Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen to Good People?
It may be the loss of a child or other loved ones. It may be the destruction of personal property by the forces of nature or other factors. It may be the unforeseen loss of a fortune amassed over years of personal sacrifice. It may be one’s perception of the less fortunate throughout the world. Or, it could be the abrupt deterioration of one’s health. And this, to someone who has or others who have championed “good” throughout life – even to one who has or others who have fervently believed in God and endeavored to serve Him.
Why then could a loving God allow such bad things to happen to such a person or persons? This question is often asked by many good and decent people throughout the world, throughout all of time.
Probably the one passage of Scripture that depicts (not explains) this state is the latter part of Matthew 5:45.
. . . He [God] makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Although this brief statement by Christ in His extensive discourse to His disciples upon a mountain (generally known as “The Beatitudes,” and within the context of His instruction to love one’s enemies) articulates that God does indeed allow both “good” and “bad” to affect both good and bad people. Here he selects forces of nature – sun and rain (both of which depending on the circumstances can signify both “good” and “bad”) – to represent God’s action toward both the “evil” and the “good”– the “just” and the “unjust”– during their life on earth.
And while it is true that God clearly permits Christians to experience “various trials” during this lifetime (James 1:2; 1 Peter 1:6; Matthew 5:12; Hebrews 10:34), the thrust of this discourse pertains to all classes of people who consider themselves “good” and non-deserving of the misfortunes (hardships, calamities, disasters) of life.
To understand how and why such difficulties exist and why they befall all people, often at no personal fault of their own, one must understand the root cause of mankind’s (and this earth’s) ills. To do this requires an understanding of God’s origin of and purpose for man, His instructions to man at the time of his creation, man’s eventual response, and the ensuing consequences to man and the remainder of God’s earthly creation.
The entire Bible – the Old & New Testaments – “The whole of Scripture is about the creation of man, his ruin, his restoration over a six-day period (over a 6,000-year period), followed by a seventh day of rest (a seventh 1,000-year period — the Sabbath rest awaiting the people of God [Hebrew 4:9; cf. vv. 3, 4], the Messianic Era).” This quote and the comprehensive foundation for it come from the book, The Study of Scripture, by Arlin L. Chitwood, which may be accessed in its entirety at the following Internet link: http://bibleone.net/SS.htm.
God placed perfect human beings on a flawless earth, which contained numerous other impeccable creations (both animate and inanimate entities) – all governed by myriads of unspoiled but extremely technical processes. What is most noteworthy, God created man in His own “image” (Genesis 1:27) – an image reflecting God’s triune composition (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), which for man consists of spirit, soul, and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 4:12); but even more significant, God granted man “free will,” the ability to choose between alternate solutions or directions pertaining to any situation or circumstance, in addition to being self-conscious (aware of one’s own existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings, etc.).
And the primary reason for the creation of man in this fashion was so that God could have a genuine and personal relationship and fellowship with man.
God’s instructions to His perfect human beings were short but explicit.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (27) So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (28) Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (29) And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. . . . (2:8) The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. (9) And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. . . . (16) And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; (17) but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (Genesis 1:26-29; 2:8, 9, 16, 17)
Man, along with his “helper [that was] comparable to him [Woman]” (Genesis 2:18, 21-23) were to “have dominion” over the earth, to be “fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). And they were given “every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed . . . for food” (Genesis 1:29). All of this was to be under their control, along with a vegetarian diet, with one exception: “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Most certainly, if they would have followed God’s instructions, mankind would have experienced only “good” from then until now. There would have been no “bad” (evil, difficulties, harm, etc.) to happen to anyone then or now. And the question comprising the title of this document would not exist. But then, as Scripture portrays, this was not the case.
Man and his helpmate disobeyed God, which resulted in their immediate spiritual death and the process that would result in their eventual physical death. Additionally, their disobedience critically contaminated the remainder of the creation surrounding them. It may have initially looked the same, but every technical process comprising the growth and function of earth and its occupants was seriously tainted. Nothing would or could be the same from that moment on.
Furthermore, God would henceforth subject mankind to this polluted earth along with all of its infested processes. In a nutshell, this meant that mankind could no longer be assured of a perfect outcome as far as his progression in life or in his physical surroundings. All of mankind, both the “good” and the “bad” would henceforth be the recipient of a corrupted environment, which would alternately produce both “good” and “bad” on it – on both the corrupt and the innocent.
If God did not set man upon earth to be a target of evil, the question still remains as to why He permits it. He surely can totally eliminate all evil by a simple spoken word. But to do so would nullify the “free agency” – the ability to choose – of man. And to do away with man’s free agency would in essence do away with man as made in the “image” of God. Man would no longer be self-conscious (aware of one’s own existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings, etc.). He would no longer be cognizant even of God. He in fact would be reduced to an existence of robotics. This then would eradicate God’s ability to have a genuine and personal relationship and fellowship with His creature – the primary purpose for God’s creation of man.
This being the case, the consequence of the “fall of man” along with its affect upon all of man’s surrounding entities, specifically, the scientific/technical processes that govern the earth and those upon it, must run its course. God must allow man’s path to run its course in order to be true to His own nature (character).
Fortunately, God’s nature is not only one of righteous justice but one of love, mercy, and grace. This being the case, God provided the means for man to be forgiven of sin and restored to a personal relationship with God. And this means, which man may acquire solely by faith on an individual basis, centers totally on Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and His substitutionary sacrifice on the cross of Calvary. But until the allotted time that God has provided for this to be available to man has expired, the conditions relative to man and his environment will not change.
The events considered to be evil, both moral and natural, which occur during life to those who are considered “good,” are the fault and consequences of man’s initial disobedience to God. These events are part of the “natural order,” of both moral and physical laws, that is permitted by God to run its course until His cosmic plan is complete. These events fall upon both the guilty and the innocent alike; no one is excepted or excused. These “evil” occurrences and the resulting suffering they cause are allowed by an infinitely wise, just, and loving God; because they serve a greater purpose for human beings and the universe, and ultimately will lead to the greater glory of God Himself.
God of course can and does impose divine interference in this “natural order,” depending on the circumstances, which divine impositions are usually viewed by man as “miracles.” Although the initial plan of God included His protective and caring hand over man in all activities, it was thwarted by man’s disobedience and thereby the subsequent “natural order” resumed, which cannot be changed by God without the eradication of His initial purpose for the creation of man — a genuine and personal relationship and fellowship between the Creator and His creatures and the establishment of man having dominion over the earth in accordance with the rule of God (Genesis 1:26, 28).
In a nutshell, almost all that happens to both Christians and non-Christians since the creation of man is the result of a corrupted environment, internally and externally, i.e., the corrupted scientific and technical processes that make up all material matter. Such is the result of man’s disobedience to God’s specific instruction in the Garden of Eden. Whereas much that is considered “good” (or “acceptable”) comes our way, there is always the possibility of misfortune (“bad”) – both due to no fault of the recipient (except of course when the cause of “bad” proceeds directly from the influence of one’s “sin nature” – a subject for another discussion).