Q: Why do good people suffer?
Why all the suffering in the world? Three big questions here. One is - Why me? What have I done to deserve this?
Our pastor is a wonderful, kind, faithful man, who has spent his whole life serving God. Recently his lovely wife got Alzheimer's, and died a slow, lingering death before his eyes. Where's the justice in that? What was God thinking of? She was a good woman!
When terrible things happen, your Christian friends are not always helpful.
"Oh well, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away" doesn't help much, does it? Or "Ah, the Lord sent this to teach you something". Or "Well, it's probably your lack of faith". In the Bible, Job didn't find these helpful either.
A Jewish Rabbi wrote a book called "When bad things happen to good people". It's beautifully written and moving, but his final answer seems to be that you can't expect God to do EVERYTHING - He's so busy.
Doesn't help much either.
Let's approach the question from two angles - first commonsense, and then the Bible.
First, a question. Are you FREE to pay your income tax? Do you have free will?
Imagine a "just" world. Only unbelievers get sick, 'cos believers just go to church and pray for healing and they're fine. Only evil people die in car crashes - the good pray, and God spares them. Only materialists' children are born deformed - God sends his worshippers perfect babies. That's fair, right?
But would anyone in that world have free will - freedom to believe and follow God, or to refuse? ... It would be like income tax, wouldn't it - you CAN refuse, but you sure will be in trouble! So that "just" world would be populated by slaves: do what your Master says, or be punished.
Maybe that's not what God wanted to create? Maybe free will MUST allow injustice? The Bible adds an extra truth - a very unfashionable one but still true.
The world is not only fallen and evil - the evil in the world is organized! It has purpose, intelligence, deviousness. It works against us, trying to bring us down and separate us from God. The Bible calls it a person, the "Enemy" or "Opponent" ('Satan' in Greek/Hebrew). Peter says at one point "Your enemy the Devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour".
You may not like to think of the Devil as a man (he certainly isn't), and we don't really think about spiritual Beings much these days. But
the Bible is quite clear. There is not just "residual chaos" in the world. There is active Evil, dogging us and tripping us up. We are in a war zone!
So yes, the Devil certainly attacks good people - perhaps more than anyone else. Discrediting the churches is an important part of his work. Ever notice how intensely the media report ANY sins by evangelists or priests?
Remember all those hymns about "Soldiers of Christ" and "Fight the good fight"? Our fathers knew all about this. It's not the Lord that taketh away - we're in a war zone! We are soldiers in a battle against evil, and yes there will be casualties. God loves us, and hates the suffering like we do. But He doesn't GIVE your son alcoholism, or SEND your grandson to be born deaf or blind. The Prince of this world does that.
But be of good cheer - the battle will be won! Peter says "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials." And the Bible tells us one more thing. Paul says "And we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love him". You suffer a bit now, but this is not to be compared with the amazing good things to come. And God will actually use the bad things now to make
good results for you in the future.
This is not just "pie in the sky". Look back at your own life, and you can actually see God working out things for good. Remember how upset you got at disasters in the past, when your desperate prayers just weren't answered like you wanted? And see what's happened since?
So Christianity does have an explanation for the injustice in the world. What if there's no God, no Creator, the world is a cosmic accident? Well, then there's no explanation at all. It's all random - why shouldn't bad things happen to good people? Which fits the facts better?
The GodOrNot Team.
(Click Next to see one reader's problem.)
I have a friend that lost her father when she was twelve due to heart failure during surgery to remove a non-cancerous brain tumor. she goes to church and everything but says she is on the edge of atheism because she doesnt understand why God didnt answer her prayers and heal her father. i try to talk to her but she says she doesnt want to talk about it because she is afraid it will ruin our friendship and she says that she would rather have me than God. and she doesnt want to talk about her fathers death. Please give me advice because she is very important to me and i want her to know that God hasnt forsaken her. Can you please give me advice? J.
It's difficult to comfort someone, isn't it?
Let's call the young lady G. You might try saying something to her like "Look, I'm fond of you because you're you - regardless of what
you believe, and what you don't believe. So don't worry, you won't drive me away. But because I care for you, I want you to be happy.
So naturally I care about your future. It will be a shame if you lose your Heavenly Father, as well as your earthly one."
It may be that G. is still angry with God, and resentful. Quite a few people got angry with God in the Bible! You can find them with
Google, or your pastor might help you. It's OK - He understands when we get angry. And when we lose loved ones. After all, He lost His
And He doesn't stop loving us. "Not one sparrow will fall to the ground ... and you are worth more than many sparrows."
You might ask G. "If I did something really horrid to you, would you stop speaking to me? ... And if it was really awful, might you erase
me from your phone and your address-book, and pretend I don't exist? ... And is that really what you're about to do to God?" Because if
she believed in Him before, she knows that He won't go away, stop existing, just because she's angry with Him.
On the other hand, this thing about her dad dying might be just an excuse? Humans are quite devious! Maybe G. is feeling independent,
"I can run my own life, I don't need God", and is bringing up the loss of her father years ago to justify giving Him up? You don't tell us
her age - many girls give up their religious beliefs in their teens, at least for a while.
You could ask G. "Do you think your father still exists, somewhere?" and then "Do you think he can see you, and see what's happening to
you?" She will probably answer yes to both. Then you can very gently ask "What do you think he wants for you? What does he want you to
do?" You will be reminding her that this life on earth is not all there is.
You could invite G. to read the page "Why Do Good People Suffer?" on our website.
Finally, remember that it's not your battle! God and the Devil are fighting for control of G. Maybe you can help, maybe not. It's a
very sensitive subject, and she will easily take offence. Pray for her, and wait patiently - God will give you words when an opportunity
We'll pray for you as well.