Why do bad things happen to good people?

We often ask this question when we feel like we have done nothing wrong and yet something bad has happened to us, or when we see tragic things happening to good people we respect or love.

The heart behind this question has to do with fairness: if God is good and if God is fair, how can He allow bad things to happen to good people?

Bad things happen to all people

The first obvious thing we need to establish is that bad things don’t just happen to good people — they happen to everyone.

We live in a world that has fallen into sin. Pain and suffering have entered this world, and many of us often experience bad things as a result of sin.

Sometimes, it’s the consequence of our own sin. At other times, it’s due to the sins of others.

It can make us wonder: if bad things happen to both good and bad people, what is the point of being good?

There are no good people

“No one is good—except God alone.” (Luke 18:19b)

As hard as it is to admit, the truth is that none of us is good. Indeed, the Word of God tells us that no one is good: all of us have fallen and have been tainted by sin (Romans 3:23).

God is perfectly righteous; He hates sin and must punish it.

So if we really were to talk about what’s fair and what we deserve — we deserve death and destruction (Romans 6:23).

Knowing that we deserve death changes the heart of the question.

It is no longer a question of whether God is fair if bad things happen to good people, but more a question of how God chooses to deal with people who have sinned against Him.

And God’s response says plenty about His character; the Bible tells us that God “does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10).

God is merciful and He lavishes His love and His grace upon us, people who only deserve death.

The worst things happened to the Best Person

And as if that wasn’t enough, look at what Jesus has done on the cross.

He suffered and died on it bearing the sins of the world, and then He rose again on the third day.

All so that we might be spared from the death and destruction that our sins deserve, and have eternal life when we believe in Him and accept Him as Lord and Saviour.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Jesus is the only Man who is truly righteous and committed no sin (1 Peter 2:22). And yet, He suffered more than any of us could imagine or endure.

The worst things happened to the Best Person.

If you are struggling to understand why bad things happen to you or your loved ones, take heart in knowing that Jesus understands.

He is no stranger to pain, and He can empathise with what you’re going through. He is with you in your pain.

Truth, trust and trials

At the end of the day, it is impossible for us to know, on this side of eternity, the reason behind everything that happens to us or to this world.

As human beings, we can’t expect to fully understand the ways and purposes of an eternal and omniscient God. But there is one thing we can be assured of: we can trust in His heart.

While we do not know why bad things happen to seemingly good people, we know that the answer is certainly not because God is cruel or unjust.

No, God loves us and is perfectly just — so much so that He sent His only Son to die for us on the cross.

“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21b)

Why do bad things happen to good people? Because the world is broken, because it is filled with sin… we don’t fully know.

But one thing we do know is that we have a faithful God whom we can trust in. In a broken world, we can rely on God’s comfort, guidance and presence that is always with us (Psalm 23:4).

So while bad things may happen to anyone living in this world, Christ followers have the privilege of knowing they can endure these as tests that refine our faith (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Indeed, Timothy Keller writes in Walking with God through Pain and Suffering: “Jesus took away the only kind of suffering that can really destroy you: that is being cast away from God. He took that so that now all suffering that comes into your life will only make you great.

“A lump of coal under pressure becomes a diamond. And the suffering of a person in Christ only turns you into somebody gorgeous.”

  1. What ministered to you from the article? Why?
  2. What might God be saying to you today?
  3. How can you hold on to hope and apply what you’ve learnt or heard today?