with God Part 2
Why Do Bad
Things Happen to Good People?
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
January 26, 2003
I found these letters to God on a website this week. They are
supposedly real letters written by real kids to God:
I didn't think orange went with purple until I saw the sunset you made
on Tuesday. That was cool!
Thank you for my baby brother, but what I prayed for was a puppy.
I want to be just like my daddy when I get big, but not with so much
hair all over.
Maybe Cain would not have killed Abel if they had their own rooms. It
works with my brother.
I bet it is very hard for you to love all the people in the world.
There are only four people in our family and I can never do it.
Did you mean for the giraffe to look like that or was it an accident?
Who draws the lines around the countries?
I went to this wedding and they kissed right in church. Is that okay?
My brothers told me about being born, but it doesn't sound right. They
are just kidding, aren't they?
are cute. I like reading things like that. Kids have some of the best
questions for God. But I suspect there’s one question all of us would
like to ask God: Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? We all
experience things in life that we’d rather not experience. We all know
of good people who suffer tragedies. Why is that? Why does a good,
loving God allow these things to happen?
As I prepared for this message this morning and asked myself, “Why Do
Bad Things Happen to Good People?” I found that there wasn’t any one
answer that could answer that question fully. Because there are a
variety of reasons bad things happen and a variety of things that
contribute. And each situation is unique with different reasons behind
them. So what I want to do this morning is go through a list of several
possible answers to why bad things happen to good people, none of which
fully answers the question but each of which could be the answer in a
specific situation. And then at the end, we’ll talk about how we can
deal with the bad things that happen to us.
Possible Reasons Bad Things Happen:
1. Bad things can happen because you’ve done
something wrong. (Numbers 12:1-16; John 9:1-11)
You’ve probably heard about Moses and know how God used him to lead the
Israelites out of captivity in Egypt through the desert for 40 years
before they settled in the land God promised to them. You may not be as
familiar with his sister, Miriam. Miriam worked alongside Moses during
this time, but she became a bit prideful and even jealous of Moses. So
much so that she started to speak against him. And God rebuked her for
that. In fact, she became leprous for a period of time because of it.
Something bad happened to her because of a sin she had committed… she
had done something wrong
There are some people that would say that this is the one and only
answer to the question of why bad things happen. Because you deserve
it. We referred to it last week as the “health and wealth gospel.” If
you’re living for Jesus, things are going to go your way, but if you
have sin in your life or if your faith isn’t strong enough bad things
are going to happen to you. Yes, sometimes that is the case, but not
usually. There are plenty of other possible reasons why bad things
happen and this is not the only answer.
Lynn read a passage for us earlier about a man who was born blind. And
in this passage Jesus’ own disciples seem to get wrapped up with this
as being why. They asked Jesus why the man was blind… was it because of
some sin the man had committed or because of a sin his parents had
committed. In their minds, those were the only possible explanations.
How did Jesus respond?
John 9:3 (NLT)
“It was not because of his sins or his
parents' sins,” Jesus answered. “He was born blind so the power of God
could be seen in him.”
Bad things happen because you’ve done something wrong… sometimes, but
The second possible answer kind of goes along with the first…
2. Bad things can happen because someone
else has done something wrong. (Jonah 1)
In the Bible we’re told about a man named Jonah. Jonah was a prophet in
the Old Testament, and he was told by God to go to the city of Nineveh
to preach to the people there. But he refused because he despised the
people of Nineveh. In fact, Jonah decided that he would head in the
opposite direction toward Tarshish.
So he went to Joppa, paid the fare and boarded a ship headed for
Tarshish. But as the ship was sailing across the Mediterranean, the
Bible says the Lord sent a violent storm that threatened to sink the
In this case, Jonah’s actions led to something bad happening (or
possibly happening) to everyone else on board. They didn’t know Jonah
or realize that he was running from God, but Jonah’s actions affected
Bad things happen because someone else has done something wrong…
sometimes, but not always.
