Last week one of my co-workers asked me how my parents were taking the death of my sibling. I told her that they are coping well and their faith in God has really helped deal with the tragedy. She then said to me “But you have to ask, why would God take someone so young?”. My response was a simple smile and a pointed “I do not question God”. She looked at me as if I was foolish and moved along. It probably would sound like foolishness to many people, this “blind faith” that even the death of a loved one is part of God’s master plan. In fact, a defense for unbelief in God is often “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
When everything is going perfectly in your life, it is tempting to forget those blessings are only by God’s grace. Often we have the best intentions: we work hard and are rewarded with success and we believe it is by our own enterprising that this success is manifest. We forget that the ability to work hard in the first place is facilitated by God. We become blinded by pride in our own efforts.
God’s chosen people were allowed to wander in the desert for 40 years because God needed them to be humble when they received their blessing. He did not do this out of spite:
17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today. Deut 8:17-18
The Apostle Paul also spoke of the thorn given to him to keep him humble. Paul was a well-educated man, his ministry was very successful, and he had many supporters:
6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 7 or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Cor 12:6-9
Tests and rewards
Sometimes God chooses to test our faith. Take the story of Job. Job was “blameless and upright” (Job 1:1). He was also blessed with many possessions and a large family. Job had nothing to be upset at God for and every reason to praise him. God allowed Satan to test Job, to see if he was just a fair-weather believer.
10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” Job 1:10
After losing his 10 children and all his livestock and receiving sores all over his body, Job says to his wife. “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10). This attitude is one we must strive to keep in the bad times. Job kept his faith through his suffering and God rewarded him:
The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part… Job 42:12
We must take the good with the bad, and know that God will not forsake us in the end.
There are no good people
Many references in God’s word confirm that there is no such thing as “good” people.
… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… Romans 3:23
We must never think of ourselves as “good” and therefore undeserving of hardships or trials. In fact, since we are not good we should rightly ask God why he allows good things to happen to bad people like us!
Now that we’ve established that there are no “good” people, it’s simpler to see that sometimes bad things are a judgement for sin. Take the story of Ananias and Sapphira. They knowlingly tried to steal from God and lied about it when questioned. As a result, they were struck down dead for their sin.
Often our bad decisions (i.e. disobedience to God) gets us in places of suffering. We need to be honest with ourselves sometimes about why we are going through some rough times. Is it God’s trial or our consequences?
Display God’s power
It’s not always the case that one suffers because of some sin. For example, take the occasion of the man blind from birth that Jesus healed:
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. John 9:1-3
This was truly a miracle, for the man never saw anything in his life, so it was not a simple reversal of some sickness but an entire new creation of sight in the man. God could be using your hardship as a testimony of his love.
In conclusion, it is unthinkable that God could do wrong; And we could never know all of God’s ways and intentions unless he specifically reveals them to us. It’s therefore left for us to trust God, and have unwavering faith in times of depravity and suffering.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6.
Finally, Christians must remember that faith in Jesus Christ may not guarantee a “good life” and definitely does not guarantee a life with no suffering. However, we are certain in the hope of a perfect eternity.
More on this: Questioning God