Westminster Theological Seminary 1997-06-23 - Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

This is a topic that has been suggested to me and I only admit to taking a stab at this one. I would respond by returning a rhetorical question, Who is good? I mean really, when the standard is, "You shall obey all My laws, you shall love Me with your heart, soul, mind, and being, and you shall never deviate from this standard," who is good?! If good is perfect obedience to God, who is good? Honestly, no one. (Psalm 14:1-3, Romans 3:10-12) If I were reading at this point I would protest and say, "I know good people!" I even know "good" people, who are decent, honest folk and are not Christians. So we need to clarify what we mean by good. For our sake here I would like to narrow the definition of who is good, to those who are regenerated in Christ. So the question becomes why do bad things happen to Christians? I would like to suggest two reasons, neither of which fully satisfy me.

  1. Bad things are the result of the Fall. When Adam sinned, bad things started happening. Job 1:1, "There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job, and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil." And for the rest of the book of Job, we all know the story, he had a happy, peaceful life and all was well with him and his family. He was blameless, we say, so of course it went well with him. He deserved a nice life, he was, after all, upright. Apparently not! After this opening verse, his life was literally "turned upside down." He eventually did say to God, "Hey what do you think you are doing, I don't deserve any of this!" After God responded to Job, Job was a little more humble in his attitude. "Then Job answered the Lord and said. "Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to thee? I lay my hand on my mouth." (Job 40:3, 4)

  2. Bad things lead us onward in sanctification. There is no guarantee that this will be true in our lives, but it should be. Bad things can lead us to despair, but they should not, they should drive us to the foot of the cross, they should lead us to deeper trusting, fuller understandings of our dependence upon and need for more grace, and deeper fellowship with our Lord. May the Lord grant us the grace that this would be true in our lives.


"As long as there are spots in the moon, it is vain to expect anything spotless under it." --Thomas Fuller

Soli Deo Gloria,
T-