Why Does God
Let Bad Things Happen? !!
What is God like? How valuable am I? What happens after we die? Those are three
questions we who are Christians might be asked by those who are not, including those
who might be searching for answers to spiritual questions. Questions we need to have
thought about so we can have Bible-based answers ready to give. Questions we have
asked and answered in recent Sunday morning messages. !
What is God like? According to the Bible, God is the Bread of Life, the Light of the
World, and the Vine that sustains us, His branches. He is Love. He is the Creator. He is
the Master Teacher. All of that is what God is like. !
How valuable am I? According to the Bible, I - you - we - are so valuable Jesus offers us
salvation. So valuable He is willing to forgive us. So valuable He gives us opportunities
to please Him. !
What happens after we die? According to the Bible, we will go either to Hell, which is a
place of punishment, or to Heaven, which is a place where Jesus is. A place where we
will be in His loving presence forever. !
Which destination will be ours is determined by decisions we make in this life. If we
reject Jesus, punishment awaits. But if we accept Jesus - if we believe in Him as the
Savior He is and if we live out our faith in Him by obeying Him - Heaven awaits. What a
wonderful reward for accepting Him, which should persuade people to believe in Him. !
Next Sunday, another question will be asked and answered. It will be, “What makes for
good relationship?” !
For today, the question, “Why does God let bad things happen?” !
The fact that bad things happen is certainly evident all around us, including wars. Not
just past wars, or just wars this nation has been involved in, but wars going on now, and
others that are threatened. I am thinking of the civil war that is going on in Syria. It has
gone on for over three years. I am thinking of all the turmoil going on in the Ukraine,
which has the potential of sending that nation into war. There are other wars, too. !
Other evidence of bad things happening? !
How about the kidnapping of the school girls in Nigeria over a month ago?
How about crime that interferes with a sense of safety personally and concerning
whatever property we own?
What about the fires that are raging in parts of the U.S? California and now Arizona are
being hard hit.
And tornadoes have been so prevalent again this spring. !
Of course, not all the bad things that happen are major national or international crises.
There are lots of personal bad things that happen. !
Such as illnesses. !
And there are lots of relationship issues that can come up, including losses of
friendships through moving away or because of disagreements. Sometimes families
cannot get along. Sometimes relationships end because of death. !
And there seem to be plenty of financial problems going on, what with some people
having difficulty finding jobs, some with jobs maybe not being paid what they are worth.
Disappointments. Failed expectations. Not being all you want to be or what others say
you ought to be. Those can be bad things, too.
So the question is relevant. Why does God let bad things happen? Another way of
wording it is, “If God is good - which we have said He is - why does He not make
everything good? How can a good God allow bad things to happen?” !
Have you ever been asked that question? Probably. I have. I have even asked it myself
sometimes. For my answer to that question, there are two directions I take. !
The first direction relates to the major things of life. The big catastrophes. The wars, the
kidnappings, crime, destructive fires and storms. How can they be explained? !
The second direction relates to more of the day-to-day bad things of life. The
disappointments and the financial or relationship difficulties we might face. !
And I thought of this to add. Whatever persecution we might face because of our faith.
Thinking not so much about the violent persecution some Christians endure in some
parts of the world, but the sneers or the slights others may send our way because we are
First, why does God let huge, major bad things happen? The answer I have for that I
developed 18 years ago. It was developed during a week when much of my time was
spent in one of Lincoln’s hospitals. !
Something happened on a Sunday evening in the early fall of in 1996. I was reminded of
the year a couple weeks ago when his mother was buried just a few feet away from where
he was laid to rest. I saw the date on his memorial stone. On a Sunday evening in 1996, a
four-year-old boy was attempting to cross 48th Street just north of Normal Boulevard. !
Zackary was crossing from west to east. He made it across the two south-bound lanes
and the median and the first of the two north-bound lanes. But just as he entered the
last of the lanes he had to cross, a pickup that was passing a car that had stopped in the
inside lane struck the boy. !
Zackary was hurled into the air. He landed on his head. The result were critical injuries.
Injuries that at the end of the week claimed his life. !
Today’s question - “Why does God let bad things happen?” - came up a few times the
week following the accident. It was asked by the boy’s family. The question crossed my
mind, too. But by the end of the week, here was my answer. An answer I still think
about. One I think is valid. !
My answer begins this way. Do you want to know what God’s desire is? What His plan
was? Look to the first part of the Book of Genesis, where creation is reported. !
You know what was created. Light. Dry land and oceans. The sun, moon, and stars.
Every kind of plant, animal, fish, and bird. Then Adam. Then Eve. !
God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden that He had designed for them. It was
a place where everything they would ever need or want was provided for them. That was
true in a physical sense. It was true in a spiritual sense as well as He spent time talking
with them, doing so every day. !
