Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?
April 11, 2019
The Bible teaches that God is not a respecter of persons. This means that God doesn’t show favoritism of any kind to any person. He is merciful to all people based on when He wants to show mercy. He is gracious to all people based on when He wants to show grace. Evidence of this truth is profoundly shown in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The Apostle John taught that His blood was shed, not just for the lives of believers, but for all people at all points in human history. This means that, though God knew that many people would reject His favor, He gave them favor anyway and died for their sins. This doesn’t mean that non-believers will get the benefits of Jesus’ sacrifice, but plainly shows that God will do what He pleases and His desires are not based on our character or performance. Jesus died while we were still sinners.
The same principle applies for contrary circumstances. God shows favor to all people no matter the type of person, but God also subjects people to suffering no matter the type of person. This is where people get confused. Since we often examine life through a physical perspective, people often think that the appearance of difficulties is a sign of God’s displeasure. The Book of Job emphatically proves that this is not true. This is a very flawed way of thinking, and it’s our understanding of God’s nature that helps us get out of that kind of thinking. If God doesn’t show favoritism, is He obligated to remove His people from all the difficulties of this life? Consider the truth of scripture. The concept of “justification,” which is the basis of our salvation, is predicated on God’s “declaration” of our righteousness, we are not yet made righteous while in this life. God has made His declaration about our righteousness even though we still sin and fall short of His glory. God makes this declaration because He’s confident in the work He will do in eternity, at which point we will be made righteous. Since we continue to live as His children with flaws, why should God remove us from all difficulties. We still offend Him. We still pervert His purposes. We still rebel against His glory. Remember, our salvation is based on faith He provides, not our sudden change in character based on internal resolve and motivation.
This makes things quite humbling for the people of God. If God is not a respecter of persons, He is not obligated to restrict us from any sort of difficulties or suffering. If God is not a respecter of persons, He is not obligated to restrict non-believers from any sort of success or prosperity. The same is true of the opposite. So, what is God going to do with each of us? This difficult question is what made Job afraid. In the testimony of Job 23:13-17, Job expressed a great deal of fear and concern, and rightly so. While responding against Eliphaz again, trying to defend his personal integrity, he admitted that he was just as concerned about his suffering as his friends. Though Job knew that his suffering was not on account of hypocrisy, his suffering was a concern. Job felt like he had offended God in some way, but couldn’t identify how, and God wouldn’t tell him. Job confessed that, in reality, he didn’t ever fully understand God’s work, whether it dealt with suffering or not. Job admitted that when God moved, he couldn’t see where. When God worked in one way, he couldn’t always perceive it. Job did his best to trust God, clinging to the revelation of His Word and hoped that God’s Word would resolve in goodness, whether he understood how or not.
Thus, Job recognized that God is unique. In Job 23:13-17, Job stated that God was “One.” Here, Job used the same word that God used to describe Himself as “One” in Deuteronomy 6:4. However, the context of Job’s mention of God as “One,” describes His uniqueness. There is no one like God. God doesn’t work like we do because He doesn’t think like we do. God doesn’t desire what we desire because He is not of our nature. God is uniquely eternally self-existing and self-sustaining. He is the Creator of all things; the cause of all things, the sustainer of all things, the beginning of all things, and the end of all things. The LORD is the Most High God, is almighty, knows all things, and in Him all things consist. He is not subject to anyone or anything. He is the cause and source of all goodness and righteousness. He is not only unique in this sense, but He is sovereign and transcendent, meaning that outside influences don’t affect Him. Outside influences don’t change God’s nature. Outside influences don’t sway God’s mind. Outside influences don’t change His perspective. Outside influences don’t cause God to change His purposes and promises. He is totally immutable. God said Himself that He doesn’t change!
This was concerning to Job. Whatever God wants to do, He does. Job realized that God does what He wants, not what we want. No matter how much we might want something, or how genuinely we might ask, God will do what He pleases, and since He alone is righteous and good, His ways are always right and good. God does not consult with us to gain our approval for His purposes. God doesn’t seek the endorsement or support of people before He makes His moves. Like Job previously said, He works, and often times, we can’t even perceive it. He is in full control of all things, whether we like it or not. Additionally, Job recognized that God works in our lives in ways that were previously appointed. He doesn’t make things up on the fly. God doesn’t call audibles or make sudden changes. His plan was formulated before the foundations of the world, and our life experiences are merely the recognition of that which God ordained long before we came into the world. This is the extent of God’s sovereignty. This is the extent of God’s control.
To many people, this is offensive. People often refute these sorts of Biblical teachings because they feel as if they were mere puppets in the hand of God; that God gave us free will and this teaching is contrary to God’s decision to let us choose. As great as free will sounds, it simply isn’t taught in the Bible. In fact, in Romans Chapter 3, the Apostle Paul wrote that all people – Jew and Gentile alike – are “under” sin. This means that sin is a slave master to all people. Thus, if a person is not a “puppet” of God, they are a “puppet” of sin, and destined for condemnation in hellfire! Job understood this truth, yet was concerned about what God does with those who are His. Even though Job was an upright and blameless man, he suffered, and the sovereign hand of God appointed Job to this suffering. Even though Job was a man of faith and sought to live by God’s righteous standards, God appointed Job to intense pain and misery. Even though Job tried to walk in the footprints of God’s path, God exercised His power, authority, control, and wisdom to ensure Job’s life was filled with pain and frustration at this point in his life.
Job confessed that God made his heart weak. For this reason, God terrified Job, and rightly so! Job, even as a child of God, was not cut off from suffering. He was not excused from pain. He was not dismissed from frustration. He was not hidden from darkness. Does this mean that God was angry at Job? No. Does this mean that God is mean and unfair? No. This simply shows the point that God sought to make since the beginning. He doesn’t play favorites. God brings rain on the just and the unjust. He lets the wicked prosper and suffer just like His own people. The point is, while we are in this world, we are all still corrupt. Our connection to God as His children is based on God’s gracious declaration of our righteousness based on faith in His work as the Son of God and Messiah. Right now, we are the same sinful people that we were before we started to believe in God. Since we are still an offense, who are we that we should feel entitled to a life of pure prosperity and comfort? Who do we think we are that we feel God should keep us from all trouble?
Job understood that God alone is righteous and holy. He is not obligated to do any more than what He has already declared. God’s promise is that He will remove His people from condemnation. This means that God will keep us separate from His eternal judgment. This means that God will preserve our souls and give eternal life. The condition of this life has no effect on God’s ability to fulfill the spiritual and eternal nature of His promises. Thus, sometimes God’s people suffer greatly. Sometimes God’s people have intense pains and trials. Since we are still sinners in decaying bodies living in a corrupted world, why shouldn’t these things come into our lives? It is sobering and humbling to remember that God will often let His people endure trials of severe magnitude because that suffering doesn’t restrict His ability to provide eternal life. Job was afraid of God for good reason. Since God has so much control and such great power, we should fear God. If God will allow and cause His own people to suffer as Job did, consider what He might do to those who are not His children! Rather than despising God for the difficult manner of His work, we should do as Job: Humble ourselves before the mighty hand of God, and trust in the Word of His promise to preserve our souls from eternal suffering on account of His own work by the Gospel.