|I was recently reading Dave Earley’s book 21 Reasons Bad Things Happen to Good People and I was particular drawn to a chapter in that book entitled “The Reason No One Wants to Hear.” I realized the best way to present this concept to you is using Earley’s words just as he wrote them in his book. I hope you find it as thought provoking and enlightening as I did.
Early states: “Maybe you are ready to dive into this book and read a collection of encouraging principles and uplifting stories of God bringing goodness to pass in the midst of very bad situations. I don’t blame you. Suffering can be incredibly discouraging. When we hurt, we need every drop of encouragement we can get. So go for it. I suggest that you skip this chapter and go straight to chapter 2. You will find twenty soul-bracing chapters. Be stretched and see God being His awesome self and bringing plenty of positives for the negatives He allows His children to endure.
But if you are not in quite such a big hurry, I suggest that you slow down and read this chapter. It will become a big frame that is helpful to understanding the issue of why Gods allows bad things to happen to good people. But let me warn you: This chapter is the one no one wants to hear. Before we begin, it is important to understand that when we ask ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’ there are assumptions behind why we even ask such a question,
The Assumptions behind the Questions
When we ask, ‘Why would a good God allow bad things to happen to good people?’ we ask this question based on three logical assumptions.
A Biblical Response to the Assumptions
The Bible gives one clear response to blaming God for suffering and evil: No, God is not to blame. Consider these five biblical truths:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Genesis 1:1, 31
Yes, God created the world. But notice those last four words from Genesis 1:31: ‘it was very good.’ The word ‘good’ used here means ‘admirable, suitable, pleasing, fully approved.’ When God created the world, there were no earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, droughts, sickness, murder, suicide, or crime. The world God made was very good. It was Paradise.
2. God created people with the ability to choose.
So God Created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27
Being made in the image of God is what sets people apart from animals. Animals do not have a God-consciousness and cannot make moral choices. Humans can. God gave people the power to choose for several reasons.
First, choice is the essence of love. God let us choose because God loves us and wants us to choose to love Him back. Paul Little has written:
But many ask, ‘Why didn’t God make man so he couldn’t sin?’ To be sure, He could have, but let’s remember that if He had done so we would no longer be human beings, we would be machines. How would you like to be married to a chatty doll? Every morning and every night you could pull the string and get the beautiful words, ‘I love you.’ There would never be any hot words, never any conflict, never anything said or done that would make you sad! But who wants that? There would never be any love, either. Love is voluntary. God could have made us like robots, but we would have ceased to be (human). God apparently thought it worth the risk of creating us as we are.’
Second, choice is always a risk. When God let us choose, He let us take a risk. J.B. Phillips says ‘Evil is inherent in the risk of free will.’ He is right.
When our boys were younger, we gave them what we called ‘The Summer Challenge.’ We usually asked them to complete a project over the course of the summer, and if they did it, they would get a reward of their choice.
One of the first years we tried this, we challenged them to memorize and recite the eight verses called ‘the Beatitudes’ (Matthew 5:3-12). They were to learn one a week. At the end of the summer, they could pick out any toy they wanted, up to a certain price, from Children’s Palace. I turned them loose in the store and gave them thirty minutes to make their selection. My wife, Cathy, was certain they would choose something very educational. I wasn’t so sure.
What do you think they selected? Educational games? No way. They chose instruments of destruction – toy rifles! We should have known. They are boys and boys like guns. Giving them a choice was a risk.
3. People chose evil
And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’ Genesis 2:16-17
When the woman saw the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.’ Genesis 3:6
4. Their choice brought evil into the world.
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned. Romans 5:12
Phillips writes, ‘Exercise of free choice in the direction of evil…is the basic reason for evil and suffering in the world.’ When we think of blaming God for the evil in this world, we need to stop and remember that humans introduced evil into this world. Not God.
5. Their choice has had lasting consequences.
Since the Garden of Eden’ the choice of Adam and Eve has had lasting implications. First, the world is no longer good.
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Romans 8:20-22
The Bible teaches that there is not always a one-to-one correspondence between sin and suffering. When we human beings told God to shove off, He partially honored our request. Nature began to revolt. The earth was cursed. Genetic breakdown and disease began. Pain and death became part of human experience. The good creation was marred. We live in an unjust world. We are born into a world chaotic and unfair by a humanity in revolt against its Creator.