In the Garden of Eden, everything was perfect. Adam and Eve did have everything they
needed. They got along with each other. They were perfectly healthy. Perfectly happy.
All that was God’s plan. All that is what He designed. !
Which all remained in place until what? Until the devil - until Satan - entered the scene
and convinced Eve that what God had designed was not quite good enough. That things
would be better if she could have as much knowledge as God has. !
Because of Eve’s desire for greater knowledge, she disobeyed God. She did that when
she, at the devil’s suggestion, ate a piece of fruit from the only tree in the Garden God
had forbidden. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
A few minutes after that, Eve convinced Adam to also disobey. Immediately, everything
You see, the disobedience of Eve and Adam was sin. Sin separated them from God. A
separation that led to them being expelled from the Garden - from having everything
they needed provided for them - from a close relationship with God.
Expelled to living, not in perfection, but in a world that has wars and kidnappings and
crimes and fires and storms and illnesses and broken relationships and financial
hardships and persecution - and traffic accidents. !
My point is this. All the bad things that happen were not God’s plan. They were not and
are not His idea. What He set up was perfect. Perfection that ended when Satan became
involved in the world. !
My point is this. When bad things happen, why shake a fist at God? Why blame Him?
Why not instead yell at the devil? Why not blame Satan? He is the one who introduced
bad things to what had been perfect. !
And I suppose it could still be asked why God does not use His great power to stop all
that is bad. In fact, why did God not keep Eve and then Adam from disobeying in the
first place? The answer is that He could have done that. Except for free will. !
In a wonderful gift, God gave Adam and Eve - and He gives us - the right - the freedom -
to make our own choices. With free will, Adam and Eve could have chosen to ignore the
devil. They instead freely chose to disobey God. But again, why blame God for the bad
things that happen? It was the devil who ruined what God designed as perfect.
Do not blame God. Blame Satan. That is part of my answer to the question, “Why does
God let bad things happen?” !
But there is also this in answer to the question. When bad things do happen - now we
move in the direction relating to more of the day-to-day bad things of life - the
disappointments, the financial or relationship difficulties, minor illnesses, whatever
persecution we experience because of our faith - when bad things happen, there are
some very important Bible passages that teach us they - the bad things - can have some
very positive results.
And no, no one wants to have difficult times. The point is not that God enjoys watching
anyone suffer. But there can be some good that can come from at least some of the bad
things that happen to us. !
For instance, let’s think about what the apostle Paul wrote in II Corinthians 1.
! In verse 3
of II Corinthians 1, Paul praises God. Paul calls God “
the Father of Jesus, the
Father of mercies, the God of all comfort.”
Remember that during much of his Christian life, Paul himself had many, many bad
things happen to him. All the way from being beaten, jailed, and shipwrecked to being
cold, hungry, and forsaken by friends. He was often tormented by forces of nature and
by people against him because of his faith in Jesus. !
Paul had a lot of bad things happen to him. He was able to praise God anyway.
But listen as I complete verse 3 and then recite verse 4. “Blessed be the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us
in all our affliction.” !
Hey. We do not live in the perfection in which Adam and Eve started out. But do you
hear it? Those who are Christians - they are the ones to whom Paul wrote these verses -
are not forsaken spiritually. Those of us who are Christians have available to us comfort.
Comfort from God whenever we have any bad things happen to us. !
But keep listening. God comforts us in all our affliction “so we may be able to comfort
others who are in any affliction, giving them the comfort with which we ourselves are
comforted by God.” !
Do I want bad things to happen to me? Of course not. I do not want bad things to
happen to you. But bad things do happen. That is because we live in a fallen world.
Fallen because of Satan. But when bad things happen, not only will those of us who are
Christians be comforted by God, assuring our survival. We will have the privilege of
sharing His comfort with others, helping them to make it through whatever bad things
happen to them. !
Why does God let bad things happen? Sometimes it is so we can learn to be comforted
so we can comfort others. !
Sometimes it is so we can grow in other ways, which was a point made by both James
and Peter in later New Testament letters. !
James 1:2. “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials.” Count it joy
when you go through difficult times? When you experience bad things? Count it joy?
Really? Yes, really. !
Why? Verse 3. “For you know that the testing of your faith…” Which bad things are.
They at least can be tests. And get this. The testing is not to see if you fail. Spiritual tests
are instead designed to make you stronger. As each test is passed, it should be easier to
pass the next one. Even a more difficult one. !
“For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” !
Why does God let bad things happen? Sometimes it is to help us grow. To grow into
steadfastness, which can also be translated patience. Not so much a defeated patience,
which might be expressed in the word, “whatever.” As in, “Whatever, Lord, just keep
piling it on, I guess. Do to me and with me whatever You want.” But more a satisfied
patience. A feeling that comes from knowing that whatever happens can have good
results. That whatever happens can be survived with the help of God. !
