Do bad things happen to good people?

Apr 22nd, 2011 in Daily Devotional by Jim Denison
2011 Time 100 magazine cover

2011 Time 100 cover (credit: Time)

Who is the most influential person in the world?  According to the “Time 100,” just released on the magazine’s website, #1 is a person none of us had heard of last year.  Hints: He is from Egypt, working for Google in Dubai.  He made a Facebook page which changed the world.  Still not sure?  His name is Wael Ghonim.  His page in memory of a slain Egyptian named Khalid Said sparked the protests in Egypt which led to the removal of Hosni Mubarak and the movements sweeping the Middle East.

Who is #2?  Joseph Stiglitz, the economist.  Barack Obama came in at #86, 64 places below his wife.  He is ranked five places below actor Mark Wahlberg and 47 places below Justin BieberLast year Mr. Obama ranked #4.  But it could be worse; last year’s #1, Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, isn’t even on this year’s list.

I didn’t find my name anywhere on the “Time 100.”  If you’re there, please let the rest of us know.  But if you’re as non-famous as me, take heart: if Jesus is your Lord, your name is in the “Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 20:15).  You made God’s top 100.  On this Good Friday 20 centuries ago, he considered your eternal life worth the tortured death of his Son.

We’ve been asking ourselves why an all-loving, all-powerful, all-knowing God would allow a world like ours.  Award-winning photojournalists Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros were killed Wednesday in Libya—they did nothing to deserve their deaths.  Water pumped over damaged fuel rods in Japan is becoming heavily contaminated as it fills storage tanks—the Japanese did nothing to deserve this crisis.  Why do bad things happen to good people?

Here’s a different answer to our question.  In response to yesterday’s essay, Bethany wrote: “‘Why do bad things happen to good people?  That only happened once and He volunteered.’ ~ R.C. Sproul Jr.”  Why did Jesus choose to die on the first Good Friday?

Paul explained: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree'”(Galatians 3:13).  Peter added: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).  The Message translates Hebrews 10:14: “It was a perfect sacrifice by a perfect person to perfect some very imperfect people.”

What will you do today to thank the One who died for you?  Please share your Good Friday plans and reflections with the rest of us.  And remember: while you may never make the “Time 100,” fame is fickle but eternity is forever.

Bookmark and Share


  • Today will be a day of sacrifice: rather than do the things we want to do, we’ll do things we need to do, things that focus our thoughts on determined sacrifice. We’ll cap it all off with a Good Friday service at church.

  • I will go see African Cats and help preserve the world that God has given us. Also celebrate Jesus with friends today.

  • My background was to eat unleaven bread all during lent. On Good Friday grandma baked the Easter Bread with lots of eggs, butter, cream to be the first leaven bread eaten after Lent. Today I will again bake that bread thinking about what Jesus did for me. Then this evening I will go to Good Friday service at my church leaving in silence, there will be no music, T.V. in our house today.

  • shirley goodwin

    If God knew the outcome and suffering that would incure after Adam and Eve’s disobedience why did a loving God create them knowing all the pain and suffering to come through the ages. This is the question that a friend’s husband has that is keeping him from accepting Christ.

    • Maybe it was because he also considered the glorious future He was preparing for those who would accept it. Our sufferings here will pale in comparison to that and be completely forgotten. I suffered a lot giving birth to my two children, but the joy of being their mother quickly replaced the pain. “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus!”

      • One more thought, just from a philosophical viewpoint: would light exist without darkness, would “up” exist without “down”, would joy exist without sadness, would good exist without bad, would heaven exist without hell? In this present world of contrasts, we get to make some choices. The “big” choice we make here will determine where we spend eternity. In eternity it will be all one way or the other…no more choice between good or bad and no more contrasts…and it will be forever.

        The amount of time we spend here in this place of much suffering is like a single grain of sand on a huge beach compared to eternity. It is, indeed, a place of temprary trouble, but we must remember that its real significance is what we do with that tiny speck of time. Do we chose Jesus and use our “speck” for Him, or do we chose the fleeting pleasures of our “speck” and live it for ourselves? If your friend is truly rejecting Jesus because of this question of suffering in the world, I hope this helps. However, sometimes such questions are a cop-out and people just don’t want to submit control of their “speck” to God. I pray that is not the case here.

