Why Bad Things Happen to Good People

Why Bad Things Happen to Good People

One of life’s toughest issues to deal with is explaining why bad things happen to good people. Think of some “bad” things that have happened to “good” people who you know.

Why is this such a dilemma? What questions arise? [How can a good, all-powerful God allow such things to happen to His people? Does God care? Why doesn’t He do something? Technical name for this is “theodicy.”]

Several initial truths to keep in mind:

  1. One may never understand the reason or purpose behind bad circumstances. However, believers should take comfort in the fact that God is sovereign and has a purpose for what He is doing. C.f., Isa 55:8-9.

  2. Bad things happen indiscriminately to both the wicked and the good. There is not necessarily a direct relationship between bad circumstances and sin or lack of faith. Sickness, death, and problems are not an accurate reflection of a person’s spirituality. See Job 1:21

  3. Beware of “health and wealth” theology, which asserts that faithful believers will not experience illness, financial setbacks, or other difficulties.

The Bible gives us several Reasons Why Bad Things Happen to Good People:

I. Bad circumstances are the result of original sin.

  1. We live in a sin-cursed world. Thus, we are subject to suffering and death. The earth itself is under the curse. Gen. 3:14-19
  2. Sin is an unfortunate part of life for all of us. None of us is good. Rom. 3:10, 23
  3. Even faithful believers may be afflicted. Heb. 11:36-37

II. Bad circumstances may be a means of testing an individual. Rom 5:3-5

  1. Job experienced testing. Job 23:10
  2. Paul experienced testing. 2 Cor. 12:7
  3. All Christians will experience testing. 1 Pet 1:7

Question: For whose benefit is the testing? [The person’s.]

III. Bad circumstances may be used by God to display His power and grace.

  1. 2 Cor. 12:8-10
  2. John 9:3
  3. Who are some other examples? [Joni, Eliz. Elliot, martyrs.]

IV. Bad circumstances may be a form of chastening.

  1. 1 Cor. 11:29-30 Sickness and death may be due to improper attitude toward God
  2. Acts 5:1-5 Death may be due to lying to God. C.f., 1 Jn 5
  3. Heb. 12:7 All errant believers receive chastening.

V. Bad circumstances may be due to the natural consequences of personal sin.

  1. A. Gal. 6:7-8 Problems are the natural result of sin. Rom 6:23 says that sin has wages or penalties. What are some examples? [AIDS, sexual disease, drinking, drugs, stealing, lying, etc.]
  2. B. 1 Cor. 3:17 Problems may be the result of defiling the temple of God (your body). How does one defile (corrupt, ruin) his body? [Sex sins, drugs, alcohol, smoking, etc.]
  3. There is often a direct connection between sinful behavior and negative circumstances. What do the following verses say about sin and its results?
  • Psalm 1:6 the way of the ungodly shall perish.
  • Psalm 146:9 the way of the wicked he turneth upside down.
  • Proverbs 4:19 The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.
  • Proverbs 11:6 transgressors shall be taken in their own naughtiness.
  • Proverbs 13:15 the way of transgressors is hard.

VI. Bad circumstances may be from Satan. Luke 13:11-16; Job 1:12


Problems, evil, and bad circumstances may be due to original sin, may be used by God to test a person, may be a means to display God’s power and grace, may be a form of chastening, may be a result of sin, or may even come from Satan himself.


  1. Franklin Troublefield says:

    This is very Helpful to us . We have been trying to rebuild a church who lost it’s pastor 3 years ago. Please keep us in your prayers.

  2. I haven't found this to be helpful. It aims at legitimizing suffering as part of God's intentional plan, either to test, chasten, or punish us. A God who permits (or causes!) suffering to test us is simply a jerk; we would call that bullying. The "it's for your own good" line doesn't soften this fact, it sharpens it! A God who uses suffering to chasten us causes us a lot of confusion because it becomes impossible to tell when suffering is intended as a form of moral correction, and when it's just happenstance suffering. How do we know if our suffering is punishment for sin, or God's effort to humble us? These ideas aren't repugnant in the abstract, but apply them to a specific case and we see how incomplete they are:

    What does this lesson say to a child who is being sexually abused? Look at points I-VI and see how baffling this is. Is the abuse a form of testing? I want nothing to do with that God. Is it to humble/chasten the victim? Sadly, this kind of theology has led millions of victims to believe they are indeed at fault for their own abuse. Is it the mere happenstance result of a world in sin? Then we have grounds to be quite upset with an omnipotent, all-loving God who declines to intervene in the sexual abuse of an innocent person. Is it God's opportunity to show off his grace and power? You know, a better opportunity would have been BEFORE the abuse began. Is it because the victim was personally sinful? Yikes! Is it an act of Satan? Well, gee, now we're unable to differentiate between suffering inflicted by Satan or by God–they BOTH (according to this lesson) have very different motives, but which lead to the same experiences of suffering! All of this becomes woefully dissatisfying when we try to find some divine moral lesson in the problem of suffering. We end up with a God that either tolerates suffering but doesn't get his own hands dirty (either in its perpetration or prevention), or who actually USES suffering for some divine moral end. Look into the eyes of an abused child and try to make those fly.

