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Why do bad things happen to good people?

Why do bad things happen to good people?   Why would a loving God allow his children to endure pain and toil and suffering?    If God is good and His creation is good, what went wrong?  Have you ever been confused in regards to these questions?  In a world surrounded by darkness and confusion, the word of God is a light guiding our steps to Christ.    Let us therefore study the Bible to discover the answer to these important questions.

But before we do so, let us pray…

Dear loving Heavenly Father,

Lord you know our trials and pain, we ask today that you clear some of the confusion in our mind regarding why bad things are happening to seemingly good people.  Help us to understand why you have allowed the world to be in this condition.  We ask that you send your Holy Spirit to guide us in our understanding of your word.  In a world of confusion we ask that you bring clarity to our lives today.  We want to know why the earth is in the condition it is in.  And we desire to know how it got there.  As we come with humble and open hearts we ask that you teach us your ways oh Lord and help us to trust you each day. We ask and pray all these things in Jesus name, amen.

God’s original plan for mankind

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) But God did not create death, sorrow or pain when the earth was created. Continuing in the first chapter of Genesis it says “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) As the earth came forth from the hand of its Maker, it was exceedingly beautiful. Its surface was diversified with mountains, hills, and plains, interspersed with noble rivers and lovely lakes. There were no loathsome swamps or barren deserts. Graceful shrubs and delicate flowers greeted the eye at every turn. The heights were crowned with trees more majestic than any that now exist. The angelic host viewed the scene with delight, and rejoiced at the wonderful works of God. “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1)

Death was not to be found in this beautiful creation. Mankind was instructed to only eat a plant based diet (see Genesis 1:29). Animals were not to be killed and eaten. Likewise animals did not hunt and kill each other (Genesis 1:30). The lion did not kill young deer, there was no death or suffering even by animals in the world. So God’s original plan as He is all loving, was not to subject his children to pain and suffering.

Even though at the moment the world is no longer in this state, the good news is that Jesus has promised that in the near future after He returns, sin, pain, suffering, death and evil will be completely removed from this planet and from the universe. The Bible says…

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” ~ Revelation 21:1, 3-4

What a beautiful promise from God that after evil is removed from this planet God will perform the wonderful and amazing work of restoration. “There shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”  And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (Revelation 21:4-5, 1 Thessalonians 4:17) The loving and peaceful communion that mankind originally enjoyed shall once again be restored. Also the Bible says that “Affliction will not rise up a second time.” (Nahum 1:9) Evil and sin will no longer enter the world.

So since God’s original plan was freedom from pain and death and His plan for the future is the same, what went wrong? If God is loving, if God is all powerful, why are we in this mess we find ourselves in today?

The Bible actually does give a logical answer to this question. Imagine with me if we had the option of advising God on how to create His creations. The only requirement, God’s creation cannot contradict His character of love. Let us consider three options on how to design mankind.

Option #1 – God could prevent all creatures from having free will, therefore preventing evil because no one has a choice.

By doing so, His children would not be subject to pain and suffering for everyone would be forced to do only God’s will. But would this be loving?

If someone walked up to me and put a gun to my head and said “bark like a dog or else”. I would definitely start barking like a dog. Then if that same man said “now get on your hands and knees and bark like a dog”. I would definitely get on my hands and knees and start barking like a dog. Then if that same man said “now, love me with all your heart, and mind and soul or else”. Could I do so? No, such would be an impossibility. Forced submission and obedience is not love. God never forces the will or the conscience. The government of God is not, as Satan would make it appear, founded upon a blind submission, an unreasoning control. It appeals to the intellect and the conscience. “Come now, and let us reason together” is the Creator’s invitation to the beings He has made. (Isaiah 1:18) God does not force the will of His creatures. He cannot accept an homage that is not willingly and intelligently given. A mere forced submission would prevent all real development of mind or character; it would make man a mere automaton. Such is not the purpose of the Creator. He desires that man, the crowning work of His creative power, shall reach the highest possible development. He sets before us the height of blessing to which He desires to bring us through His grace. He invites us to give ourselves to Him, that He may work His will in us. It remains for us to choose whether we will be set free from the bondage of sin, to share the glorious liberty of the sons of God. Certainly this option would not be loving.

