Sunday, December 11th, 2011
Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?
But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand.
Acts 28:3 (NAS)
When the Apostle Paul was bitten by a poisonous snake, he had just endured a tempest and a shipwreck. Before that, he was stoned, beaten, chased, chained, and whipped--all for no good reason. He was a preacher and a teacher on a mission of mercy.
The ultimate bad thing happened to the ultimate good Person in the crucifixion of Jesus. Although the Bible explains why Jesus gave His life for us in such a painful and demeaning way, although we believe it in faith, we ponder it. It's undeniably hard to understand.
The best agnostics and atheists who live a life of service cannot understand why a good God allows bad outcomes. They are right, and they are wrong. How right? Our God of perfect justice never allows a bad outcome for an innocent person.
How wrong? The pain they see is not the end. It's a beginning. Like labor preceding birth, something wonderful is coming. In Paul's case, he was not harmed by the snake, and the natives witnessed a miracle. No doubt, Paul told them about Jesus, and many believed.
Here's the thing: with our limited perspective, we cannot see the end of every story. Our time table is like a child's wristwatch compared to God's view of past, present, and future.
If we leave the theater when the hero dies, if we close the book, if we give up hope before the real ending, we'll never know that he was rescued. Or how. Or why. Or that he got the girl, the life, the success, the kingdom. Or that it can happen to us.
Diamonds are hard pressed. Silver shines from heat. Pearls start as irritation. Babies come through pain. Muscle builds in stress. Heroes emerge from disaster. Inventors endure public ridicule. Fame waits beyond failure. Life rises from death.
Our job is to trust beyond our own understanding. God knows we want a happy ending, and He is more than happy to supply it. But He's got other story lines to tie together first.
When bad things happen to good people, glory comes.
P.S. For excellent answers to tough Christian questions, consider 'Mere Christianity' by C.S. Lewis, 'The Case for Christ' by Lee Strobel, 'The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism' by Timothy Keller, and 'Hard Questions, Real Answers' by William Lane Craig.