I have been contemplating this question lately. It is not a new question. It is one that skeptics have been asking for many years. Many have based their denial of God’s very existence on this problematic question.
I do not intend to cover every nuance of this question in a short post like this. Nor do I want to minimize the suffering people experience in this world. It is real and it is often quite horrible. I only want to share a few thoughts that have been on my mind.
People often ask the question, “How can a loving God let bad things happen to good people?” following a tragic event such as perhaps a shooting, a terrorist attack, or a natural disaster. They begin to wonder to themselves why so many innocent people (particularly children) had to die in such events. Such events are certainly horrible, but is this question that often follows a valid one?
I might suggest, in keeping with the theme for this blog, that the question, “How can a loving God let bad things happen to good people?” mixes new with old criteria. By new criteria, I mean the questioner’s definition of two key adjectives in the sentence: “bad” and “good.” Who determines what/who is “bad” and “good?” In most cases, it is the questioner who makes these determinations. They then impose their standards of “bad” and “good” upon God and fault Him for not taking what they deem would be the appropriate action; i.e. to prevent the tragedy from occurring. This way of thinking actually subordinates God to the standards of the questioner and makes Him his/her servant. In such a case, who then is sovereign–the questioner or God?
I would suggest that we try something old, i.e. God’s standards as He has revealed them in His Word. After all, if God is God, He is not subject to the standards of His creatures. It is the other way around, they are to be subject to His standards.
By God’s standards, there are no “good people.” Ever since Adam and Eve rebelled against God and ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, all mankind has continued in their rebellion. The Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it well.
Q. 16. Did all mankind fall in Adam’s first transgression?
A. 16. The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression. (Gen. 2:16-17; Rom. 5:12; I Cor. 15:21-22.)
Mankind is responsible for all the “bad” in the world. We are fortunate that we receive so much good from the God whom we all sin against daily. Truly, the question should not be, “How can a loving God let bad things happen to good people?” The real question is “How can a holy God give so many good things to bad people?” The answer is He is not only a holy God, He is a gracious God.
Only one time in history did a bad thing happen to a good person. That person was Jesus Christ and He volunteered to show God’s grace and save His people from their sin and the cursed world that sin has created. To God alone be the glory.
Grace and peace to you in Christ Jesus,