Let us therefore consider…

Option # 2 – God could create humans with free will but destroy all evil when it rises up.

Therefore by instantly destroying evil God would prevent unnecessary suffering on the innocent.

Although preventing innocents from suffering, the problem with this option is multi-faceted. For one, if anyone chose to disobey God, people would perish seemingly out of nowhere. Angels and humans alike would not know why an individual was destroyed, even though God knew that that individual planned to hurt an innocent individual. By following this option, God’s universal commandment of selflessly loving one another would no longer be the motivating factor for serving God. But rather fear of judgment or reprisal would be the motivating factor for all mankind to serve God. God is not some tyrant or dictator. The Bible defines love as the following…

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

I think we can agree that true love is patient, it is kind. It is not proud, rude nor self-seeking. The Bible also tells us that “God is love” ( 1 John 4:8). Since love is patient and God is love, 1 Corinthians 13 is really describing the characteristics of God. So we could say “God is patient, God is kind.  He does not envy, He does not boast, He is not proud.  God is not rude, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered.

Here the Creator of the universe has every right to be whatever he wants and yet he chooses to be the perfect, holy example of love! If God simply destroyed all evil instantly, would He be patient? Would He be merciful? No. By destroying all evil instantly, there would be no room for repentance, no room for mercy. The Bible says…”The LORD is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression.” (Numbers 14:18) God also declares…

Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die? (Ezekiel 33:11)

Neither the destruction of evil when it first rises up or the forcing of the will to prevent suffering are viable options for God, let us therefore our third and only viable option.

Option #3 – God could create creatures with free will and allow them to choose to follow God’s pattern of self sacrificing love, or choose another path.

Such a path would take the risk of allowing unnecessary suffering on others, but free choice is the very fundamental requirement of true love.

True liberty and independence are found in the service of God. His service will place upon you no restriction that will not increase your happiness. In complying with His requirements, you will find a peace, contentment, and enjoyment that you can never have in the path of wild license and sin. Satan and sinful man alike have called God’s government and His laws (the Ten Commandments) as unfair.

Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. (Romans 13:8-10, 7:12) If God’s perfect law was never broken by man, there would be no suffering in this world.

Satan’s first method to deceive mankind was to make sin, the breaking of God’s law of love, appear pleasant, a more desirable option than obeying God’s commandments of love. He was successful and mankind chose to disobey God and reap the consequences of selfishness and evil. (see Genesis 3). Even today Satan is constantly trying to make God’s commandments look restrictive to our best interests. But God does not require us to give up anything that it is for our best interest to retain. In all that He does, He has the well-being of His children in view. Would that all who have not chosen Christ might realize that He has something vastly better to offer them than they are seeking for themselves. Man is doing the greatest injury and injustice to his own soul when he thinks and acts contrary to the will of God. No real joy can be found in the path forbidden by Him who knows what is best and who plans for the good of His creatures. The path of transgression is the path of misery and destruction. But he who looks into God’s perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:25)

In conclusion, pain and suffering was never a part of God’s plan or government, it entered the world not because of a failure on God’s part, but rather a failure on ours. Unnecessary evil and suffering came to this world not because of God’s choice, but because of our choice. Such was not God’s plan but a consequence of allowing true love and freedom of choice. Man was originally endowed with noble powers and a well-balanced mind. He was perfect in his being, and in harmony with God. His thoughts were pure, his aims holy. But through disobedience, his powers were perverted, and selfishness took the place of love. His nature became so weakened through transgression that it was impossible for him, in his own strength, to resist the power of evil. He was made captive by Satan, and would have remained so forever had not God specially interposed. It was the tempter’s purpose to thwart the divine plan in man’s creation, and fill the earth with woe and desolation. And he would point to all this evil as the result of God’s work in creating man.

