Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

After I puked the second time they gave me a shot in the butt.

I was in the Vally View Hospital emergency room in Ada, Oklahoma. That was over two decades ago. But despite not being from Ada or anywhere near Ada I didn’t have to look the name of the hospital up; you don't soon forget a needle piercing your ass.

But the sting of the syringe hurt much less than the loss of pride at having to drop my drawers in front of the nurses.

John Barrie (CC)

The first time I threw up was in my Granny’s car on the way to the hospital (so sorry Gran!). I’m pretty sure she drove straight to the dealership and bought a new car after that incident. I don’t know why I puked. Maybe it was the gallon of phlegm I had coughed up from my lungs and then swallowed.

You see I had pretty bad asthma. Attacks would come randomly and often wouldn’t get better even with a breathing treatment.

In this particular episode my family was visiting my grandparents in Allen, Oklahoma for spring break. What was supposed to be a week of fun and relaxation quickly turned south.

The second time I puked, though, I can tell you the exact reason.

The first thing they always do in the ER is give you an IV, so a nurse started working on my vein just below the wrist on my left arm. But the doctors also want a blood sample. For some reason the medical staff thought it would be a good idea to draw that sample at the same time they administered the IV. So the phlebotomist started poking around on the vein in the elbow fold of my right arm.

So here I am stretched out like a corpse, unable to breathe, and with a belly full of snot while two women poke holes in me. You'd get sick too. I started to feel light-headed. I began sweating. I got really thirsty. Then I felt that feeling in the pit of my stomach, and I knew my stomach was at the point of no return.

So I puked.

To prevent another episode of vomit, the doctor thought it best to inject some medicine into my buttock. I disagreed.

Why Bad Things Happen

As painful as the situation was for me, now that I’m a father of four, I know for a fact it was harder on my mom and dad.

Here I was, a helpless child, and they had to be asking themselves, Why?

It is an age old question that we’ve been asking ourselves since the ejection from the garden. With our myopic view of the universe, it is difficult to understand why there is so much suffering. Why on earth do bad things happen to good people?

The short answer? I don’t know.

No one but God can fully answer that question.

So why am I writing about it if I don’t know? Am I just wasting your time?

Even if we can’t fully know the answer, the question itself is revealing. In asking, Why? We assert that there’s an order to things. We assume that life has a cause and effect relationship. In asking, Why? We assume God. As Ravi Zacharias says, “God is the only being in existence, the reason for whose existence lies within Himself.” God caused us to come into existence. He spoke the world into being. And He set up a universe based on causality.

Jump from a two-story building and you’ll fall to the ground (and probably break some bones).
Plant seeds in the right kind of soil, with the right amount of sunlight, and the right amount of water, and you’ll get vegetation.
Work without ceasing and you’ll burn out.

The erroneous conclusion that many make then is one of two:

1. Since bad things happen to good people, events are random and uncaused meaning that God doesn’t exist.
2. There is a God, but since bad things happen to good people, He can’t be good.

Both of these conclusions leave one important piece of information out of the equation:

The free will of mankind.

God created man. And He gave him free will. But the freedom to choose means the ability to choose wrong. And because man is not God—who is perfect and good—that inevitably means that man will choose wrong, as did Adam and Eve in the garden.

Bad deeds have consequences: thorns in the ground and 
child-bearing pains, respectively. But even worse is the resultant separation from God. And as we know, the branches cannot live without the vine (Rom. 11:18). So separation from God leads to death:

Sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. James 1:15b

So when Adam and Eve ate the fruit, sin entered the world. Therefore Adam and Eve died a physical death. They passed down this sin nature to all of humanity. Before sin there was no death, which means no cancer, no tornadoes, no nuclear bombs.

Take Comfort in This

Of course it’s not sufficient to say that a woman miscarried because Eve ate a pomegranate off of a tree. Although that answer is true, when we ask, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" We’re looking for a direct cause.

Why did I have to be hospitalized several times as a child? No one but God can answer that question.

That’s why I said at the beginning, “I don’t know.”

But this I do know: God, who created life, has the ability to restore it. And God can use even the most horrific of situations to bring about peace and redemption.

While man has free will to do as he pleases on earth, a day is coming when Jesus will return to judge “the quick and the dead” (2 Tim. 4:1). Unrepentant evil will not go unpunished.

And know this: while this world can do you physical and emotional harm, your soul is eternal. If you entrust it to Jesus you will be restored to glory. You must believe the words of the apostle Paul:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Seek the LORD in your grief, and He will give you the answers you need.

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