  • Jim. To the question of why do bad things happen to good people, I would answer, why does God allow so many good things happen to such bad people?

    We humans are incredibly bad..bad to the bone..for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. You are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.

    Sure on occasion we do some good deeds but we also sin a great deal. Ad ours sins can have terrible consequences. I’m one of those sinners. As Paul said “I am the chief sinner” But God loves me with an irrational passion.

    As we approach Easter, we need to remember that love and His grace. He is risen; He has risen indeed.


  • When we were in the Holy Land last month we sat in the Garden and looked across the Kidron Valley to the city. You made a point that still resonates with me, evenmore so on this day. He saw them coming and he still did it. The torches held by the solidiers snakeing down from the city toward him, he knew and he still stayed.

  • Stephen Preston

    I am a relatively new reader; about 12 months fresh. I have thoroughly enjoyed your daily essays and have referred a number of new subscribers to your service.

    The concept have ‘why bad’ has been a big conceptual argument for me, especially being a converted agnostic/atheist. I too studied the topic in detail, and drew many of the same conclusions. However, to me, one of the most obvious reasons for ‘bad’ is to contrast ‘good’. In other words, without ‘bad’ we don’t know what ‘good’ is and vice versa. Furthermore, without ‘bad’ everything would be ‘good’ which would mean we aren’t on earth but rather in utopia or Heavan.

  • SO…Please, answer the question. Why do bad things happen to good people? I read the rabbi’s book with the same title but I need more.

  • This week has turned my thoughts away from how I normally try to focus my life – through Rick Warren’s succinct statement of proper perspective on why I have life at all – that it’s not about me. Instead, and to great degree because of Don Guthrie’s teaching this past Weds at the FBCSA Mid-week Strength prayer meeting, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of how Good Friday is ALL about me (and each of us indvidually). Although an obscene event in every human way, Jesus’ voluntary, intentional death on the cross was a glorious victory that freed me from the Evil One’s claim on me and the way I live. “My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin, not the part, but the whole, was nailed to the cross and I bear it no more! Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh, my soul!”

    On this Good Friday I’m keeping a journal of what thoughts and actions are and are not reflective of victory with the intention of laying down the “are nots” at the Cross at the end of the day.

    I pray your Easter weekend is much blessed for you and your family. And may God continue to bless this important ministry.

  • What will I do to remember Jesus today? That is easy……He is in my Heart. I cry when I think about all he went through (especially the last 3 days of his Life ). To think that he knew what was coming, and he went through it all for us. I work with Senior’s; most in the last chapter of their life. We will ALL be talking and thinking AND Thanking Jesus today.

    Happy Good Friday and Happy Easter to all.

    All Good Things, Jeanie

  • With my narrow view as a human, filled with my agendas and distracted by my feelings, it is often difficult for me to see the “big” picture of God at work in my life. How can it be “good” that a young boy is molested, a mother murdered, or a sinless man hung on a tree? In each of those instances (especially the last) God eventually does what Joseph said in Genesis 50- “you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” While The “bad” is happening to me, though, I feel like Joseph thrown in the pit by his brothers- “All I can see is this mud wall!”

    God eventually and always lifts us up- either out of the mud pit or, if we affirm our faith in Christ, lifts us up to Him- but His thoughts are higher than ours, His purposes higher than ours. It is difficult for us to see the “good” in any of this suffering, but could Joseph have imagined becoming the 2nd most powerful in Egypt while staring at the mud wall? Can any of us really know what “good” is with our limited view?

    It makes my head hurt! So I cling to the Cross, to Him that I know is good, to this day, which we call Good Friday for a reason. There is a Prophetic Truth, an Ugly Truth, and a Beautiful Truth of the Cross, and all must be present to be “good.” For without Good Friday, there is no Easter Sunday.

  • I find myself talking to Jesus, almost constantly. He is my only hope, my daily strength, and best friend. How could we NOT worship him, after all he has done for us.

    IF you take a few moments to reflect on what Jesus truly endured for us, what he did for us, your heart will cry out to him in thanks giving and praise.


