Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

Sometimes people will say to me something like, “I might believe there was a God if there wasn’t so much evil in the world.” I’ve always scratched my head at this response because it seems to me that evil is MAN’S problem – not God’s problem. The perpetrators of great evil in history have been people.

So, why is it that good people seem to suffer? Take my little sister Anne, for instance. She died of a horrible disease at age 37…way too young. Anne was the nicest person you could ever meet, and she was a source of strength, kindness and hope to many people. But – I know Anne. She would have hesitated at agreeing with you that she was truly a GOOD person. Why? Because as a Christian she knew the real state of her heart and what she was capable of if she let her guard down.

I don’t think Anne is that different from anyone else. Certainly not that different from her big brother. We are all capable of evil acts. Elie Wiesel survived the Jewish Holocaust, and said “man isn’t only executioner, victim and spectator. He is all three.”[1] Clay Jones suggests that perhaps human niceness is more of a survival strategy than anything else. We tell ourselves we are good, but actually we fear the consequences of the evil that we know lurks in our hearts. Do flirty co-workers avoid affairs because of innate goodness, or because they fear the loss of the reputation is they are found out? Do murderers stop at red lights because they are good people, or because they fear the possibility of a car accident if they keep going? The fact that much good is done in the world does not mean that good is done by good people, just normal people who are doers of particularly good acts.[2]

But why is there so much suffering in the world? I would suggest three reasons:

  1. Because people are capable of making other people suffer.
  2. To wake us up to the mess the world is in, and to drive us to God. He really does have a project underway to transform people’s hearts from the inside out. “Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.”[3]
  3. To wake me up to my own personal guilt, and to drive me to God. But not to bury me under despair. Rather, as an incentive for me to stop rejecting God’s transformative project and to get on board with it myself.[4]

 

Yes. I know, it’s tough to hear about the next heart breaking event on the news. But – I do genuinely think that hope and light bleeds through each act that brings pain and darkness. We all face the end of our lives one day. And…

“If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins – make a clean breast of them – he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing.”[5]

 

[1] Elie Wiesel, The Town Beyond the Wall, trans. Stephen Barker (New York: Avon, 1970), 174.

[2] Clay Jones, Why Does God Allow Evil? Compelling Answers for Life’s Toughest Questions, (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2017).

[3] Colossians 3:10, New Living Translation.

[4] Ibid.

[5] 1 John 1:9, The Message.

 

Photo by Luis Galvez on Unsplash

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Respond

I live in the UK, I'm married to Janet and I'm passionate about proposing a case for the historic Christian faith. You can find me on Twitter at @stuhgray.

45 thoughts on “Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?”

  1. wow, your god is abusive, if it has to harm others to make *you* better. I’d be quite happy to not require someone hurt just to drive me to this god. The utter arrogance and selfishness you show is pathetic. You blame your sister for not being good enough, and that is just blaming the victim to excuse your god.

      1. Oh I understood it. It’s an excuse for your god’s evident impotence and non-existence.

        “Sometimes people will say to me something like, “I might believe there was a God if there wasn’t so much evil in the world.” I’ve always scratched my head at this response because it seems to me that evil is MAN’S problem – not God’s problem. The perpetrators of great evil in history have been people.”

        That your god works with evil per your bible, doesn’t help much.

      2. I learned a long time ago that there’s only so far you can go with someone who fires angry, accusing words at you. Ah well! Bless you loads. 🙂

      3. Stuart, you have tried to blame your sister for what happened to her, and you have said that you think that your god harms people so that you benefit.

        But why is there so much suffering in the world? I would suggest three reasons:

        Because people are capable of making other people suffer.
        To wake us up to the mess the world is in, and to drive us to God. He really does have a project underway to transform people’s hearts from the inside out. “Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.”[3]
        To wake me up to my own personal guilt, and to drive me to God. But not to bury me under despair. Rather, as an incentive for me to stop rejecting God’s transformative project and to get on board with it myself.”

        You are claiming that your god causes suffering to make people come to it. Is this true?

      4. Excuse me – to call me arrogant, selfish and pathetic – these are angry accusatory words to any feeling person. Perhaps you enjoy how people feel when you fire these words at them? Makes sense of your blog name, that’s for sure.

      5. My blog name is that I enjoy when people cause problems for themselves by their willful ignorance, etc. Can you explain how it isn’t arrogant or selfish to want someone else hurt so you can benefit? And is it not pathetic to blame a victim?

