Why do bad things happen to good people?

Question:

How can you explain why bad things happen in the world? You’ve mentioned that you should always trust in the Lord, but my friend, who is Catholic, has a personal relationship with God, and is only 9 years old and dying of a heart disease. She didn’t do anything to deserve this and yet things like this happen all the time, all over the world. If God is going to protect us no matter what, as your father said with their finances, why didn’t he protect this little girl?

Answer:

First of all, I am so sorry to hear about your friend.  My prayers go out to her and her family as they try to make sense of all of this.  It is a sad but real fact that disease and sickness are part of this world—this world that we are all just passing through.

In my family, we were always taught to run to God in everything—in our triumphs, in our failures, in our joy, and in our suffering. The God we know is both all-powerful and all-loving.  In those times that we laugh, He laughs with us; and in those times that we suffer, He suffers with us (that’s what the Cross is all about, right?).  We have no doubt that God’s heart is aching for this little girl and all those close to her.

There are two conclusions that people usually arrive at when struggling with this question:  God is either unable to stop the righteous from suffering, or He is unwilling.  You can see why this is problematic for a person who believes in God to deal with.  If God is unable, then He is not the all-powerful God that we believe Him to be.  Yet if He is unwilling, then He is not the all-loving God that we believe Him to be.

The fact of the matter is this: we live in a fallen world.  God would never force us to love Him.  He loves us so much that he gave us the gift of free will.  With that free will, our first parents chose to disobey God.  As a result of that first disobedience, suffering entered the world (Gen. 3:16-19).

In each of our lives, we will all undergo suffering and face trials.  But we are blessed to have a God who is not unfamiliar with human suffering.  Talk about a bad thing happening to a good person!  (Replace “bad” with “unthinkable” and “good” with “divinely perfect” and you’ve only just begun to scratch the surface)

It is easy for some people to point to suffering in the world and denounce God because He allows the just to suffer with the unjust.  But would it not also be easy for God to point to our sins every day and denounce us for crucifying Him with those sins?  But He doesn’t do that because He is a merciful God.  His arms are outstretched in love for us, even as we drive nails through His hands with the sins we commit.

In Jesus, we have an example of how to endure our suffering.  Everyone in this life has a cross to bear; that is something we don’t get a choice in.  We do, however, get a choice in whether or not to let Him help us carry it.

God loves us so much that He wants to take on our suffering.  He lets us suffer so we can bring that pain to Him to let Him heal it.  Our sufferings are His sufferings, just as our joy is His joy.  We have no doubt that this little girl will be welcomed home into God’s heavenly kingdom.  We have no need to be afraid of death, because Christ has conquered death.

I pray that you, this little girl, and her family run to God in this difficult time.  I pray that you realize that you are not alone, that God is there to help you shoulder the weight of this cross in your life.

“Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed, you may also rejoice exultantly”

-1 Peter 4:12-13