Why do bad things happen to good people? Time and time again, this is perhaps the biggest question asked of people of faith. If God is so good, why do so many bad things happen in this world… and happen to good people?
First of all, we need to figure out what “bad things” and “good people” really mean. Broadly speaking, bad things are the accumulated sufferings we all experience. Suffering is tough to measure. In some sense, “bad things” are relative depending on the situation. Fear, shame, depression, anxiety, starvation… societal ills like poverty and homelessness. How do you compare one person’s suffering to another person’s? Suffering comes in a lot of uniquely individual packages.
Next, what exactly is a “good person?” Turns out, none of us are truly good. The apostle Paul writes in Romans 3:10: “None is righteous, no not one.” We’re all sinners in need of grace. No one can pass off an effort at goodness as the real thing. So by this definition, bad things never actually happen to truly good people… there is no one who is good by their own merit.
So we should probably not ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” but rather, “Why does anything good happen to us bad people?” In reality, God constantly blesses us with his goodness, so much so that we often miss it. The very fact that we live and breathe illustrates God’s daily influence in our lives. And our constant inhalation of what is literally God’s air should likewise remind us of all his other gifts to us. Food. Shelter. Happiness. Love. And many more without end.
In Matthew 5:45, Jesus talks about God giving the sun and rain to the good and bad alike. With this in mind, some of our sufferings can be put in a different context—the context of God’s life-giving goodness.
In the same way, in times of suffering, we can lean upon God’s love, extended to us through his daily grace. The question of the many bad things in this world should begin with an active recognition of the many good things he constantly provides. This is not to dismiss suffering in the world… quite the opposite (as we will see in part 2.)
But in recognizing the overwhelming expressions of God’s goodness, we can find our daily rest and redemption.