Why do bad things happen to good people?

“When Bad Things Happen to Good People” was a popular book title in the 80s. It seems an appropriate title when Virginia and the country is reeling from the worst campus shooting in U.S. history.

Why do bad things happen to innocent people?

1. God allows nature to take its course, whether it be natural disasters, diseases or illness.

2. God allows human nature the freedom to act… deeds of good and bad.

3. Even though this freedom may cause great grief, God does not interfere.

4. Some people rationalize a tragedy away by saying that God wanted these loved ones more than their families.

5. Some people believe that through tragedy, God is trying to teach a lesson to the victims or their families.  Granted, new learning and growth can occur from tragedy, but this is not the God I believe in.

After the drowning accident of his son, theologian William Barclay said, “on the day that the waters of the deep surrounded my son and snatched his life, God’s heart was breaking too.”  This is how I view the tragic circumstances that happen to good people. In mercy and compassion, God’s heart is breaking when God’s children are in pain and sorrow.  This loving God uplifts, comforts, brings hope and healing to all of those who despair.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the good people of Virginia and their families.

dr pers ©2007

5 thoughts on “Why do bad things happen to good people?

  1. cturpen

    Great post. This is the main problem I’ve had with religion. I still struggle with it, especially during national tragedies like VTech.

  2. Ethan

    I love your blog. You are an excellent writer and undoubtedly intelligent.

    I do have a question pertaining to this post, though. Why does God not interfere when something bad happens? It sort of seems to me that religious explanations attempt to justify God’s absence.

    I hope my question is not upsetting and does not seem mean or rude. I am only asking because I am trying to find some answers. I am sick of all the doubt I have.

    I’ll be back in search of an answer, and if there isn’t an answer, I’ll still be back. I think your blog is wonderful and really enjoy reading it.

  3. downrightpersonal Post author

    Dear Ethan,
    Thanks for stopping by. Sincere questions are always welcome here. No offense taken in the least.

    Yes, it does appear that my explanation tries to excuse God’s absense. Granted, there are numerous perspectives on this issue… as I briefly touched upon in the post.

    This is how I view it. God has three choices.

    1) Create humanity with a free will and mind,
    let them roam and do as they please, hope that they will worhip their Creator, love and serve their neighbor.

    2) Create humanity with a limited will and mind and interfere everytime something bad starts to happen. Should God interfere when a child is about to fall down and skin his knee?
    Should God interfere only when major catastrophes are about to happen, something that will harm 25 people or more?
    Where should God draw the lines of interference? Should God interfere when people are too tired or too busy to worship their Creator, love and serve their neighbor?
    Should God make them do it?
    In this option, God would be a puppeteer, pulling strings on everyone, controlling all behavior so that nothing bad happens.

    3) Create humanity with a free will and mind,
    let them roam free, hope that they worship their Creator, and occassionally interfere with the laws of nature that God has set into motion.

    This option causes a lot of confusion for all of us. The big reason I don’t buy into this option, is that I believe in justice. We know from the Bible, from the stories of God’s people, that God is just.

    A God of justice, would not occassionally interfer with this or that tragic event. Why this one and not that one? I do not believe that a just God would show preference and choose one person to survivie a car crash and allow the other five to die. I do not believe that God chose some students and staff to survive the VTech massacre and allowed others to die.

    So where does that leave us? Faith cannot be completely rationalized away. There is a reason it is referrred to as faith, and why there is mystery in spirituality. I do not have all the answers and there are many contradictions in life and faith.
    For example, miraculous things do happen. Why are some spared and some are not? That to me remains a mystery, but I do not believe that God intentionally chose to spare some over the others.

    In option one, God appears to be absent or passive. It is very similar to a parent /child relationship. As older teens are trying to become adults, a parent often has to passively watch their independence-seeking teen exercise her/his freedom, making mistakes and placing themselves in dangerous situations. (I could write a post or two on that subject alone!) While it can be excruciating, parents know that they have to gradually let go of their teens so they can mature and be happy.

    While God is powerful and almighty, God has chosen self imposed restrictions, not interferring when mistakes and tragedy are about to occur. I believe that God decided that humanity would be happiest with a free will and mind, free to roam and do as we please, and hope that we will choose to worship the Creator, love and serve our neighbor.

    My “answer” is not the answer to everything.

    For further reading: Rabbi Harold Kushner’s book, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” It was very helpful in forming my own beliefs. He struggled with this issue when it was discovered that his son had a rapidly aging disease.

    Have I confused you completely?
    dr pers

  4. Ethan

    You did not confuse me. You just got me to thinking.

    I actually think that is the best answer I have been given so far. You have a way of writing and explaining things without putting me in a trance. Many individuals who have tried helping me talk and talk without ever really giving an answer. I end up daydreaming instead of listening.

    I do have a few more questions now after reading your response, but they are not causing me any grief. I sort of think I feel a little better now.

    I will definitely read the book you suggested. When I’m finished, I’ll let you know if it’s helped.

    Thanks for everything!
    – Ethan


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