We’ve discussed similar topics on this site before, but it seems that every couple of months I start hearing this question repeated over and over again. Perhaps the evil that occurs so frequently in our world prompts the question. Perhaps it comes from years of being given no or unsatisfactory answers to the question. Regardless of the reason, I am repeatedly frustrated and amazed that so many otherwise learned and respected Theologians and Pastors continue to struggle and give out such bad teaching when it comes to the question of why bad things happen to good people.
The answer can be summed up in one word: sin. Not the sin of the individual to whom the bad thing happened, but rather the sin that permeates our fallen and rebellious race. Since Adam and Eve first chose to mistrust the character of God by indulging in the forbidden fruit, sin has been compounding ever faster into the fabric of every society. The perfect world God created has been devastated by the insidious creep of sin into every nook and cranny of His creation. Sin represents a rejection of God’s provision and a mistrust of His impeccable and holy character.
Where there is sin, there is death. The effects of sin are manifested in the mutation of our genes and in the disturbance of our minds. People do evil when they choose to indulge the ways of the world instead of relying on the commandments of God. When people give themselves over to depravity, wickedness blossoms; humans created in the image of God begin acting instead in the image of Satan.
All of creation groans under the curse placed upon it when mankind was expelled from the Garden (Romans 8:20-23). Toxins never meant to be ingested run rampant in our food source. In their greed for more profits, mankind has genetically altered what God created as perfect. Our environment now often works against us instead of for us as God intended. The results are disease, famine, malnourishment, allergies, cancers, and more. God didn’t send these things to punish humans. They simply exist because humans disobeyed and mistrusted God.
When people choose to live life on their terms, rather than follow in the way of Jesus, the ultimate result will be death. All sin leads to death. Sometimes the sin of one person results in the death of another. This seems unfair and wrong and causes some to question and even blame God for the injustice. In truth, the injustice is that we, as a race, have chosen sin over righteousness. We’ve chosen personal gain over Godly relationship. This results in damage not only to ourselves, but in collateral damage to those around us.
Why do bad things happen to good people? Because the only people who were ever “good” chose to listen to Satan instead of God, and their sin unleashed a fury of disease, decay, and evil into God’s perfect creation. We now all must live in a world that is far from ideal and with people who have fallen far from their Creator. Sin causes bad things to happen to “good” people. There is no mystery, and no malicious intent on the part of God. We have made this mess, and we must live with the consequences.