Most people agree that one of the attributes of goodness is love and that an attribute of evil is hate. Yet, one of life’s greatest challenges is the pain and suffering that affects us and those around us. There are times something connected with suffering ultimately has a good outcome. For example, the loss of a job might lead to something better “right around the corner”. Think about a health challenge, such as surviving a heart attack, that becomes a wake-up call leading one to live a better, healthier life.
It is more difficult to deal with the suffering that comes out of either evil intentions or for no apparent reason at all. While in the midst of suffering, it’s hard to think of any possible good as an outcome. I can remember, many times, telling my daughter that suffering produces character (Romans 5:3-4) – one day, in the midst some difficult time, she anticipated my forthcoming comment and said, “Dad, I’m tired of my character being built.” A person’s worldview becomes vital here – it should be able to help one deal with “why bad things happen to good people.” Within the Biblical worldview, we have a sovereign God – recall His attributes from a previous post – who not only knows all things, but He has a plan (Ephesians 1:11b) for His Creation and all that He created within it – and that includes all of us.
In what is called the Great Commandment, God says to love Him and love people. He does not qualify what kind of people – not good, bad, or ugly – but He want us to love all people. Imagine how much less hate-driven evil would exist if we all did a better job of liking the people we either encounter, hear or read about, or are aware of in any way. One can find one good aid to liking people, from the following, “ …whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
Within the Biblical worldview, we have some information on God’s plan for His Creation. He has revealed a portion of those plans to us thru: 1) the general revelation of His Creation, itself, 2) the special revelation of His Word, the Bible, and His Son, Christ Jesus, 3) the individual counsel of the Holy Spirit to His followers, and 4) the study of the writings of His followers about those revelations.
Furthermore, along with His sovereignty, the God of the Bible is the “bringer of justice”. As His sovereignty relates to good and evil, we do not know either the evil that He prevented – this is likely huge – because it didn’t happen, and we don’t know the purpose of the evil, bad or suffering which He has allowed, neither at the moment of its occurrence, or perhaps ever, because we have little concept of the scope of His plans. What we do know, however, is that we were made in His image (Genesis 1:26), stamped with his imprimatur, and in His eyes, have a defined purpose (Ephesians 2:10). We also know that He will right wrongs when He judges the world (Acts 17:31a). Satan will be ultimately defeated and thrown in the lake of fire. And God will make all things new, wiping away all tears (Revelation 21:3-4).
Expanding a bit on “…why bad things happen to good people…”, consider for a moment the meaning of good. From the Biblical God’s perspective, there are no good people, if good means being anything close to His perfection, sinlessness, etc. But the great news is that into the darkness of evil has come some light (John 1:5). With this “light of the world”, Jesus, we have the hope of not only survival of the bad times in our lives, but then, looking back at those bad times, to see how a dynamic worldview has helped us see growth in ourselves and our ability to love people, both in spite of, and looking forward from our current circumstances. He is a God of compassion, who keeps track of our sorrows (Psalm 56:8). He has enlisted us to love one another and embody that love (2 Corinthians 1:4) to those around us.