s time to stop asking it.

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29 thoughts on “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? And Vice Versa

  1. Strangely it happens sometimes 😦 While we don’t know the answer at all times, it’s better to trust in God still…

    Eccl 7:14,15 – When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future. In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these: the righteous perishing in their righteousness, and the wicked living long in their wickedness.

    Eccl 8:14 There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless.

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  2. Good post. I do think that even though we can’t see any good whatsoever in this lifetime, it doesn’t mean that God isn’t using it. He uses everything for his own glory and good.

    Also, no one is good, all of us are undeserving and if we could be paid according to our lives or actions then we would have to say that we believe in Karma.

    Ultimately we live in a fallen world and as the previous commenter has said, it will all appear meaningless while we are on this earth. God has chosen not to share with us everything thats going on in his head and thats where we just have to trust. Thats the tough bit I think.

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    1. Yeah, since this world is imperfect unlike heaven, even the righteous face trials and tribulations.
      @author – IMO, its not wrong to admit that things are bad when going through a bad situation. We do know the difference between good and bad. But our reaction to the bad situation matters.

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  3. i don’t know you, but you really are on the same track as i am with staring down the tough questions so i appreciate you taking the time to actually write about them & share them with random people like me. i commented last week on your post & just went back and read through the other comments. one of them struck me, because our truth is really just that. our own personal truth combined with elements of our upbringing, life experience, age, world view, etc. some people just speak their truth, and others expect people to believe it – especially if they can tie it back to the bible.. it’s scary to me how i can distort the basic fundamentals of who God is, or somehow draw lines around questions like this so it fits within something I can grasp. That’s basically making up my own religion and probably why the bottom fell out of it a couple of years ago.. I lost one of my close friends in a horrific fire.. She had actually had a heart condition that meant if she was ever in extreme heat/cold or under major stress it could suddenly stop..Long story short, in my view of things – grasping for something I could see as merciful in the situation, I thought what was awful and a struggle for her for years ended up being a blessing because it would have protected her from suffering. It turns out that wasn’t the case, her heart condition didn’t do her any favors, and the way she died, and really the entire thing just had no sign of God anywhere in it (or at least from what I could see.).. it shook my foundation, and my faith BIG time.. i began questioning everything because what i perceived to be a promise ( like the verse in Isaiah that talks about when you pass through the flames, they will not scorch you) really didn’t happen in “real life”. Questioning that one thing, turned into questioning a lot of other things, and all of this is to say – I really love your conclusion.. I have had to choose to trust and believe that God is good, and faithful and sovereign and those qualities are consistent whether i can see them with my little human eyes or not.. i will never fully understand His ways, and even that makes sense – because who can really understand their maker/creator? He gave me the ability to reason, question and pray and i believe those things are valuable, but i also believe that boxing our faith in is damaging, and limits God. We try to put a nice little bow on things that are too crappy or horrible to figure out, instead of remembering that this world is broken.. I feel like God is having me learn to be ok with Him in the midst of the unclear and unknown.. i believe He does work all things together for the good of those who love Him, but i also know i am not one to pinpoint what that looks like, or how that’s seen here on earth. if God allows me to see it, then that’s awesome – but in the midst of the really really hard questions, and places that it looks like God just checked out on – I have to just choose to trust that He is merciful, and loving and paid the ultimate sacrifice so not only i could be redeemed, but also these areas that are horrible could be too.. He promises ‘treasures in the darkness” and now as i look back on my friend and what happened, i can see glimpses of those..He knows it’s hard to be here & that we really are limited, frail, and trapped in our humanity.. He promises to carry us through the times when everything falls apart & while we probably never understand the full scope of that, and it doesn’t take away what happened – it’s an act of faith to trust that He wouldn’t just say that .. All of this is to say, i am trying to practice trusting Him for who He is & always has been, instead of who He is in my circumstance, or heartache..
    i really have no clue if i am making sense & I am too ADD to go back and read through this, i just felt compelled to respond and *hope* this isn’t some random odd ball comment that really doesn’t have anything to do with the original point… 🙂

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    1. Not random or oddball at all 🙂 You have a powerful story here. I see how looking for the good in every situation could actually lead us away from God because sometimes we just won’t find it. It won’t be there. That’s where I have to accept his sovereignty and I’ve found more peace in that, at times, than anything else. Thanks for sharing, Emily.

