This was a message I recently preached to a group of 6-8th graders with little to no church background in their life. We have been laboring week in and week out to lay a foundation, and preach the Gospel to them. We are beginning to see great fruit, including a number of 1st time professions of faith... to which we respond by encouraging them to examine themselves continually to see if the profession is true. Anyway, they asked the age old question, why do bad things happen to good people, this message was the response.
You have asked one of the difficult questions of the ages, a question that every generation of people ask, a question that requires a real gut check, a question that strikes at very heart of what we believe. You asked the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Now before I answer this question you need to understand a few things. Some of you are on easy street right now, you get pretty much whatever you want, you are not experiencing any real crises, so the answer to this question is trivial to you. Others of you have serious struggles with your parents and guardians going on right now, your parents are going through divorce, your life is in a difficult place, and the answer to this question is very important to you. If the answer to this question is not important to you right now, let me tell you, some day it will be.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28 NASB)
One of the greatest things that God has ever created for us is pain. Seriously, pain is a tremendous blessing from God. Now that may sound odd to you, but let’s think about this logically for a minute. If you fall down running to WOW one day and you cut your leg badly and it hurts a lot, you would say that is a bad thing. However, if you did not feel pain it would be far worse. You see cuts if they are not dealt with eventually become infected, infection can lead to sickness, disability, even amputation. Now let me ask, what is your primary motivation for dealing with a cut? The primary motivation is to stop the pain. You see pain and suffering is an indicator of a greater problem. Now let’s tweak the situation just a little bit, because I do not want you to be confused. Let’s say you are running to WOW and you trip and fall because Sean kicked your legs out from under you. Who is going to feel the pain? You are! So is the pain bad? No! The pain still drives you to deal with the cut so that it does not get infected.
The world has one really big problem! It is this: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23 NASB)
Now because of sin in this world, God created pain and suffering. I know that sounds awful at first, that God Himself created suffering, but it is true, and it if we take a close look at it, it is a wonderful truth.
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—(In other words the reason for death and suffering is sin) for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. (That part is a little confusing, but basically it is saying that by nature we are sinful, it is more than just the fact that we commit sin, but that we are naturally sinful, but check this out) But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. (Romans 5:12-15 NASB)
You see, the reason for suffering is sin. However, just like your body suffers and feels pain to alert you to a problem in order that you may be healed, the world has suffering and pain in order to alert us to the problem of sin so that we may seek God and have eternal life. You see, if we were allowed to continue on sinning, without seeing any negative things in the world there would be no reason for us to ever seek God, because we would be entirely comfortable all the time. Yet when we died comfortably of old age we would be met with the harsh reality in eternity that we never sought God, or cared an ounce for Him. The bible says that it is better that we suffer briefly here on earth and live with God in heaven for eternity, than to have a total bliss here on earth, and suffer without God in eternity. We should be thankful that there is pain and suffering in this world, because it drives us to know God more, and to ask important questions about Him, and to seek Him for answers.
Now, there is something else that you need to understand, and this is really important, because if you do not understand this you will have a lot of trouble living the Christian life, and you will be down on yourself a lot more than you should be. Remember at the beginning of this message when I talked about running to WOW falling and getting a cut, and I also spoke about someone else tripping you and getting the cut. See in either case the pain was good, because it helped you to heal, but sometimes the reason for the cut is not your fault. See we have all sinned, and we have all caused people pain, and we all have been in pain because of someone else’s sin. If you are suffering right now it may or may not be the result of your sin. Just because you suffer does not mean it is your fault! If you are feeling depressed because your grades are low but you never study, well that is your fault. At the same time if your parents are splitting up, or a close loved one dies unexpectedly, that is not your fault. But look! In either case the pain and suffering you feel should drive you to pray to God for grace and healing, and peace, and He will give it to you, and while you may be in pain and not happy, you will have an underlying joy and peace, and ultimately a better relationship with God in the long run.
Now there is one more aspect of this question that we must address, it is very important. You see the reason that a lot of people ask this question is not because they actually want an answer to it. The reason a lot of people ask this question is to accuse God of not being fair, and some people ask this question to make the argument that God does not even exist. They have a big problem logically though. If one of you asked me the question “What happens to a good atheist when they die?” I would say “that is easy, they go to heaven.” You would say to me “wait, you said that people need to put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ to go to heaven.” To that I would respond, “Yeah, oh and by the way could you introduce me to this good atheist you are speaking about?”
Listen, I have said this before, but if I took all of your thoughts, deeds, text messages, things you have done in private, and public, everything you had done just this past month, and put it on display for everyone here to see, you would run out of here as fast as you possibly could. Why, because you would be embarrassed about the things you do, the same can be said of me. Why? Because naturally we are not good! We do bad things we know we should not do, we all do, everyone of us. Whether you are a Christian or an atheist you still are not a ‘good person’ all the time, or even most of the time! So when we ask the question why do bad things happen to good people, we really could answer by saying, “Bad things don’t happen to good people, because good people do not exist!” Also, because pain and suffering and “bad things” draw us closer to God, and make us seek forgiveness, we could actually say they are not bad! Because the verse I read earlier says that ALL things work for good for those who love God. So when we ask the question “Why do bad things happen to good people?” We could really throw the whole thing out, because God causes all things to be good, so there are no bad things, and also there are no good people.
Now with all of that said, please understand that a lot of times we are in really “bad” situations and they hurt very badly, and often times they are not our fault at all. Are job is not to try to believe the situation is not bad, or that we are not good, but we must remember that in the pain God is calling out to us, so that we would trust in Him, love Him, and be given peace and healing... and ultimately eternal life.
Our God is good, and He is good all of the time! He is so loving, more loving than any of us know. God does not get pleasure in people dying, He does not get pleasure in seeing us in pain, He does not get kicks out of watching us toil and weep. At the same time God does love us enough to allow these things, and even cause these things in order that we be healed, and love Him forever.
I am not sure if that is a satisfactory answer. Some of you youth have suffered more in your short life than I have in my whole adult life, and some of your adult leaders here have suffered tremendous pain, more than you can imagine. What you need to understand is that through it all, God is love, and He is calling us to put our faith in Him.