    There is, of course, the philosophy of Ezekiel: we simply don't know why we suffer. We don't know what's coming in the next life, or why these things happen. The best way to respond to them is to enjoy every relationship, every happy experience, we can in this life. What few people know is that "eat, drink, and be merry" was not originally a slogan to lampoon decadence, but was considered prophetic wisdom!

    • Matt,

      You can't legitimize suffering and this lesson doesn't even approach trying to do that. All suffering is the result of living in a fallen world. You're main question of why God doesn't stop suffering is easily answered. He choose to save us instead of destroy us, and that took a lot of "getting his hands dirty" by the ultimate act of Jesus being crucified on the cross. I believe God understands suffering very well by allowing his SON to die in such a horrible manner. God loves you very much Matt. He loved you so much that he choose not to condem you to hell for your sins. You were not redeemable on your own, so Jesus agreed to use his blood as the purchase price for you. And now, God is patient with all of us. He is seeking and saving the lost. But he will judge the earth and everyone in it will have to give an accounting of everything they have done. We look forward to that day, when suffering will be no more. But until then, it is enough to know that Jesus lived, died, and was resurrected to save us from sin. We have a hope that is precious.

    • Matt I hope your wounds heal in time and may God soften your heart and enlighten your mind?

    • Matt
      If you are experiencing sufferings right now or have experienced it, i would understand your feelings here..your comments were so full of emotions, though i find it practical.But then, our finite and limited wisdom could never fathom the wisdom of God in our sufferings..His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts..Explaining sufferings in our own limited perspective doesn't resolve the issue..God is sovereign and He knows better than we do..even in times of sufferings, He is still sitting on His throne..still in control..If God chose to allow suffering for His glory and honor, then who are we to question Him?If we can't accept that fact, then let's try to switch position with Him.

  3. You wrote: "What does this lesson say to a child who is being sexually abused? Look at points I-VI and see how baffling this is."

    What is lacking from your post is Scripture. You certainly have emotional points, but they lack interaction with what God's word says.

    The authors of this curriculum are committed to the sufficiency of Scripture. There is no ill that falls on man where the Bible is not able to give comfort and hope. (2 Peter 1:3)

    You note the "philosophy of Ezekiel" yet you overlook the rest of Scripture which lays out for us various reasons why we suffer.

    If this lesson lacks anything, it is certainly not biblical support.

    • This poor guy is looking for answers. All you have done is chastise him when he was looking for comfort and hope.

      • That poor guy you are talking about was not looking for answers.He was just playing God himself..He was very arrogant in displaying his human emotions and limited knowledge.

    • BarryP,
      I don't have any problems with this issue since the Bible clearly teaches those things that were enumerated above. Questions will only arise when people try to be philosophical rather than biblical, using their finite and limited knowledge to understand God and His ways..and that's is impossible to achieve.

  4. To Matt:

    You're right – we can't always know *why*. As parents, we don't even always tell OUR children "why." But in a general sense, I can tell you *why* – for God's good and God's glory. Romans 8:28 does not say that all things work for *OUR* good, despite what many preachers preach. It says they work "for good" and I believe that it is for God's good. It's all about Him!

  5. Deb, Thank you for the web site. I checked it out and found it very well written and very true. I am a victim of child abuse from the ages of 7 until I was old enough to run away from home at 18. Jesus Christ became my best friend at the age of 10. Even though God did not take me out of the situation He helped me through it. We are not alone during our suffering nor did I feel it after I received Christ as my Savior. The "why" did not matter to me as much as not being alone in it. I felt very close to God during those years. Since then I work with youth and have counseled many youth and adults on how to handle child abuse and God's part in it. God's love is greater than our suffering.

  6. Romans 8:18-39 are some of my favorite verses. The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that should be revealed in us. God can be trusted with our hurts we just need to give them to him. I don't believe God meant for me to be abused. That was the sin of my abuser. God did bring healing and comfort and good from the bad. He is an awesome God! I would never want to live a day on this earth without the one who know and loves me best. Matt, this is from the eyes of "one abused". Thank you for caring.

  7. Matt thank you so much for being so honest and open.
    You are real and I want to thank you for sharing this. I get it.

    Dory – Wow, you are a conqueror! I love how you let God into every part of who you are and heal you and use you to help set others free! Im so thankful to have read this and be able to share your story with others that they will know he doesn’t always stop the pain from happening but he’ll never ever abandon you in it, and the promise that follows is unexplainably good.

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