So many non-believers, and some believers even, ask the question – why do bad things happen to good people? You might have heard the answer, you might not have. I don’t know. But I will tell you why bad things happen to good people.
It starts in Genesis, chapter 3, verses 1-6, and continues in verses 16-19: “Now the serpent was craftier than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ‘You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it…To the woman, He said, ‘I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you’. To Adam, he said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, You must not eat from it, cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.’”
Here, if we examine this segment of Scripture, we will notice 3 key points in this passage: 1. He gives us free will, 2. He warns us, and 3. He corrects us. I have titled my three key points: The Free will, The Warning, and The Rebuking.
The Free Will
From the very beginning, God gave mankind a free will – that is, a free control over their entire lives. They can do whatever they want (with human restrictions, of course). But also, with that free will, came the ability to choose evil, and the ability to choose good. As it seems to be in this world, good makes no effort to look appealing, while sin appears to be glamorous and fun. It is a natural human reaction to want to go for the bigger, the better, the more fun (funner’s not a word), and the overall best-looking item you can receive. Why take the five-dollar gift when you could have the two-hundred-dollar one?
It is our natural human flesh to want to go the evil route. Is that any excuse? Not in the least. Here is a quote I found last week: “If God understands my humanity and sin nature better than I do, why does He still hold me accountable for what I cannot help doing?” (~Anonymous)
There is a big flaw in this statement above – you should see it. It is that wording on the end – what I cannot help doing.
Part of the thing that people like about the idea of free will the most is the ability to be free of control and authoritative powers. But part of free will is making choices. It’s not that we’re predestined to go the sinful route, as Anonymous is suggesting in the above quote. We made the choice for which God is holding us accountable. We could’ve chosen His route, but we didn’t. Why? Because the sin looked better!
Sin is like a curved road. You can’t see what lies around the corner, but the part you can see is all flowers and butterflies. It looks nice, relaxing, and maybe even fun to some people.
But around that corner is the future, in my analogy. Your ‘fun’ and ‘better’ stuff has long-lasting effects that may not set in until later! You may not realize that there are quicksand pits around the corner, but there are! No matter what kind of sin it is, if you choose the path of sin, there will be consequences sometime down the road – whether here on earth, or given to you by God Himself.
So does God just let us go down the road without knowing what’s around the corner? No. God gives us a fair warning before we go on any kind of trip, no matter how short.
In verse 17 of chapter 2 in Genesis, God warns Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (discussed in verse 3 in the above passage) or else he will die. Fair warning, right? God does give us fair warnings! He warns us about upcoming events.
I read a biography of a Moldavian Christian martyr named Ivan (nicknamed ‘Vanya’) who was killed on July 16th, 1972 in the Red Army. Before his martyrdom, though, he had been the chauffeur for a young Red Army officer once. They were taking a load of bread to another army camp, and had securely double-latched it in the bed of their truck, along with a padlock. Along the way, Vanya heard God telling him to slow down. He was traveling at 37 mph and paid no attention to God’s warning. Again, God told him to slow down. Again, Vanya ignored him. Then, Vanya saw a piece of their bread sliding along the highway ahead of the truck. He stopped the truck and got out to see half of their bread load scattered back behind them on the highway. As they were picking it up, more vehicles passed them, including a black Ikarus bus. It took them about an hour to clean up all of their bread. When they got back on the road, they came to a large wreck, in which the black Ikarus bus had crashed into a construction crane, and there was a large pileup of cars with several casualties.
Luckily for us, sometimes when we ignore God’s warnings, He shows His mercy by forcing us to stop anyway. An example of this might be in Acts 16:7, in which it says: “When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.” Interesting wording, ‘not allow them to’.
Why does God warn us, if it is truly free will? One reason is to keep us safe, as in the example of Vanya and bread. He was forcing them to stop. But a lot of the time, and I will go so far as to say most of the time, God will just warn us once, and when we disobey, it’s our fault. Is this saying that He’s not a loving God? No, absolutely not. If He weren’t a loving God, then He wouldn’t warn us in the first place. But He does warn us about it. And we fail a lot of the time. It’s ok to fail, though. We are not failing life, or failing our purpose in life, we are just missing the goal of that one task. But that doesn’t mean that He just lets it slip by, either.
Every time that we fail in something, we are entitled to a rebuke. Whether this rebuke comes from God, your boss, a parent, or someone else, is entirely dependant upon the situation. But no matter what, we will mess up, and we will be in need of being correction.
You can see that Adam and Eve were sternly rebuked in verses 16-19 [of chapter 3]. In fact, their rebuke was so severe that it would also influence the entire world ever after them. Women giving birth would be a painful process, working hard in the fields would be painful process, and the land would rise up against mankind pretty much. Now the only representatives of the human race have failed, and their one little failure to keep God’s one and only command ever issued them (up to that time) they missed by a long shot! How could they fall for a mere fruit?
Remember what the chapter said earlier, though. Verse 6: “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some an ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” The temptation presented by the serpent made her view the fruit with a new mindset, and that mindset was only: “Look at how good it looks! It would make me know everything!” She probably didn’t even know that bad things were possible. I mean, if you lived in a perfect garden and had no issues or troubles at all, wouldn’t you agree that it would be hard to imagine imperfect life with struggles and pain and hardships? According to God’s Words in verse 18, “it will produce thorns and thistles for you…”. There were no thorns, no thistles, etc. These painful nuisances came after The Fall, as God said. (Most likely there were already mosquitoes and ticks, but apparently they did something else besides their present-day purpose. I don’t know, I could be wrong.)
Punishment is sometimes severe. Adam and Eve probably thought that the curse bestowed upon mankind was only for them, until they saw their kids go through it, and their grandkids, and their great-grandkids, and their great-great-grandkids, and so on. How awful they must have felt, watching their daughter go into labor or watching their son out plowing the field, and knowing that it was because they ate the little fruit.
Adam and Eve were also outcasts. “So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.(Gen. 3:23)” Can you imagine being cast out of your home into a strange new wilderness that stretched as far as the eye could see – no matter how far you traveled? They weren’t in a nice walled garden anymore. They were in the wilderness – where vicious animals roamed, strange new insects were drawing their blood, and prickly plants were scratching their legs to ribbons. Can you imagine being sent out into a wilderness, all alone, your Creator upset with you, and not knowing where to go. Oh, and don’t forget the cherubim with the flaming sword that kicked them out of the garden – officially. How could they put up with such stress and heartache? After all, that was the first time for them to feel it!
So, to conclude, I want to answer my original question – why do bad things happen to good people? I explained the origin of bad things and sin. And Adam and Eve really were good people, even though people often look down at them. There’s a biblical example right there of bad things happening to good people. But remember – and this is the answer to the question – we have been given the choice by free will. The choice to take God’s path or our sin nature path. The path to life or the path to death. The path to good things, or the path to bad things.
There is a bit more to talk about, but for the sake of time, I will save that for part II.