  • Ralph L. Rummage

    My wife and I will go to the “Good Friday” prayer and meditation service at Columbus Ave. Baptist Church, Waco, at noontime. We rejoice in the willingness of Jesus to be the only sacrifice accepted by His Father, to forgive our sins. Glory and honor be to His Name.

  • I have spent my retirement morning reading the accounts of what happened to Jesus using all four Gospels. I am humbled & apauled.

    Job said, “tho he slay me will I trust him”. This has been my stance when I face have faced the greatest difficulties in life.

    Jesus was strong before Pilate & the Sanhedrin not responding to the false accusations & it scared them.

    O want to be able to face what ever comes with a strenght

  • Correction for my last post I am new to IPhone.
    I want to be able to face all of life’s trauma with the confident knowledge that gave Jesus his strength.

  • My first action today was to pray a prayer of thanks for grace, mercy and my many blessings. This evening I will be playing keyboard at back-to-back Good Friday services at two different Baptist churches here on Amelia Island: playing for His glory is one of the joys of my life. However, my salvation through Christ is the first. [As former members of Second Ponce Atlanta, we still miss you!] Pat Harris, Susan Massey’s Mom!

  • I spent time this morning reading Mathew 26 through 28 about the death and resurrection of Jesus. I also pondered John 3:16 and the “Roman Road”. In simplest terms, we were separated from a holy and perfect God by an endlessly deep chasm of sin. Jesus bridged that gap with His death on the cross and thus once and for all reconciled us to God!!!

  • I’m going to spend my Good Friday watching to see how God is drawing hundreds of thousands of people to accept His Son Jesus as their personal Savior. I will then spend time responding to individuals who have asked to be connected to an online missionary to help them grow in their faith or answer questions they may have.

    I praise God that I can minister to people all over the world, even in countries hostile to Christianity, from the comfort of my own home. Praise God! Hallelujah, He is RISEN!


  • “Even God could not create a universe which permits free will but prevents the innocent suffering which often results from its abuse.”

    Don’t ever try to confine God to the limits of our ability to comprehend our world. Change “could” to “did” in the sentence above and it is then an accurate statement.

    It is all for His glory and we will see that when, by His grace, we are called home
    and shed our earthly limitations.

  • Lillie Williams

    A variety of people from all across the country read your comments. I have no objection of you voices your comments on different concerns but sometimes I feel you are somewhat bias when you address the President. It would be respectable to at least address our President as the President. You seem to show a negative towards him in your conversation. You either address him as Mr. Obama or just Obama. As a Christian, you may not like the person in charge of our country but you can still give them respect since you are speaking to many different people who’s lives maybe changed just from what you say. Do that with any President, (republican, democrat, etc.)

  • Dr Denison? I think whether you think of something as good or bad depends upon perspective. You have made that point before and used various illustrations in doing so.

    Sometimes suffering has to occur for people to change. Sometimes it takes a crisis to wake someone up and appreciate the blessings they took for granted.

    We who live in the United States are so blesses we don’t even realize this.

    University students I coach from foreign countries often surprise me with observations about our country and culture. When they arrive I always ask them to to tell me when they see something here they have never seen before or something that is unique to the United States. One weekend when we were traveling to a swim meet when one such occurrence happened. A young man from Istanbul, Turkey said, “Coach….there! No one in the world has those.” He was pointing at the rental storage units that dot our lands and show we have so much we must rent places to put our excess.

    I think we often live our lives that way hording our thoughts, emotions, and feelings locking them away and not sharing the good news with others.

    I choose today not to do so.

  • Jim,
    If God allows disasters and catastophes because He otherwise would be interefering with our freedom to choose, how does intercessory prayer play into the picture? Does God answer yes to some and no to others based on “things that we as humans cannot understand but that are for the best in God’s long-term view of things”. If they are best, then why does God need us to engage in intercessory prayer? Won’t He just choose to do what is best in ” the bigger picture” regardless of our prayers?

  • Kenneth F. Crush

    This the same question of me and my wife. Why did it happen to us that my wife had two heart attack and I had Gall bladder. Then after that problem came to us in many ways that we do not know why. We love the Lord real good. I hadf serve on the board of two christian organization for many years and we still do not know why it happen to a good people. I think it is in the control of our greateast Father in Heaven. Amen!!!!