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  4. A good book that addresses this question is The Shack by William Young. It’s about a man (Mack) that tragically loses his daughter and has the chance to directly ask God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit directly these questions. Powerful and insightful. A recommended reading. http://www.theshackbook.com

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  5. We all know what’s good, bad, right and wrong, point of view does not make a straight line curve

    I do believe God has plans, and a lot of times bad things happen to good people, and we suffer, and usually think someone else is not paying like we are.

    However, we must think of the possibilites that also don’t happen. You think you’re suffering now? Have you ever though you could be causing suffering? There are worse alternatives.

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  6. Declaring that this is good or this is bad must seem judgemental then and may not be as God intended. Very interesting viewpoint and I’ll have to chew on this for awhile!

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  7. I don’t agree. I feel as though that’s just an easy excuse to modify or distract people from the question. Let’s clarify this….. The fact that my dad was brutally murdered cannot be described as “bad”?… What other word would you like me to describe it as!? Awful…. Shocking… Hurtful…. Either way, it cannot be described as good, so for me there if no gray matter. It’s BAD. I don’t use this situation to “quanify” my life or “limit” myself. But bad things happen to good people. That’s just life and we will never know why on this side of Heaven. But it’s our choice to let God turn it into good and let Him mold us through bad and good times. It has nothing to do with the definition of the words or us humans in our own depravity trying to figure things out. It’s just life. We see it all through Scripture- David losing his baby, Mary losing her Son…. I also think that God gives people free choice. God gives stupid, reckless people the ability to make stupid, reckless choices. And sometimes we are victs of that. We live in a fallen world and that’s made clear in Scripture. Why should certain ones of us be made void of it? We can only control our actions and responses to the bad things that happen to us. And YES, bad things happen! But so do good things. Again, this isn’t about out definition of the words. This is just about us surrendering ourselves to God’s will and willing to stick through the GOOD and BAD things that may happen.

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  8. I don’t agree. I feel as though that’s just an easy excuse to modify or distract people from the question. Let’s clarify this….. The fact that my dad was brutally murdered cannot be described as “bad”?… What other word would you like me to describe it as!? Awful…. Shocking… Hurtful…. Either way, it cannot be described as good, so for me there if no gray matter. It’s BAD. I don’t use this situation to “quanify” my life or “limit” myself. But bad things happen to good people. That’s just life and we will never know why on this side of Heaven. But it’s our choice to let God turn it into good and let Him mold us through bad and good times. It has nothing to do with the definition of the words or us humans in our own depravity trying to figure things out. It’s just life. We see it all through Scripture- David losing his baby, Mary losing her Son…. I also think that God gives people free choice. God gives stupid, reckless people the ability to make stupid, reckless choices. And sometimes we are victs of that. We live in a fallen world and that’s made clear in Scripture. Why should certain ones of us be made void of it? We can only control our actions and responses to the bad things that happen to us. And YES, bad things happen! But so do good things. Again, this isn’t about out definition of the words. This is just about us surrendering ourselves to God’s will and willing to stick through the GOOD and BAD things that may happen.

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  9. Last month, I wrote an essay on a related question, Where is God when we suffer? http://bit.ly/pDNLLA

    In the last three years, I’ve gone through many negative experiences, which I won’t list here. I did all the “right” things, and I get the same result as those who “lived it up.” I don’t see the experiences as a trial of my faith and loyalty to God. He knows my commitment to him is for life, and he knows the choices and sacrificial actions I’ve made. If the rain falls on the just and unjust, but the drought-quenching storm passes me by, what is that about? (Can you tell that I’m a desert girl?)

    My conclusion is that God is with us, and in us, through the trial, but we just don’t get any answers in this world. We wait expectantly for that time when all the saints are fulfilled together.

