Why Bad Things Happen to Good People (Reflections on the Theodicy)

This is the question which seems to plague a lot of people — Why bad things happen to good people? It’s a tricky question.

Too often, it seems that the standard Christian answer comes back to some form of  “We don’t know. They just do. Worship God anyway.” Or worse yet, “All thing work together for good, so God has a good purpose in your bad thing.” I do not find these answers very satisfying, do you?

Before we set about answering the question why bad things happen to good people, we should probably look at the question itself. We know that the only person who was ever truly “good” was Jesus Himself, yet when people are asking, I don’t think this is who they have in mind! In fact, who they have in mind is usually someone close to them, who they respected and loved, who had a horrible tragedy befall them. Or perhaps some icon such as the objects of the song, “Why Do the Good Die Young?”

If we were to ask the question with Jesus as the object, the answer would be fairly straightforward. Jesus was perfectly good, therefore his God-filled life led him on a direct collision course with everything in the world. The power of Rome, the religious system, and ultimately even the common people who had once praised him, all conspired to kill him. Which of his miracles or good deeds was it for? They claimed it was not for the miracles but it was in fact because of the miracles that he was a threat. Ultimately it was really Jesus’ supreme goodness that got him put on the cross. I bet a lot of the people who put him there were considered “good” people by their friends and family. Try living a lifestyle as sold-out for God as Jesus’s lifestyle was, and see how the “good” people treat you .  So for a truly good person like Jesus, bad things happen to you because you are at enmity with the world and its system–and the prince of this world (Satan) wants you dead.

OK, but what about the regular “good” people that are in the minds of those who ask this question? Ironically, I believe the answer is quite similar. There are two Kingdoms on earth — The Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom of this world. Everyone is a citizen of one or the other.  The Kingdom of God is good, and the Kingdom of the World is evil. In a good kingdom, who rules? The good. In a good kingdom the rules are fair, the people are healthy and cared for, and evil is confronted. In a good kingdom you can leave whenever you’d like. In an evil kingdom, just the opposite is the case. Evil rises to the top. The one who is most ruthless will rule over the others. Moreover in an evil kingdom, you are not allowed to leave (think Berlin Wall). What happens to the nicest people in the evil Kingdom? They actually are the most likely to be killed. Thus, bad things happen to the best, nicest, kindest citizens of the Kingdom of the World, because that is the way that Kingdom operates. Satan delights in doing evil to anyone who is not as evil as himself. Most of the time, he can get people to blame God for their cicumstances, instead of putting the blame where it really lies — on Satan and those who follow his ways.

God has never been known to kill the good with the bad. He said he would spare the most wicked city on earth if there were just 10 righteous people in it. It’s Satan who kills the good (if he can) with the bad (he doesn’t spare them either). The simple answer then if you want out of this death trap is to cross out of Satan’s Kingdom into God’s.  God protects those who follow Him with their whole heart from every evil which may befall them, except the sufferings of Christ. Those sufferings he never promises that we will avoid. The world is promised to hate us, and if we are faithful to Him, we will suffer like Him, in some way or another.

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