Dear Ministry Partner,
Why do bad things
happen to good people? Unbelievers
often ask (with a hint of accusation in their voice), "If
God is a good God, why is there pain and suffering on the earth?"
The answer is simple, and complicated. In fact, the simple aspect
is so obvious that almost any adult or child should be able to
answer the reason there is pain and suffering is because
there is a Satan! (There is no suffering in Heaven
where there is no Satan.)
The fact that there is an earth teeming with complex life proves
there is a God. The fact there is so much evil here proves there
is a devil.
If there is a devil, who is he going
to be most interested in afflicting those that cooperate
with him the most, or the most devoted followers of God? Naturally,
Satan would prefer to afflict the devoted followers of God. The
fact there are any Christians left alive on the planet is testimony
to God's grace and protection. Because Satan's character is to
afflict and injure, and because he cannot harm the Christians
as he would like to, Satan vents his anger toward God on whatever
humans he can since all humans are created in God's likeness.
The Bible says Satan goes about "seeking whom
he may devour" (1st
Peter 5:8). Sinners "give place to the devil"
4:27) through their disobedience, thus opening the door to
destruction in their lives. But Christians can similarly open
a door to the devil with disobedience, both through ignorance
and also willful sin.
On pain and suffering, God created
"pain nerves" in the human body not to afflict us, but
to serve as an early warning system when we are coming into contact
with something harmful. If I lived my life carefully enough, it
would be theoretically possible to go my whole life without feeling
pain. It is primarily through poor judgement that I have fallen
off my bike when showing off, injured myself by cutting toward
my finger instead of away, or gotten burned carelessly from a
pan on the stove. These pain nerves were actually a friend or
ally trying to tell me to stop a harmful behavior. In the
same way, pain and suffering in any area of life is shouting at
us to change a harmful behavior. Jesus would say, "Let
him who has ears to hear, let him hear!" (repeated
24 times in the King James New Testament). I know of no other
statement of Jesus repeated that many times in the Bible. So the
issue seems to be that God is warning us in various ways (through
His Word, through the inner witness, through other people, through
circumstances, even through common sense), but the issue is whether
we will pay attention.
If God was going to let us do anything
we wanted with no negative consequences, he would be protecting
and encouraging sin and evil. So He has built into the world system
situations and mechanisms that produce pain (physical, emotional,
spiritual) when we are violating His design. But some people see
a sign that reads "Dangerous Curve Ahead" and
they push further down on the gas pedal! I sort of imagine that
Jesus runs into many new arrivals in Heaven and says, "What
are you doing here so soon?"
Then there is the case of other people
inflicting pain and suffering on the innocent. This is a reality
in a post-fall world because of the authorization of Satan's influence
into the lives of humans by Adam and Eve. We are living out a
large "experiment" that our "parents" decided
to try in the Garden of Eden. Yes, everyone has the ability to
affect others through their decisions. (That's why the argument
is false that people should be able to do anything they want "in
the privacy of their own home." Adam and Eve had total privacy,
no one else yet lived on the planet.) This is why God tells us
to pray "for kings and all who are in authority, that
we may lead a quiet and peaceable life" (1st
Timothy 2:2). The decisions of others can be crucial to our
own well-being, and so we need to pray for others (and work to
increase the prayer level in other believers). "No man is
an island" were the words of the famous English preacher
John Donne, and he was right. We are affected by the decisions
Another major factor in what happens
to us and others in life is what we express as our will. God honors
the free will of humans it was He who decided to give us
a free ability to choose. (Omnipotent God would be bored with
robots for eternity.) So as we express our will in day to day
life, we begin to "get what we say". Some people dismiss
the "idle words" that people mutter or thoughtlessly
remark through the course of their day as meaningless and having
no consequences. But Jesus disagrees, stating "But
I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will
give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you
will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."
12:36-37). From my law classes in college, I can tell you
it was not that long ago that "verbal contracts" were
admissible and binding in court as long as there were witnesses.
The words that we speak create spiritually legal opportunities
for either God or Satan to operate through. It doesn't usually
happen instantly any more than a house is instantly created when
you sign the real estate contract. But we would be more careful
about what we said if we realized we were writing binding contracts
with our mouth. "And I will give you the keys of the
Kingdom of Heaven... whatever you bind on earth will be bound
in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven."
16:19). A lot of what we "bind and loose" actually
happens not in our prayer time, but through the various good and
bad things we say in the course of a day on the telephone, to
our friends or relatives, and at work or school.
26:2 says, "a curse without cause shall not alight."
There is always a reason for whatever happens good or bad,
even if the reason is not apparent (even if we don't find out
until we get to Heaven). Whether we understand why a space shuttle
explodes, a child dies of a disease, or a marriage breaks up,
there is always a reason and we should not blame God or imply
He caused it. It is humans that are imperfect, not God. "Every
good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming
down from the Father" (James
1:17). "Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!"
There are many more Biblical reasons
that bad things can happen to people. The Bible says, "Pride
goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall"
16:18). Is it possible that NASA could have been warned of
a space shuttle problem, but ignored it out of pride? That kind
of pride can cause "destruction" and "a fall"
according to the Bible. Sad but true.
Sometimes people have yielded to
a fear, and fear is a legal opening to the devil to bring to pass
what the person fears. One of the keys to understanding the book
of Job is in Job
3:25, "The thing I greatly feared has come upon
me, and what I dreaded has happened to me." This
principle of fear works the same on the unrighteous, too. "What
the wicked fears will come upon him" (Proverbs
10:24). Fear is simply faith in the devil's ability, and what
a person believes in his heart and says with his mouth tends to
11:23). God exhorts us to have faith instead of fear. The
Bible says, "The just shall live by faith," "without
faith, it is impossible to please God," and "whatever
is not of faith is sin."
Another entire area of spiritual
dynamics is the area of sowing and reaping. This "reaping"
in our lives (of blessing or harm) is by definition larger than
what we sowed. Time causes it to increase "some 30,
some 60, some 100 fold." In addition, it often even
carries down to later generations. In the ten commandments, we
find this principle listed in the second commandment where God
allows "the iniquity of the fathers" to be reaped "on
the children to the third and fourth generations"
20:5). When Pilate was judging Jesus before the Jews, he told
them, "I am innocent of the blood of this just Person"
and all the people answered and said, "His blood be
on us and on our children." (Matthew
27:24-25). It fell on their children 37 years later when the
Roman general Titus overthrew Jerusalem and killed over a million
Jews according to the historian Josephus. This gets into what
is popularly called "generational curses" and is too
complex to fully cover in a few sentences. However, as a child
of God, you are no longer obligated to receive the penalties of
your natural father you have a new Father! But steps must
be taken to force the devil to release you (he doesn't play by
the rules unless he has to). I have a cassette teaching tape titled
The Law of Consequences which discusses
these issues in detail, and provides the Biblical way out of the
negative things we would otherwise reap in life.
The answers are in God's book. God
is a good God, and He has "provided everything that
pertains to life and Godliness" through knowledge
of His Word (2nd
Peter 1:3). Write us today for more teaching.
Living by the Word,
Dale & Judi Leander