Staff & Sling
Ministry

Joseph E. Hébert, Ph.D.

98119 N 3745 Rd
Okemah, OK  74859
918 623 3078

Bad Things Happen to Good People

How often have you heard someone ask, "If God exists, why does He allow bad things to happen to good people?" Of course, most of the time people ask this only as a rhetorical question. They have no desire to acquire new knowledge for themselves. Instead they ask only to confuse and demean the beliefs of others, in order to puff up their own self-perception.

Nonetheless, for those few who are actually interested in knowing the truth, for those who are genuinely seeking to know God, He has explained the matter in some detail. We need only consider His canonized Word to know exactly why God allows bad things to happen to good people.

Consider Job. God said of Job "... that [there is] none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, ...," (Job 1: 8; Job 2: 3). If there is such a thing as a good man, surely this is him. God Himself called him "perfect," and "upright." Yet we all know of the calamity that befell Job.

God allowed Satan to bring undeserved trials against Job. In fact, in reading the scriptures one could get the impression that God all but taunted Satan into attacking Job. In any case, one thing is clear. Satan is powerless to ply his influence over any of God's children without God's permission (Job 1: 9 - 12; Job 2: 4 - 6). So we learn from Job that indeed bad things do happen to good people, and more importantly God absolutely allows it. Still the question remains, why?

Consider the outcome, the consequence of Job's troubles. Clearly the point of the whole ordeal was not punitive, but instructive or corrective. Job came through his trials with a newfound knowledge and understanding of God, and of his relationship to God. At the conclusion of Job's tribulations he had found repentance, and fear of the Lord (Job 42: 1 - 6). Moreover, Job's three friends were made right with God because of Job's ordeal (Job 42: 7 - 9). 

In Paul's epistle to the church in Rome we read "... that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose," (Romans 8: 28). Unfortunately, too many read this verse and take it as a promise of a silver lining to every cloud. There's an old pop song, I believe from the 1970s, with lyrics that say of a child, when his parents told him he was their only son he thought they meant he was the only one. Similarly, many read Romans 5: 8 to say that God will use all things together for good to themselves instead of to them that are called according to His purpose.

So let's immediately disabuse ourselves of this wrong reading of scripture. Do not read Romans 8: 28 and use it to expect some corporeal blessing every time something goes wrong in your life. There is no better example of my point than the Apostles. Each of them, to the man, was martyred a gruesome death. Even John, who was the only Apostle to die of natural causes, did so only because he had the misfortune to survive being martyred. He was not the lucky one. Now each of these men could have spared themselves the suffering of martyrdom if they had only denied the resurrection of Christ (which the Apostles by definition had witnessed). But to the man, separated by thousands of miles and decades of time, each of them alone chose to die rather than deny the resurrection.

Now tell me, how did being martyred work together with anything for the Apostles' corporeal good? Oh, to be sure, they've each earned tremendous reward in Heaven, as do we all when we accept our burdens and crosses with faith in His divine will. But not a one of the Apostles benefited even a tiny little bit in this life for having been martyred. We, on the other hand, have their deaths as assurance that the resurrection actually happened. When Satan tries to cast doubts, we can know that if Jesus' resurrection had been a lie, then surely one, at the very least one, of the Apostles, decades later and alone, would have admitted to the lie rather than go alone to his own death. So you see, even their deaths, gruesome as they were, work together for our good, for those of us who are the called according to God's purpose.

And so, when bad things happen to us we should not then expect God to "turn lemons into lemonade." Oh, He might. He certainly blessed Job once all was said and done. He gave Job twice as much as he had to begin with. He started with seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred she asses and seven sons and three daughters (Job 1: 2, 3). When it was over God restored to Job twice as much as before, being  fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, a thousand she asses and seven more sons and three more daughters (Job 42: 10, 12, 13).

Now the astute reader will note that Job had seven sons and three daughters killed, but he only had seven sons and three daughters restored to him. Of course, every parent knows that you could never replace any child. However, there is a deeper implication here. That his first children were all killed does not mean that they were lost, only that they were thereafter in heaven. So you see, by giving Job seven more sons and three more daughters, God really did give Job twice as many as he had to begin with.

So this is why God allows bad things to happen to good people, and this is why we should rejoice when it happens to us. Not because our trials will lead to some corporeal blessing that is here today and gone tomorrow (Matthew 6: 19 - 21), but because, just like with Job, God will use our trials to grow us into the new creatures He wants us to be. Again turning to Paul's epistle to the church at Rome we find that tribulations give us patience, and patience in turn gives us experience, which in turn gives us hope (Romans 5: 3, 4). And being closer to God, being more pleasing to Him, is definitely something to rejoice about.

Now when things go bad in your life, you can rest assured that, if you are a child of God's, born again into His family, that those things are happening because God expressly allowed them. Moreover, you can know that not only will He use those trials to make you the person He wants you to be, but He will use them to the benefit of others as well. And toward that end, let's take one final lesson from Job.

Job declared that even if God would slay him, he would still trust God (Job 13: 15). And let's not forget that he said this from an ash heap, in the midst of his tribulation. Even though he was yet to be humbled, he was devoted to trusting God, and His will. This is as important a lesson as you can take from this article, that the just live by faith (Habakkuk 2: 4; Romans 1: 17; Galatians 3: 11; Hebrews 10: 38).

So, when things go terribly wrong in our lives, when trials and tribulations beat us down into the ash heap of life, remember to live by faith, trusting in God's benevolent will for your life. And just what is God's will for you?

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (I Thessalonians 5: 18).

Take care to note that God does not ask that you be grateful. He doesn't ask that you be thankful, only that you give thanks. In other words, do not try and pretend to be thankful for that which you're not. Instead, simply tell God that even though you are not grateful for the circumstances that you give Him thanks anyway. It's not an act of gratitude, but an act of obedience. It's not an expression of thankfulness, but of faith.

And it is that faith, that conscious deliberate act of trusting Him and His Word, that God counts as righteousness.


Job 1: 8    And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that [there is] none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?

Job 1: 9 - 12    Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.

Job 2: 3    And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.

Job 2: 4 - 6    And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life.

Job 42: 1 - 6    Then Job answered the LORD, and said, I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.

Job 42: 7 - 9    And it was so, that after the LORD had spoken these words unto Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath. Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job. So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went, and did according as the LORD commanded them: the LORD also accepted Job.

Romans 8: 28    And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Job 1: 2, 3    And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters. His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.

Job 42: 10, 12, 13    And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. ... So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses. He had also seven sons and three daughters.

Romans 5: 3, 4    And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:

Matthew 6: 19 - 21    Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Job 13: 15    Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.

Habakkuk 2: 4    Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.

Romans 1: 17    For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

Galatians 3: 11    But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

Hebrews 10: 38    Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.

I Thessalonians 5: 18    In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.