Why do bad things happen to good people?
What a big question. A question that I wager almost all of us have struggled with at some time. I certainly do not intend to probe the full depth of this question here – at least not in one article. And nor do I think I would be capable of doing it justice, as to study this question only raises a multitude of others that need to be addressed – Who/What is bad? Who/What is good? Why should we expect only good things to happen to good people? Is suffering bad? Is there an objective purpose to our existence? And the list goes on.
Instead, my goal here is far more modest. To share with you a reflection that was motivated by a brief conversation with a friend of mine. A non-Christian as far as I know – yet not someone who I have any reason to think is at all averse to a Christian world view – who, due to some recent personal events, found herself asking, “Why do terrible things happen to the very best of people?”
And I thought, what a question! And then I thought, what an opportunity! And so I began to wonder, if I’m going to respond to that, I don’t merely want to sympathise with her or provide shallow comfort – I suck at that anyway. Instead, I wanted her to think about the question she asked in a deeper way. I don’t know if this is the best way to put it, but as Christians, I think we do have deeper answers to these questions than non-believers. We have a way of looking at the world that many others haven’t considered.
So I rephrased her question from a broader perspective. “Or, why do bad things happen, at all?” I suggested.
“Too true,” she agreed.
At this point another of her friend’s weighed in. “I completely agree. There’s no rhyme or reason,” she said. “The jails are full of much better candidates for some of this stuff. It seems unfair.”
I took this as an opportunity to offer some deeper observations.
“To reflect on events as being good or bad kind of implies that there’s a purpose to life, I think. So when we despair over bad things happening to nice people, we are implying that their purpose is not being fulfilled. In other words, we have an idea that life does have an objective purpose and that death or suffering unfairly prevents us from achieving that purpose. And that, to me, is quite an interesting reflection to explore.”
But I didn’t want to leave it at that. And so I continued. “Do human beings actually have an objective purpose in life, one that is marred by suffering and death? Or is our purpose merely subjective or illusory?”
Presupposing a certain discomfort with the questions, I apologised. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to get all deep on you guys. I just find these natural intuitions that human beings have to be a curious thing, and yet many of us are unable to make sense of them.”
At this point I think the gig was up. Duane was getting all religious again. Well, I wasn’t really. But I didn’t quite know how else to interpret the silence. Perhaps they were concerned where I was heading with this. I’d like to think it was because of the gravity of their thoughts. But I let it rest at that, praying for another opportunity to take every thought captive, in the hope that they may be put into service to point the way to our Lord and Saviour.