The Pagan Path

Those who wonder are not lost; they are trying to awaken! 'The Sleeper must awaken!'

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Why do 'bad' things happen to good people?

This is a question that has been asked, literally, I'm sure, a million times, and will be asked at least a million more; in fact, it's probably a question that you've asked yourself numerous times. A better way to phrase the question, though, might be, 'DO bad things happen to good people?' I'm sure that all, or most, of my readers are familiar with Paul's famous words in Romans 8:28, 'And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose'. Sure; we all can say, from our own personal experience, that something bad has happened in our life, even ( maybe especially ) after we came to Christ! But was it really bad? Or was it just something that we didn't/don't like? I believe that we, especially as Christians, can look back ( 'hindsight is 20/20' ) at all the 'bad' things that have happened in our short lives ( which are 'but a vapor'-Psalm 39:5 ) and realize, acknowledge that, through it all, God was working in our behalf, either causing everything to work together for our good, or, as the Century English Version reads, 'We know that God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him'. Either way; it should be obvious that God works in our lives what He has purposed for our good, but most of all, for His glory!

What do we mean by 'bad' things?

To clarify what we mean by 'bad' things; it might help to be reminded of a few examples from Scripture. Probably one of the more familiar examples ( it jumps immediately to my mind! ) is what happened to Joseph, beginning in  Genesis 37:27 & 28, 'Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother and our flesh.” And his brothers listened. Then Midianite traders passed by; so the brothers pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.', and ending with Genesis 45:5-8, 'But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.' I'm sure that Joseph had thoughts similar to many of us, when his brothers stripped him of his 'favored' ( Genesis 37:3 ) status symbol and threw him into the pit to wait for death, sooner or later, but through his faith in God, and his experiences in Egypt; Joseph was abe to look back on all his 'bad' experiences and see that God had indeed been working for his good, all along. ( You might also read of his 'bad' experience with a woman, in Genesis 39, for more on how God used something 'bad' for Joseph's good )

Another Scriptural example of God using a 'bad' situation for good, is found in Judges 14, in the story of Sampson. As Christians today; we might easily condemn certain things done by this judge of Israel as 'bad' things, and no doubt they were wrong, and sinful, according to God's direct command ( Exodus 34:12-16 ( Ezra 9:12 ), for example, we read in Judges 14:1& 2, that 'Samson went down to Timnah, and saw a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines. So he went up and told his father and mother, saying, I have seen a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife', and then, a little later ( verse 4 ), God's good purpose is revealed; 'But his father and mother did not know that it was of the LORD—that He was seeking an occasion to move against the Philistines. For at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.' Reading further, In Judges 16:28-30, we can see that even though Sampson had a bad, or wrong motive ( 'that I may with one blow, take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes' ) that God's good purpose for Israel was accomplished through Sampson's questionable efforts.

There are many other examples throughout Scripture, of God using 'bad' people, actions, or situations for the good of His people, including II Samuel 18 & 19, when King Saul began to turn against David, which I'm sure David saw as a 'bad' thing, but later in life was shown, in David's eventual triumph in becoming king of all Israel, to have been a good thing, by causing him to grow ( in the Lord ), and forcing him to rely on God's providence for his sustenance, and believing ( trusting ) His promises ( I Samuel 16:13 )! We could look, in the New Testament, at the example of Paul & Silas being beaten and placed in stocks & bonds ( prison ), but later revealing God's good purpose for this 'bad' situation through their meeting the Philippians jailer and bringing Salvation to his household, in Acts 16:16-34.

Thinking of 'bad' things that happen, not just to people individually ( although everybody has a story ), but to whole cultures, civilizations, and areas; take, for instance what recently happened to New Orleans, before that the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Even more recently we remember a tsunami in Indonesia, not to mention earthquakes in Chile and Haiti and others closer to home, and more recent! Why do all these 'bad' things happen? When you look back on it, and many have, I'm sure; we can see that floods always have a 'cleansing' effect ( sure, it might take awhile to see that ), fires having much the same effect, and in the aftermath of 9-11, and other such 'bad' things ( which they were; horrible, don't get me wrong ), we have all witnessed, whether in person or through the media, of people pulling together, out of whatever motives, to help their fellow man, just because he needed it. This is, and will be, I'm convinced, an ongoing thing until we all realize why God has put us here on this good earth, and why 'bad things happen to 'good' people!

What is meant by 'good' people?

I like to believe, on a very physical level, in the inherent 'goodness' ( honesty, kindness, etc. ) of most people, and can personally attest to the fact that most people, when it comes down to it, will 'give you the shirt off their backs' if you have a real, evident need, but probably as many can give examples of people that are just 'bad to the bone', with not an honest or kind bone in their body. When people ask the question 'why do bad things happen to good people'; more often than not, I believe that they have in mind the above description of 'good' people ( they also might be thinking of the 'innocence' of those killed ( think 9-11 ), but even Christians ask this question, even almost, as Jesus on the cross, crying 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?' ( Matthew 27:46 )

A wise man once wrote 'All things come alike to all: one event happens to the righteous and the wicked; to the good,[a] the clean, and the unclean; to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; he who takes an oath as he who fears an oath'. ( Ecclesiastes 9:2 ), and as Jesus said of His Father, 'He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust' ( Matthew 5:45 ).When things like I described above happen, whether it be personally experienced ( death in the family, loss of a home, etc. ) or on a larger level; we, as humans, tend to think 'what did I do wrong?', or, even more to the point, 'what did THEY do wrong!', when, as Jesus and Solomon said, they just happpened! (Not that anything 'just' happens, because I believe that nothing happens for no reason! ) Everything that happens ( I believe ), happens for our good, as Paul said above, and for His purpose and Glory! ( not either, that this makes God the Author of 'evil', because God, by His very nature, His very essence, can do, can be, nothing but good; He is goodness itself! )( this brings me to my next ( bonus ) question )

Can there be good without God?

Humanly speaking; I believe that we can, in a sense, say that without condemning ourselves too thoroughly. By the above definition, people can do, even be good ( some of the time-like I tell people, 'We can be good, but God is good!' ), so in that sense, 'bad things do happen to good people'! You might say though, that 'bad' things like a death in the family, loss of a house, car, livlihood, etc. happen to Christians too: 'why?' I believe that the answers, several of which we've seen here, can be found in the Scriptures, and usually, by waiting patiently, in hindsight.

In the spiritual sense, of course ( and even in the physical sense of God granting even the wicked their breath ) there is no one good, or righteous, except those for whom Christ died, thus tranferring His righteousness upon us, making us 'the righteousness of God' ( II Corinthians 5:21 ( Isaiah 61:10 )!

I hope that these words will bring comfort to their readers, because, as I said above 'I'm sure that we can all personally attest to 'bad' things in our own lives', and that we can all realize that, on a physical level, anyway, things just happen, good or bad ( whether we like them or not ) and that sometimes it's how we look at the things that God sends us that make them 'good' or 'bad': with God, 'It's all good!'

In Christ's love ( the love of God ),
            Charles Shank


Regina said...

Amen, Charles! The "bad" things in life are like green beans. They may not taste very good, but ultimately they're beneficial for us! :)

Charles Shank said...

Thanks, Chaela, but I happen to like green beans ( for a vegetable )! :)