3. Bad things can happen because Satan is
attacking you. (Job 1)
Not going to spend a lot of time on this because we looked at an
example of this last week. We looked at how Job was a good, blameless
man who pleased God, who had experienced a life of happiness and
prosperity, but who also lost everything he had because Satan had
Bad things happen because Satan is attacking you… sometimes, but not
4. Bad things can happen because God is
testing you. (Deuteronomy 8:2; Psalm 66:8-12)
We mentioned a few minutes ago that Moses led the Israelites through
the desert for forty years. You know what? It’s not that far from Egypt
to Israel or Jordan. It could have been a fairly short trip if they had
trusted God enough to do what He promised. But they were afraid of the
people living in the land and thought they knew better than God and
questioned Him and ended up wandering around for forty years. It wasn’t
because Moses had a poor sense of direction. Check this out:
Deuteronomy 8:2 (NLT)
Remember how the LORD your God led you
through the wilderness for forty years, humbling you and testing you to
prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would really
obey his commands.
Here’s another passage:
Psalm 66:8-12 (NLT)
Let the whole world bless our God and sing
aloud his praises.
Our lives are in his hands, and he keeps our feet from stumbling.
You have tested us, O God; you have purified us like silver melted in a
You captured us in your net and laid the burden of slavery on our backs.
You sent troops to ride across our broken bodies. We went through fire
But you brought us to a place of great abundance.
Bad things happen because God is testing you… sometimes, but not always.
5. Bad things can happen because God is
teaching you. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
The Apostle Paul is often thought of as being the greatest Christian in
history, and in fact wrote many of the books contained in the New
Testament. He received many messages from God and was instrumental in
the spread of Christianity throughout the world. In reference to that,
listen to what Paul said:
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NLT)
But to keep me from getting puffed up, I was
given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and
keep me from getting proud.
Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he
said, "My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your
weakness." So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the
power of Christ may work through me. Since I know it is all for
Christ's good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults,
hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am
We don’t really know what this “thorn in the flesh” was. The most
common explanation is that Paul had bad eyesight. But we really don’t
know. What we do know is that something bad happened to Paul and that
God used it to teach him humility and and to teach Him to trust God
regardless of his circumstances or his inadequacies.
I caught the interview with Art Linkletter this week on Larry King
Live. Art Linkletter is a television veteran who has been in show
business for 70 years and is about to turn 91. He’s best known as the
host of House Party, the longest running daytime variety show in
television history, and Kids Say the Darndest Things. He’s also famous
for his connection with Walt Disney and as the only person to ever have
five shows on T.V. all running at the same time. And something I found
out this week is that he was born in Moose Jam, Saskatchewan.
He’s a fascinating man and I try to catch any interview of him that’s
on T.V. In this interview, he talked about his kids. He had 3 daughters
and 2 sons. He lost one daughter when she jumped out of an 18 story
window as a result of an LSD flashback from 3 months earlier, and lost
a son in an auto accident. This is what he said about this:
“So I’ve had tragedies. But I found this out about a tragedy: It either
leaves you diminished or enhanced. If you face up to it, if you make
the best of it, you’re a better person. You appreciate love, you
appreciate life, you appreciate all the things of being with people.”
~ Art Linkletter
Larry King Live, January 22, 2003
Bad things happen because God is teaching you… sometimes, but not
6. Bad things can happen because God is
positioning you. (Genesis 45:4-8; 50:20)
In the book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, there’s an account
of a boy named Joseph. Joseph was one of 12 sons born to Jacob, but he
was definitely Jacob’s favorite and everybody knew it… including the
other sons. So eventually Joseph’s brothers got tired of Joseph getting
all the attention and receiving all the gifts and they conspired
against him. They faked his death so they could tell Jacob that Joseph
had been killed by wild animals, and then sold Joseph into slavery.