Why are there earthquakes? The answer is that we live in a sin-cursed world that has subterranean faults. Why did you get sick? The answer is because we live in a world with germs. We no longer live in Paradise. The world is abnormal. The world is no longer good. It is flawed, as is everything in it, including us.
People are no longer ‘good.’ Romans 3:10 says ‘There is no one righteous, not even one.’ We need to remember that the blame for the majority of human evil and suffering lies at the feet of human irresponsibility.
How can you blame God for starving babies in Ethiopia when the best-selling books in the United States are on dieting, on how to take extra fat off? It is not God’s fault people are starving today. The earth produces enough right now to give every person 3,000 calories a day. The problem is that some of us hoard so others go to bed hungry. It is a cop-out to blame God for human irresponsibility. If a person gets drunk, drives his car across the median and sends your friend to an early grave, will you blame God? Do you blame God for Hitler’s seven million murders? That would be escapism. The vast majority of human evil and suffering is the direct result of human irresponsibility.
Drunker Than Skunks
The world is no longer good, and people are not perfectly good. I’m not sure I believed that until I had kids. I knew I was not good, but it seemed that there had to be some purely good people out there. Then we had kids. Cathy and I have three amazing sons, but I have found that I didn’t have to go out of my way to teach them how to be bad. They have a way of picking that up on their own. I had to go out of my way to teach them to be good.
When my sons were much younger, we watched an old movie together, The Adventures of Huck Finn. Then I put them in the bathtub to give them a bath. The phone rang so I left the bathroom for just a minute or two. Soon I heard a wild ruckus coming from the bathroom. I rushed in to see them laughing and acting crazy.
I put my hands on my hips and did my best ‘intimidating dad’ routine saying ‘What is wrong with you boys?’
Four-year-old Daniel piped up. ‘We’re drunk.’
Drunker than skunks,’ two-year-old Andrew added merrily.
‘What?’ I said, shocked by their response. ‘You guys have never seen any drunk people. Where did you get this idea?’
Daniel looked at me proudly and replied, ‘Huck Finn’s dad. He was drunk.’
‘Drunker than a skunk,’ Andrew chimed in.
I could not believe it. We had watched a clean, classic, two-hour movie, and what had they learned? How to get drunk!
The next night it was Luke’s turn. Luke was a cooperative, well-behaved toddler. He was easygoing, generally quick to please and obey. When he was about eighteen months old, we had pizza for supper. We tried to feed him a piece, but a defiant look rose in his eye. He did not want this piece; he had to have that piece. Then he did not want that piece; he had to have another piece. He did not want those pieces; he had to have my piece.
Exasperated, Cathy looked at me and said ‘What’s wrong with him?’
Then I had an epiphany.
I looked at her and said, ‘Well, theologically speaking…he’s a sinner.’
So were Adam and Eve. So are you and I. God gave us the ability to choose between right and wrong. We sometimes choose wrong. We have proven that if it had been us in the Garden of Eden, we would have made the same choice. We are sinners by nature.
I once had this guy come up to me in the grocery store. He was eager to tell me a big, dark secret. ‘Pastor, there’s something you need to know about your church,’ he said.
‘Really, what’s that?’ I asked.
‘I hate to break it to you, but you have some sinners going to your church.’
‘What!’ I looked at him and said ‘Sir, if there were no sinners in my church, there would be no people in my church.’
We ask, ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’ But if we really want to be honest, we have to reword the question. Considering this issue, we can conclude that instead of asking why so many bad things happen to good people, we should ask ourselves why so many good things happen to bad people.
Instead of being bitter over the hardships we face, we must be thankful for all the blessings we enjoy. We can anticipate the perfect, pain-free life we will enjoy in heaven. We also need to learn that our God produces many good things from the bad.”
I hope you will take a few minutes to take a personal inventory. Are there things in your life that you choose to blame on God? Right now is the time to set the record straight with Him and recognize that His desire for us is not only to have life but to have it more abundantly! Stop the blame-game and put down the bad things in life that prevent you from enjoying the many blessings that God has provided. Always remember that if you are a follower of Jesus Christ this world is not your home so these challenges and less desirable events in life are only temporary. We have an eternal home that is beyond words and we need to keep our eyes on the prize and run the race set before us. May God richly bless you as you seek Him before all others! AMEN.