Why do bad things happen to good people? This is a question that has plagued humankind since the beginning of time I’d imagine, but it has plagued me since 2007 when tragedy struck my family. Over the course of those years, I had heard, and even convinced myself that we just live in a fallen world and bad things just happen to good people. This morning, the question popped up again in my mind. I want to consider this matter again.
I did a lot of moving around when I was a kid … Texas, California, Ohio, back to Texas, etc. My dad was in the ministry while I was growing up. In the pursuits of ministry, he being educationally minded attended some of the best theological schools of the day. I never minded the moving around. I made a couple of good friends wherever I went. Not a lot of friends, but a few good close ones. A few days ago, maybe a week or so, I reached out on Facebook to find some of my old, long-lost childhood friends. Friends I had when I was 3 or 4, 10, etc. It was kind of exciting finding old crushes and best buds. It was like a social treasure hunt. One such friend, I’ll tell a bit of his story. My parents and Bob’s parents were really the close friends. I was kinda the tag along. But that was okay because Bob’s parents were super cool. Bob’s mom loved to tell stories and his dad loved to polish rocks. Between the two of them, stories and rocks … what 3 year old boy wouldn’t love!? I really didn’t get to know Bob all that well, he was an adult, married and had moved to South America. Bob was like most any other college kid; doing what college kids do. Well, one day, Bob met Jesus and his life was a changed one from that point on. Dropping everything, he went to the mission field in South America, met his now wife, and served the Lord for years and years; doing great exploits in the name of the Lord. He and his wife raised two great children and all things considered he was living the “perfect” Christian life. I use that term very loosely, as none of us are perfect, but, at the same time, he was doing his job, his Matthew 28:19 duty that all Christians are obligated to do. He was a healthy strapping man, over six-foot tall, broad shoulders, dark hair, all balanced with a soft heart. Here is how our conversation transgressed.
Hello Bob, you don’t know/remember me, but I’m Jonathan Watson. Would you happen to be Bob, the missionary?
yes… I’m totally paralyzed, because of ALS, I can’t speak because I’m on a vent. I’m using an eye gaze computer to write this, very difficult
I am very sorry to hear of your condition. It is hard to imagine. I know that you and my folks were friends, but I remember your folks with great fondness. I think you were in the mission field at the time but I remember the tremendous jewels your dad would make with his rock polisher and the stories your mom would tell. You don’t need to respond to this. Just know that you and your family holds a special place of remembrance in our hearts. I thank God for you and your family. I look forward to meeting you and catching up with you … If not in this life, then in the one to come.
So, with that, you can see how shocking it was for me to see the man I that I remembered brought down physically. But this morning, as I was out feeding the calves afterwards, and doing some odd jobs around the farm in-between bouts of rain, that haunting question of why bad things happen to good people pushed its way into my head.
Why? Why is a good pastor friend of mine, in the prime of his career and life is stunted by severe debilitating asthma? Why is a family marked for certain ministry plagued by the ravishing results of infidelity and divorce? Another family I remember from back in the day, who attended school with my parents and had two really cute girls my age, was dashed on the rocks of sexual immorality ending up causing another gaping wound in an otherwise good family … why? A close friend of my own family, peers with my children, lost their daddy … a family with seven children lost their daddy to a brain tumor … again, why? Why does a friend of mine lose both of his legs in a farming accident? Why is a precious 50 some year old lady on staff at our church doomed with blindness at the age of 18? Why does a hero in the Kingdom of God come down with ALS that leads to full-body paralysis and left to live his life on a vent? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why?
I remember when I was a kid; school just didn’t come easy for me. For some kids though, school was like water to a fish. I can still remember their names … their prowess for academia befuddled me! Becky … Stuart … Brenda … Stori … Sasha … Valerie … Aekta … Karen … Joli … Justin … etc. they thrived in that academic environment. For me though, I was like a fish out of water. Nevertheless, the teacher gave us tests. Why did she give us tests? In times past, I’ve often ascribed the reason to be “to see what we had learned.” But this morning, I contemplated the idea as being simply … to help us learn. Did my English teacher Mrs. Garrett give me tests knowing that I was probably going to fail? Yeah … She knew me. So why did she give me tests, knowing that I was probably going to fail? Did she want me to fail … no. In fact, I know she wanted me to succeed. I know that she loved me very much. Would holding back on the tests cause us to succeed? Nah … I doubt it. In fact, I believe now, that because of those tests, I became a better student because of them. I still barely passed English with a C, but because of her doing what was best for me, allowing me to undergo pop-quizzes, weekly
tests, semester finals, papers that count 3 times, etc. it made me into the student I am today. So, as I reflect on my various associations who have undergone various tests over the years … some have come out of their tests fine, while others have failed. Like them, I have failed many of my own tests. Some of us bring about tests others have tests given to us. We all have tests. Even Jesus was tested. Some tests result in sin, others we have no control over like ALS, blindness, etc. rather we can only control the outcome … our response.
Why do bad things happen to good people? My answer today is: Tests. You see, contrary to wishful thinking, we are promised a life of suffering. Jesus said in John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” NKJV. That was the traditional translation; here it is again in a different translation. John 16:31-33 Jesus answered them, “Do you finally believe? In fact, you’re about to make a run for it—saving your own skins and abandoning me. But I’m not abandoned. The Father is with me. I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world, you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”
Though my story was one of those I mentioned above, I haven’t been challenged the way others have. Some people have different tests than others. Why do we have tests? So we become better students. There are many reasons by good people have suffering in this life. I don’t mean to sound like this is the only reason or to simplify things. I have a more thorough, yet still not complete list of reason called, 25 Reasons Why Christians Suffer, but maybe you’ve experienced difficulty and suffering in your life. How have you responded. Believe me, I’ve not always responded the right way. In my post, 13 Proper Reactions To Suffering, I break it down a little more. Maybe your life isn’t all you envisioned it to be, but could it be worse? For some people, like Bob, I don’t know how. But I wonder, if he could have a voice here, what he would say to us. I wonder if he would reiterate the words of Christ as he was facing his own ultimate testing of Crucifixion and say, “Jesus has conquered this world, be encouraged, take heart.”
Until later . . . Jonathan Watson
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