People often ask the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Others ask the opposite question, “Why do good things happen to bad people?” Those of us who are Christians understand that the reality is that no person, apart from Christ is truly good. Jesus Himself was the only truly good person to have walked the earth. When a rich man came to Jesus to ask Him what he could do to inherit eternal life, Jesus’ answer explained that there was no magic pill for gaining eternal life, and that it wouldn’t happen for anyone who was counting on their own righteousness as their hope. His answer included this statement:
“Only God is truly good.” Mark 10:18b
That’s not to say that there aren’t lots of people who are “relatively” good. By this, I mean that there are people who are good compared to other people. That definition of good is inaccurate. God’s perfection and goodness are the actual standards for defining goodness. That said, our questions above regarding good things happening to good people start with a false premise, the premise that there are truly good people deserving of the good things. The man with whom Jesus was speaking had a long list of good deeds he had done. But in the end, the man realized that he wasn’t as “good” as he thought when Jesus revealed the man’s heart.
Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Mark 10:21-22
I believe it is only normal for us to look around and see horrible things happening to people in the world around us. Some of these people may be godly, sweet, caring people. It definitely has caused me to question God at times in my life. Likewise when we see people who are blatantly corrupt, cruel, and even evil, living it up with wealth, health, and all that goes with that, it can be hard to stomach. Atheists, agnostics, and others who would consider themselves a-religious often point to the presence of horrific pain, suffering, injustice, as a reason for not believing in God. I disagree with them and could write for hours about why I believe the presence of these “bad” things going on as an evidence for a loving, just, kind, and merciful God. But, for the moment I just want to say that I think it only makes sense for people to question the nature of God when we encounter the evil in the world. It especially makes sense when bad things are happening to us or to our loved ones. As I read the Psalms, Lamentations, and various other books including several accounts in the New Testament, I find that there has been a long history of bad things happening even to those who had a close, loving relationship with God. When reading these things I realize that God’s ways are not my ways, and that God’s sovereignty in working in and through His children isn’t a sort of karma.
For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. Matt. 5:45b
No, His ways are not my ways and my thoughts aren’t His thoughts. Somehow, God is able to use the very worst experiences, things that are truly evil, to work for good (Rom. 8:28). Because God created man with free-will, man is capable of great things, but he is also capable of dreadful evil. In God’s goodness, mercy, and sovereignty, He uses all that we experience to draw us closer to Him. The term “Mountain-top experience,” is often used by people when they have a significant experience with God. Likewise, we have used the term, “valley,” in describing down times in our experience with God and others at least as far back as David and his reference to “the valley of the shadow of death.” I’m writing today to encourage you that you’re not alone. God is in control. God is good. And, the ups and downs of this life are a part of the wild ride we call life. The amazing thing about this ride though is that it’s even better when the ride is over. Take heart. Even if your life seems like a rollercoaster and your grip is getting weak…God is good, and He’s holding you.
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, John 10:28a
Sometimes as we’re going through the bad times we may forget about all the good times. If that is you, take a moment and thank God for all the good that has come your way. Maybe even write some of those things down. Just like the rollercoaster, things can change fast. We may not know what God is doing, but He does. I’ll close with a little humor relating to the “wild ride,” of life from a movie I really like.
Each day we go into the world with the opportunity to make an impact. Each person whose paths cross ours matters. Lives intersect for a reason. I believe there is One who directs our steps to these sometimes seemingly random meetings. My goal for these encounters is that I make a difference. That is my desire for those who venture across my blog. I hope you are blessed and it makes a difference for you.