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  10. Thank you. I needed to read this today. My viewpoint has been so narrow. I need to look at the situation thru Gods eyes and trust through every situation, the ultimate goal is for me to know the father and stay close to Him.

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  11. Isaiah 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.

    God’s plans are bigger than ours. Just this! 🙂 SCARING at times but absolutely TRUE and COMFORTING.

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  12. I agree with what you are saying. Isaiah 55:8-9 says “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” We can’t see the whole picture of things…we only see small pieces of the puzzle. But our Lord God sees the complete picture. And although things happen that don’t seem to make sense to us, and in our perception are “bad”, we have to keep trusting God and that He has control and will bring good out of it. Circumstances don’t make you who you are, but reveal who you are. Don’t just serve God and stay faithful to Him when He blesses you and things are going just right. Trust God also when things are not going well, and you don’t understand what’s going on. In the Bible, Job never found out why he lost all that he did. He never found out why one thing after another seemed to go wrong. But he trusted God through out his trials, and God in return restored unto him even more than He had given Job before hand. Thank you for your post, this really encouraged me. 🙂

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  13. “We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope. And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts. He gave us his love through the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

    I’m not grateful for bad, but I am grateful for going through deserts where I find what’s in my heart, where I’m cleansed, made new, and get to know God on a much deeper level in a much more authentic way.

    I discover hope. God’s goodness. Grace.

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  14. Bad things don’t happen to good people, because none of us are good people. We are all sinners and do not deserve to call ourselves good. Only Jesus can truly be described as good.
    However, I believe that God brings those you would consider “good people” to our knees because he loves us and wants to draw us closer to him. He wants to live in a constant loving relationship with us and in order for that to work out, he humbles us and brings us into his presence.
    Bad things don’t happen to good people. That only happened once… and He volunteered!

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  15. While we can’t know God’s definition of good and bad, we do know he said it rains on the just and the unjust. The only question is do you want to go through the rain with God or without God.

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  16. Regarding the blog: I’m not an ethicist or philosopher by a long shot but the question does bring up lots of thoughts.

    As a variation to theme how would one answer this question: What if good things only happened to “good” people and what if only bad things happened to “bad” people. If this were God’s only way of dealing with people I believe it would lead to a heap of Self-Righteousness and certainly kill hope and I think faith and love as well. It would also turn us into self-seekers something God doesn’t like. 1 Cor 13 says there is faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love. The great German minister Martin Luther once said…The More We Love The More We Are In The Image Of God. I’m not sure that would ever be the case should we have good things happening all the time only to good people.

    Another variation: Is it possible that bad things happening to ‘good’ people and good things happening to ‘bad’ people is one way in which God grabs our hearts and attention and thoughts and daily living? In a sense bad things happening to good people is built into the system but not for our demise but for God’s glory and ability to Love. When we step out of ourselves and begin to Love we are becoming what Paul tells us to be Eph 5:1 Imitators Of God…

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  17. It takes courage to wrestle with really tough questions. Because you do
    and you care about things that truly matter, God is giving you peace in his sovereignty and wisdom to share. Bless you!

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  18. I love this post so much I HAD to translate it to Portuguese and publish it in my blog as well (with all due credits, of course)! I love your simple way of writing and how you get the message across so effortlessly. I’m a fan. 🙂

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  19. I found your blog on Ruthie Dean’s blog. 🙂
    “The LORD looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” Psalm 14:2-3

    There are no “good people”. We are all evil from the core. (Romans 1) God indwelling us by the Holy Spirit makes us good. So then, it’s not us that can claim the good we do, but God-in-us that should receive the glory. I like your post! Soli Deo Gloria. (oh and I’m a huge John Piper fan.)

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  20. When something bad happens, pause & think about your own path, take a moment & look back see if you don’t deserve what you going thru. I believe that in everything we do, decisions we make, whether good or bad it’ll caught up with us. We pay for sins while we still alive, not in heaven, however let us go back to the holy bible: The good Lord said” Parents, I’ll punish the children because of your cruelty”. Though we ask for forgiveness, it doesn’t mean we’ll walkaway from our wrongs just like that.

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