So Joseph was taken away to Egypt as a slave. But through a whole
series of events which we don’t have time to talk about this morning,
Joseph ended up as second in command of all Egypt, second to only to
Eventually, a famine struck the whole area and Joseph’s brothers had to
travel to Egypt to find food. They appeared before Joseph to ask for
food, but they didn’t recognize him. Until finally Joseph let them know…
Genesis 45:4-8 (NLT)
I am Joseph, your brother whom you sold into
Egypt. But don't be angry with yourselves that you did this to me, for
God did it. He sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. These
two years of famine will grow to seven, during which there will be
neither plowing nor harvest. God has sent me here to keep you and your
families alive so that you will become a great nation. Yes, it was God
who sent me here, not you! And he has made me a counselor to
Pharaoh—manager of his entire household and ruler over all Egypt.
Genesis 50:20 (NLT)
As far as I am concerned, God turned into
good what you meant for evil. He brought me to the high position I have
today so I could save the lives of many people.
Joseph was sold into slavery but ended up saving the lived of thousands
of people, including his own family. God had used a bad thing to put
Joseph in a position where this could happen.
Bad things happen because God is positioning you… sometimes, but not
7. Bad things can happen because you have
rejected God. (Jonah 1)
We talked about Jonah earlier. Jonah was being sent to Nineveh because
the people there had rejected God. And Jonah was being sent with the
message that unless they turned to God they would be destroyed. Bad
things would happen if they continued to reject God.
Two days after Sept. 11, 2001, Billy Graham’s daughter, Ann, was
interviewed by Jane Clayson on CBS’s the Early Show. And when she was
asked how God could allow something like Sept. 11 to happen, she
“I say God is also angry when he sees something like this. I would say
also for several years now Americans in a sense have shaken their fist
at God and said, God, we want you out of our schools, our government,
our business, we want you out of our marketplace. And God, who is a
gentleman, has just quietly backed out of our national and political
life, our public life. Removing his hand of blessing and protection. We
need to turn to God first of all and say, ‘God, we're sorry we have
treated you this way and we invite you now to come into our national
life. We put our trust in you.’”
~ Anne Graham Lotz
Bad things happen because you have rejected God... sometimes, but not
8. Bad things happen because life happens.
Matthew 5:45 (NLT)
For he gives his sunlight to both the evil
and the good, and he sends rain on the just and on the unjust, too.
Sometimes bad things just happen. Maybe there’s a reason, maybe there
isn’t. If there is, we can’t figure it out. Bad things happen because
life happens, but don’t confuse God with life.
Bad things happen because life happens, but you can trust God… always.
So bad things happen to all of us. Just as we finish up here I want to
give you eight things to do when bad things happen. Get you’re pens
ready because we’re going through them rapid fire. Ready?
When Bad Things Happen:
A. Keep your trust in God.
Don’t give up on Him. Trust Him to get you through.
B. Turn to prayer.
Don’t be afraid to let God know what you’re going through. Ask Him for
strength and guidance.
C. Examine yourself.
See if maybe there is something in your life causing the trouble.
Confess any sin to God. See if there’s any pride or jealousy in your
D. Grow through it.
As you go through it, grow through it.
Allow God to teach you and develop character in your life. Don’t just
experience the bad thing, learn from it and grow.
E. Look to the promise of heaven.
Remember that God has promised an eternity with Him in heaven for all
who put their trust in God and are faithful to Him. You may be going
through a rough time right now, but heaven’s coming.
F. Grow closer to God.
Depend on Him. Allow your trust in Him to be deepened.
G. Grow closer to others.
As believers we’re part of the Body of Christ. We’re all in this thing
together. Let’s support each other and love each other and build each
H. Choose your attitude.
Remember that people are watching you, especially when you’re going
through a rough time. And you represent Christ.
Few things bother me more than watching someone who claims to be a
Christian experience some kind of problem and all of a sudden start
swearing and complaining and bad-mouthing people. All you’ve got to do
is watch American Idol and you’ll see people doing that as soon as
they’re turned down.
You’re representing Christ, and how you respond can have a dramatic
effect on others.
Helen Keller said;
“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow.”
~ Helen Keller