God warned mankind that the day that they transgressed God’s law of love, death would enter the world, for the wages of sin is death. (Genesis 3:2, Romans 6:23)

Because God is all loving He must be a just judge. Therefore he must be fair and execute judgment on evil. A fair judge cannot allow evil to go unpunished. Because light and darkness cannot dwell together, sin, the breaking of God’s law of love, is so horrible that a holy God cannot dwell with unholy people. Mankind is separated from the wonderful peaceful communion with God because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23).

But what now? Are we all doomed to destruction?

God’s heart was broken when mankind broke His law. Mankind could not be forgive by removing God’s law. For God’s law of love cannot be changed as it is as eternal as God’s character. Because God is merciful and all loving, He sought to redeem mankind by paying the penalty for sin. And so the only way to redeem mankind was for someone to stand in man’s place and pay the penalty. Only the judge and law giver can issue a pardon. Thus nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus, who was “God manifest in the flesh1” came to earth in the form of a man. He lived a perfect sinless life, and suffered the penalty of our sins by dying for us. By His sacrifice, by paying our penalty, mankind may have one more chance at eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

It is true that many have received unnecessary suffering in this world. But no one has received more pain, more innocent suffering than God Himself. Billions of holy perfect angels worshiped the Lord day and night. Yet he left the glory and riches of heaven, to come to this earth. His life was one of toil and pain. Men rejected Him and mocked Him. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He was betrayed by one of His own, and suffered the death of a criminal on a cross. He left the 99 found sheep, to seek and save the one lost. And that one lost sheep was you.

Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, Jesus died the death we deserve.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God”. 2

There are only a few precious moments of probation left for each of us. God has graciously granted each individual time here on earth to choose whether we want to serve a loving God or rebel against Him. Through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus, trust in His promises of forgiveness and through confession and repentance of sin “to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12)

God’s greatest desire is for you to accept His gracious gift of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. All heaven is interested in your salvation. God has given his only beloved Son to die for your transgressions, angels are watching over you, and are trying to turn your attention to God, to seek your soul’s salvation. Speaking of Jesus it is written…

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy ~ Jude 1:24

This verse says that Jesus is able to present you faultless, as if you had never sinned, through His sacrifice. It also says God would delight to do so “with exceeding joy”. Since Jesus would be exceedingly joyful to see you in heaven, it stands to reason that He would be exceedingly sorrowful if you did not make it there. Oh friend, there would always be a hole in God’s heart if you choose to reject His gracious sacrifice for you. The good news is you can accept His gracious gift of forgiveness today if you so desire. Can I invite you to join me in prayer? If so I’d invite you to simply pray with me.

Dear Heavenly Father,

We thank you for your great love and patience with us. I thank you for your great gift of forgiveness that you have offered through your Son Jesus on the cross. I ask you to forgive my sin and I believe that you will forgive me because you have promised to do so. Forgive me dear Lord and help me to live a pure life. Help us to learn more about you each day and to do your will I ask and pray in Jesus name amen.

Friend, if you prayed that prayer know that this is not the end but only the beginning of a new life.  If you would be a saint in heaven, you must first be a saint on earth. The traits of character you cherish in life will not be changed by death or by the resurrection. You will come up from the grave with the same disposition you manifested in your home and in society. Jesus does not change the character at His coming. The work of transformation must be done now.  Such can only be done by a constant connection to Jesus, by learning His will through study of the Bible and allowing Him to transforming us into His loving image.  Our daily lives are determining our destiny. Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking,  as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. ~ 1 Peter 2:1-3

May God bless you as you seek to follow Him!

1 1 Timothy 3:16 NKJV

2 John 3:16-18

Words from the Bible are in blue, all texts quoted above are from the KJV or NKJV unless otherwise stated.

Some texts above are from Steps To Christ & Great Controversy by E.G. White

For a second part to this study we highly recommend the following resources…

Written or video study entitled Did God create a devil?

An more in-depth study on the war in heaven and the battle between good and evil.

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