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Why do bad things happen to good people?
Saturday, February 22, 2014 by Vicki Dorshorn

At one time or another, we've all asked this question or a variation of it: Why does a good God allow bad things to happen to good people?

The question itself implies a moral universe, the existence of "good" and "bad," and a difference between the two. It assumes that events and people can be either "good" or "bad." It further suggests (1) that only good things should happen to good people; (2) that bad things should only happen to bad people; and (3) that if God is good, He would make sure that only good things happen to good people and that bad things only happen to bad people.

But then we have an additional problem of defining what is good, what is bad, who is good, and who is bad? What are bad things? And what do we mean by “good” people? Are we thinking of the same characteristics and quality of “goodness” when we apply that description to God?

Whew! Okay, let’s take one question at a time.

First, what do we mean by a “good God”? Many people who ask the question about bad things happening use the term “good God” in a way that signals their disbelief in Him. They are really suggesting that since bad things happen, there is no “good” God.

But there is a good God, as many of us know. Do we really understand that He alone is good in the sense of having an intrinsic nature which is only and totally good, with no spot of bad (or sin), and that His goodness is beneficial to us? Are we sure that His intent is to bless, not to harm? Do we believe what is written about Him, that “God is love” (1 John 4: 8)? Do we understand that this God, who is love, is the triune Godhead—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures?

If we do, we will know that this God, the Father, who is love, loved all of us, collectively, and each of us, individually, so much that He sent His Son, Jesus (who is also love), to die the most horrible death imaginable in our place so that we could be free of what is “bad” in us and spend eternity with Him, where nothing “bad” can hurt us again. And, believing this, if we grow in knowledge about this loving God, we will learn that the Holy Spirit, who also is love, was sent to teach us the truth of all things which God has accomplished for us and wants us to enjoy. That same Holy Spirit will help us live lives that are “good,” as we yield to God, who is “good.”

So that’s what we mean by a “good” God. The next blog post will consider what we mean by “good” people.

And then we’ll go on to look at five categories of “bad” things that can happen—to any of us, regardless of our “goodness.” Because, after all, the bad things that happen to people are different. Being raped is quite different from losing one’s house to a tornado. Getting cancer is different from going to jail for committing a crime. And suffering persecution is different from all of these. 

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