Lately, I have been asking the same question to myself that I am sure you have asked a time or two as well: Why do bad things happen to good people?
Sound familiar? I hope you agree this question is valid especially with all of the senseless killings and terrorism of innocent people permeating our TV screens, or even the horrible thing that happened to the nice little church lady down the street.
In fact this is the one question that unbelievers use to trip Christians up about how can a great and powerful God allow for such atrocities to happen? To be honest, I sometimes wonder that too.
For me, this question was one of the things I asked of God a few weeks ago when I became a victim of crime. Although, my experience does not come close to some of the truly horrible and devastating things going on in the world today, but for me it was completely horrible and devastating.
A few weeks ago, someone broke into my apartment and stole my laptop and my roommate’s laptop. Thankfully no one was home at the time, but the effects of this still left me deeply wounded. I felt, and still do if I am honest, very angry and exposed not just because someone stole our things, but because the one place I thought I could feel safe and protected was stolen from me too. I didn’t feel comfortable in my own home anymore. So, in my angry and imperfect state I cried out to God: Why do bad things happen to good people?!
As always, God heard my cries, but as always God didn’t allow me to wallow in my pity but quickly started working on my heart and exposing some ugliness that was keeping me from becoming like Him.
- First, God addressed this word good.
What do I define as ‘good’? More importantly, what qualifies me as ‘good’? In Romans 12:3 says:
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself as more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”
Conviction! Why do I consider myself as good when God sees all of us the same. I am subconsciously putting myself on a pedestal when God is like, “Let’s be real here. Are you really that good?” Ouch.
So where does this idea that I am so good come from? Maybe it stems from a legalist place (older brother syndrome).
“But God, I go to church every Sunday. And God I am a born again Christian baptised by water and the Spirit. Oh and God don’t forget about all of the charity work I do. I also teach Bible study and I give money to the poor. Oh and last Saturday…”do I need to go on?
Does my “goodness” somehow make me immune to suffering and hardship?
- The second thing God addressed was this: What makes Christians so much better than non-believers? In God’s eyes not much.
In God’s eyes we are all sinners! All sin is the same sin. A child who tells a lie to their mother is just as sinful as the person who has killed hundreds of people. Romans 3:23 says:
“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
We are all filthy compared to God’s majesty. We are the most repulsing, disgusting, horrendous things compared to Jesus. No matter who we are or what we have done we are all sinners.
Because sin exists in this world, we are all subject to hard times and suffering. Just because we call ourselves Christians does not make us better than non-believers or even undeserving of suffering and the non-believer more deserving because they are sinful. God sees our sin the same so we will suffer the same.
In fact, it is not a matter if we will go through suffering or not but a matter of when. We should not be surprised when we suffer because God promises that we will.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
“I have told you these things, so that you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
The only thing that sets Christians apart from non-believers is that we understand that the suffering will not and cannot destroy us. Why? Because we understand who sits on the throne!
- Next God told me that suffering is of Him. Suffering is a blessing. We are more like Jesus when we suffer.
In 1 Peter 3:14 it tells us that suffering is a blessing:
“But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”
Not only is suffering a blessing, but we should be happy when we suffer. (Okay, now you are going too far God!)
James 1:2-4 says:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Suffering is a good thing because it produces necessary characteristics in me. I must view it as a chance to grow! (Ok, I guess I can understand that.)
When we suffer we are more like Jesus. One of our goals as believers is to become more like Christ. In order for us to be like Jesus, we must suffer like Jesus did. In fact we are called to suffer as Christ did.
1 Peter 2:19-21 says:
“For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”
If I think I am good then I must suffer for doing and being good. It is commendable in God’s eyes.
1 Peter 3:17-18
“For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.”
1 Peter 4:1 says:
“Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.”
The proof is here. Suffering is not something we should run away from but instead rejoice in and consider it a blessing! When we suffer we are in great company because Jesus set the perfect example.
So how do we deal with suffering like Christ did?
- The secret to satisfied suffering is contentment.
Philippians 4:10-12 says:
“I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
Paul writes about the secret to satisfied suffering which is contentment. Paul resolved to be content in every situation! I am called to be content even when I suffer or struggle or in lose just as I should be content when I have everything.
My favourite Christian author Prsicilla Shier writes about the meaning of contentment being inner sufficiency or satisfaction found through the depth of our life with God independent of our surroundings.
Contentment is about declaring that everything we have or don’t have is enough or sufficient then we are able to participate fully in the tasks set before us during this season of life.
2 Corinthians 9:8 says:
“ And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
Even when we think we are in lack, God is still able to bless us with everything we need in order to do His will. We will always have enough, because God’s grace is always enough.
- Then God reminded me that my reward is in Heaven.
Matthew 5:11-12 says:
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Wow! That says it all. What a blessing it is to suffer, go through hard times, to have people turn against us. We can rejoice and be glad! Why? Because we understand that our suffering produces key character traits that God longs to develop in us. We know that suffering is being like Jesus. I know that even though they may have taken this material thing that I think I need in order to do God’s will and to just exist in this world…I know that my reward is in heaven. All that I may have lost literally and figuratively does not compare to the great reward awaiting me in heaven. They can come back and take everything else from me (God forbid), but I will know that God is still God and God is still good!