Having served as a minister for more than 20 years, I have often been asked why God allows bad things to happen to good people. I have never really had a good answer for this question. I have some partial answers, which I do share with those who ask, but those answers often seem inadequate to the immense pain of many situations.
A few months ago one of my Facebook friends took up this subject in a post. David Wesley Gould is the pastor at Nashville First Wesleyan Church. Pastor Gould says that when he is asked "Why does God let bad things happen to good people?" he responds with the question: "Who are the good people we are talking about?" Pastor Gould is not being insensitive, he is simply seeking to help us accept reality. Theologically, there are NO good people (Romans 3:10, 12, 23). Though some of us may live better than others, none of us live as well as God has asked us to live. Therefore, none of us are really “good.” I know some of us are uncomfortable with this line of thinking, but if we are honest, we would have to admit that since none of us are perfect, none of us deserve a perfect life. Therefore, any good thing that happens to us, must be seen as a gift from a good God who chooses to bless us even when we do not deserve it.
In his post, Pastor Gould asks another thought provoking question. "Why wouldn't bad things happen to people who are in a bad world?" Even if we wanted to argue that we are “good” people, none of us would argue that we live in a “good” world. The world we live in is cursed by sin (Genesis 3). Even if we wanted to argue that “some” people are “good,” we would have to admit that many people are “bad.” Many would agree that a few people are beyond bad, they are evil. Therefore, the actions of the many bad people, and a few evil people, make our world a difficult place to live. Why do we think that we should somehow be exempt from the normal suffering that comes from living in such a messed up world? When viewed from this perspective, we once again must see any good thing that happens to us a gift from a good God who chooses to bless us in spite of the curse of sin that prevails in the world around us.
Finally, Pastor Gould asks one more thought provoking question: "Why does God allow good things to happen to bad people in a bad world?" Just as we all know people who do not seem to deserve the bad things that happen to them, we can all list some pretty rotten people who have had some good things happen to them. It seems that those bad people do not deserve those good things. Before we get upset with God for letting some good things happen to bad people, let us consider our own situation. If we were honest, many of us would have to admit we were “bad people” at some point in our lives. During those periods of bad behavior, God still chose to give us good experiences. It was often those good experiences that God used to help us overcome our bad behavior. Therefore, once again we must be thankful to a good God who chose to give us good things even when we were being bad.
I am not sure I will ever be able to answer all these questions adequately. But I know that I agree with Pastor Gould’s conclusion that "God is good." Even when I do not understand everything that is happening in my life, or in the lives of those I care about, I can trust in the goodness of God.