James added, “And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and
complete, lacking in nothing.” Which takes us to what Peter wrote in II Peter, chapter 1,
in which he encouraged those who are steadfast to grow some more.
Peter wrote in verses 6 and 7 that when we have steadfastness, we can grow into
“godliness,” which refers to correctly serving both God and other people. Including
worshiping God, no matter what, thanking Him for His help in bad times. Including
treating others well. One example of that being the sharing of God’s comfort with others
who are suffering.
We can then grow into “brotherly affection.” “Brotherly” refers to affection for fellow
Christians. It includes helping them when bad things happen to them. Remember. Bad
things that happen, not because of God, but because of Satan. !
We can then grow into “love.” Love, not just for our fellow Christians, but for all others. !
What wonderful spiritual growth can occur when troubles happen. Growth that is
worded another way in Psalm 46 in the Old Testament, where an offer is made. !
According to Psalm 46, In times so troubled it seems the earth is changing, that
mountains shake and tremble, when the waters of the sea roar and foam - which can all
happen physically, but also emotionally - in troubled times, which we all face, listen to
the offer. God is - He will be if we will let Him be - our refuge. Our haven of safety. He is
- He will be if we will let Him be - our strength. When troubles take our strength away,
we have His strength to rely on. He is - He will be if we will let Him be - our very present
help. Our help at the very moments we need it. !
It occurs to me that if we did not have bad things come our way, we might never even
know we need God’s refuge, strength, and help, let alone ask for those things and receive
them. Therefore we would not grow spiritually, which would result in us being less than
we could be and should be. !
And again, I do not want bad things to happen to me. I do not want bad things to
happen to you. But bad things do happen. That is because we live in a fallen world.
Fallen because of Satan.
When bad things happen, there can be some good come of it. Including having the
opportunity to grow. To grow closer to God as we worship Him and rely on Him, and
closer to others as we help them. That is good that comes from the bad. !
And one more thought, resulting from what is a different form of today’s question. The
form of, “Fine. But haven’t those who are Christians grown enough? Why does God not
put a stop to bad things now? Why does He not end the world now, as He ended some
cities in Old Testament times?”
For that, something else Peter wrote, this time in chapter 3 of II Peter. !
Peter is addressing the issue of Jesus’ return. His return had been predicted by Jesus
Himself. Many of the people to whom Peter wrote expected His return to happen at any
moment. They were disappointed He had not already returned.
So, too, might we become impatient, knowing that when He returns, all the bad things
that are around us will disappear as He takes us to Heaven. Why does He not do that? !
Listen to verse 9 of II Peter 3. “The Lord is not slow about His promise as some count
slowness. No. He is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that
all should reach repentance.” !
According to that, the Lord has not yet put an end to our fallen world because He giving
yet more time for people to repent of their sins and accept Him so they, like those of us
who are already Christians, can keep growing, even as we look forward to Heaven. !
Why does God let bad things happen? What an important question. A question that has
some important answers. !
As we have discussed, it is not God who is responsible for wars, kidnappings, crime,
fires, storms, illnesses, deaths, broken relationships, financial problems,
disappointments, but Satan. The same devil who ruined Eve and Adam. Shake your fist,
if you must. But not at God. At Satan.
As has been proclaimed, when bad things happen, God can turn them to good. As a
reason to comfort us so we can comfort others with the comfort He has available. As a
way for us to grow spiritually - to become steadfast, and use that to add godliness,
brotherly affection, and love to who we are. As a way for us to learn to rely on God. To
take Him as our refuge, our strength, our help. And yes, He is slow to bring an end to
this fallen world. But even that is good since it gives people more time to rely on Him
and accept Him. !
That is why God lets bad things happen. !
Today’s closing song is a hymn that encourages us to rely on God. To trust Him, even
when bad things happen. It is Be Still and Know.
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know I am God.
Be still and know that I am God. !
I am the Lord that helpeth thee.
I am the Lord that helpeth thee.
I am the Lord that helpeth thee. !
In Thee, o God, I put my trust.
In Thee, o God, I put my trust.
In Thee, o God, I put my trust. !
We are called to be the salt of the earth. We are therefore to be salty in our responses to
lots of questions. Including the question we might be asked, “Why does God let bad
May we never hesitate in answering that question. May we instead be ready to respond
exactly according to what the Bible says. That God is not to blame when bad things
happen, but when they do happen, He can turn the results into things that are good.
Including us receiving comfort. Comfort we can share with others. Us using the bad
things as tests, by which we can and will grow spiritually. Us accepting Him as our
refuge, our strength, and our help. As He lingers, others being given more and more
time to join those of us who are Christians so they, too, can receive good things from
Let’s know how to answer. May we be salty. Amen.