  • Our Good Friday included a trip to a nearby town to attend a Passover Seder held by a Messianic Jewish congregation. It was a wonderful celebration of what God did for the children of Israel, freeing them from slavery to Egypt and a beautiful and meaningful celebration of what Christ did for us when He became our Passover lamb and freed us from slavery to sin. Now we are looking forward to Resurrection morning–He is risen! He is risen, indeed. Regarding why bad things happen to good people…What I DO know is IF we will let Him, God will turn our sorrow into rejoicing and our ashes into beauty. I know because I have experienced it, personally. So, like Job, I’m just going to trust/serve God–no matter what. And like Habakkuk (SP?) I’m going to stand back and watch what God is going to do!

  • I am 76 and have lived in houston five years after marrying my high school swethear from southern Illinois. Both our first spouses died. After having a total of five sons and six grandchildren. My wife is in good health for age 76. In 1955 at age 20 I was badly injured in an auto accident in Illinois, in hospital in St. Louis for eight months with fracture and dislocation of fourth lumbar on fifth cutting nerves to both legs and wearing metal braces below knees for fifty-six years. I have suffered and been disabled for all that time. Of 100 in our high school class of 1952 about half are deceased. I was raised a Lutheran in Illinois, but my three sons are baptists. I joined the baptist chuch three years ago in houston. Even though I have enjoyed good health I have been physically disabled for all that time. I have always believed in jesus, but wonder why he has made me suffer for 56 years. Because of my deceased parents, my sons and my present wife I have had a good life. I heard you give a sermon at tallowood baptist in houston and hope you will return again soon. May the lord bless you, your family and your mission in life this easter. Thanks for listening.

  • Matthew Ladisa

    I understand and accept the work of Christ on the cross, but often wonder why the Lord chose the cross and death as the punishment for sin. If the Lord is sovereign over all, couldn’t He have chosen a lesser punishment for sin? Why such a gruesome way to die for the sins of the world?

  • Three words have been runnig thru my head in the last few days, “justification, sanctification and perfection.” I am struggling to breifly put into words how Jesus Christ completed these three things for us in his death, burial, resurection and assencion. It is my opinion that these would be powerful words to explain to believers what their position is under the new covenant.
    Thank you for any help,
    JP Moody

  • Why does God allow so many afflictions in some people’s lives and yet in other’s lives they are enjoying their lives without many problems?

    I have just learned I have breast cancer and I am facing surgery. My husband,Gary, was born with cerebral palsy and it’s taking his toll now. By God’s grace I firmly believe in Romans 8:28-31. We are to be conformed into the likeness of Jesus. We are His work in progress in this time of sanctification. The Lord has allowed a lot of pain in our lives. I can’t count how many surgeries I have had in my life. I was raised in an alcoholic a family. My daughter passed away suddenly in her sleep 5 years ago and I found her the next morning. She left behind two sons, one 8 years old and one 10 years old. Why do bad things happen to God’s people? I suppose I have a child like faith and trust. Everything should give glory to Him. If some are called to suffer for His Name’s sake then so be it. I recently was asked by one of my doctor’s how I feel about what is currently happening to me. He is Jewish and my answer was, “One day it will all be worth it!” and the Lord gave me a smile to wear before him. My prayer is that I won’t fail Jesus as I go through various trials in life. When I was younger I cried out to the Lord and told Him I was angry with Him having been through so much in my life. I grieved the Holy Spirit and felt miserable until I could pray,”Father, I am wrong! You know what You are doing and I am so sorry for my anger towards You!” Peace fell upon me after I acknowledged that He knows what He is doing and I repented. During this waiting period before surgery yet once again I am so thankful for the prayers of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I have submitted my life to Him, because it is written we are not our own. At times during my life I have remembered Job. It was all for the glory of God and in the end the Lord God blessed Job abundantly. God is good all the time, His thoughts are not my thoughts and His ways are not my ways. Once again I am reminded by the Holy Spirit to trust in Him. What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see! Sandra Carter


Comments have been closed for this post.

Read previous post:
Why does God allow disasters?

A year ago yesterday, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded, killing 11 people and dumping 4.9 million barrels of oil...