      6. Ignorance has nothing to do with manners and your opinion about my manners is just that. So, again, how am I ignorant?

        The common Christians claims that atheists are “lonely”, “angry” etc are attempts to feel superior.

      7. And yet you have succeeded in maxing out my “internet troll” quota for this whole month! Hilarious. If you want a grown up conversation about these issues – learn not to use abusive language and tone with who you are speaking to.

        Basically, “Conversations 101.”

        Anyway – have a nice day, y’all.

      8. And nothing else but more attempts to lie about me and be insulting. Pretty funny when you don’t pay attention to what you recommend for others. Good for you. 🙂

      9. I think our conversation today speaks for itself. As I said at the start of it – thank you for illustrating the point in my blog about human nature. 🙂

      10. The point in your blog about human nature is that you believe in some magical being and then claim that it’s a humans fault when this god intentionally causes harm to others to “drive” them to this god.

        Now, if a human did this, harmed others, so other humans would be “driven” to him, that would be coercion e.g. “I’ll kill your child if you don’t obey me”. I would certainly hope you would find this reprehensible. Do you? And if you find it reprehensible if done by a human, why do you not consider it wrong if done by your god?

      11. Nope, I don’t have free will but I act like I do since I can’t know everything that influences me. And your bible says no one has free will since this god picks and chooses who it will allow to believe in it (Romans 9). Now, my experiences e.g. those things that influence me, tell me that things are good/beneficial or evil/not beneficial. Yep, it’s wonderfully subjective. I also know that slavery is wrong since I do not want to be a slave and I can understand what it would be like to be a slave.

        so, are you going to answer my questions below, Stuart?

        Now, if a human did this, harmed others, so other humans would be “driven” to him, that would be coercion e.g. “I’ll kill your child if you don’t obey me”. I would certainly hope you would find this reprehensible. Do you? And if you find it reprehensible if done by a human, why do you not consider it wrong if done by your god?

      12. Clearly you are an angry person who does not understand the pickle they are in over their misunderstandings of the free will problem. No – I really don’t need to dignify your demands. Because – I do have the free will to choose not to.

      13. While you are doing so, have a think about which epistemological resources you need to have in order to even start having a meaningful definition of the word “evil.” 🙂

      14. No “epistemological resources” (aka “relating to the study of the nature, origin, and limits of human knowledge” resources ) needed at all. You seem to be sure you can define “evil” with your claims so how do *you* define it?

        Is Satan to be considered evil in the bible?

      15. I don’t mean how do you define “evil”…I mean what do you need to know in order to be able to attempt a definition of the word “evil.” What do you think you need? I’m trying to be helpful here.

      16. Stuart, are you trying to claim that if I don’t know everything, I can’t know what evil is? That tactic is a common one with Christians who want to pretend that a human can’t judge their god. Or are you trying the very silly claim that I can’t know what evil is if I have a subjective morality?

        You’ve claimed to know what is evil: “The perpetrators of great evil in history have been people.” What is it and how do you know what it is?

  2. The art and intrigue of both salesmen and preachers is to first convince you of your need for what they are selling as the cure. From Illusion to Delusion to Slavery.

    1. You need someone to convince you of the state of the human heart, and the inevitability of death? Interesting. Thought I was just pointing to the obvious there…!

      1. Humanity as a whole, and I would say people as individuals, are never just one thing. We are not damaged or corrupt beyond repair or mitigation from on high.
        There is no such Need that the gospel is trying to Supply. It’s a false narrative. Humanity is flawed, but not to the point of utter reprobation or destruction without some Savior.

      2. Okey dokey sir – well, I’d love a front row seat to watch you pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. Let me know when the tickets go on sale? 😉

      3. That was not a particularly kind response. Does your gospel also teach you to be rude and condescending to those who disagree with you?

      4. Wow – tough crowd! Don’t I get any points for calling you “sir?”

        Of course you can disagree. You’re free to. I’m also free to suggest your statement may not work out for you in the real world. Yes, communicated with some pique. 😉

      5. pique
        noun
        a feeling of irritation or resentment resulting from a slight, especially to one’s pride.”

        Sorry, I had to look it up. But, I didn’t insult you or ‘slight’ you in any way. Is it possible that you took offense when none was actually given?

      6. Possibly. But your opening comment levelled the phrase “Illusion to Delusion to Slavery” at me. So…forgive me if I assumed you were on the warpath 😉

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