When Bad Things Happen to God's People

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When Bad Things Happen to God's People

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One of the most encouraging promises in the Bible is made by the apostle Paul, when he writes, “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

But—how? How could that possibly be true? You and I have heard the prayer requests of those in the Church dying of some terminal illness—of young and old alike waging a losing battle against cancer—of slowly fading lives.

And more often than not, we hear of the person’s death. Of families bereaved of their loved ones. Of the pain and sorrow felt by those left behind. And we wonder—why?

I don’t believe that God ever does anything in our lives without a reason. I cannot accept that the same God who knows when a sparrow falls to the ground and how many hairs are on my head—the same God who hears our cries and holds us in His hand—would ever allow something to happen to His people because of an arbitrary whim or inattention on His part.

On the contrary, God has an amazing plan for each and every one of us. And in order to follow through on that plan, He remains acutely aware of and involved in the events of our lives. We can be sure of another of God’s promises, where He tells us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Still, we haven’t answered the question. When bad things happen to God’s people, how can we continue putting faith in His promise that all things work together for good?

What does God say?

We can be sure of another of God’s promises, where He tells us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

In Isaiah 55:9, God tells us bluntly that “as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Elihu conveys something of the same thought in Job 33:12-13, when he says, “God is greater than man. Why do you contend with Him? For He does not give an accounting of any of His words.”

In other words, God doesn’t owe any of us an explanation. He has a plan for us, yes, but we can’t start thinking that we’re entitled to understand all the details every step of the way. There will be areas where we remain in the dark about things, unsure why we or loved ones are suffering.

At times like these, it can be difficult not to be frustrated or angry with our Maker. Withstand the temptation to do so. We are allowed to ask why, but if we don’t receive an answer, then our response should be simple trust. Even Job, in the midst of a trial that would destroy many of us, was able to say of God, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).

Faith, we are told, is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Like Job, we can trust God—because we hope for and believe in something that goes far beyond this life.

The key

That is the key to understanding God’s promise in Romans 8:28—the knowledge that this life isn’t the end. God is preparing a Kingdom for those who remain faithful to Him—especially as they face dark times without knowing the cause. Some things won’t completely “work together for good” until the next life.

When we are tempted to accuse God of being unjust or cruel, we should take a minute and reflect that the one who suffered the most unjust and cruel fate was our Creator, Jesus Christ. We have all sinned and deserve death. But having committed no sin, He was nailed to a tree and endured one of the most painful deaths known to man—to give us the hope of eternal life.

This present life is a training ground. In it, we are being prepared to perform our duties as God’s kings, priests and teachers in the world tomorrow. Being purged by fire (Zechariah 13:9) is hardly comfortable and never easy, but we endure, knowing that these trials are “not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

For a purpose

Also worth keeping in mind are scriptures like James 1:2-4, which reminds us to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

Like Job, we can trust God—because we hope for and believe in something that goes far beyond this life.

Even trials themselves—whether or not we understand their purpose—are for our good. Sometimes we suffer as a consequence of our actions, helping us to understand that God’s rules exist to protect us, not hinder. Other times we experience trials, like Job, not as a punishment for wrongdoing but in order to come to a fuller understanding of God. At the end of his trial, Job confessed to his Maker, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You” (Job 42:5).

Whatever their trigger, trials have one purpose: to make us better. To improve us. To bring us closer to the God who made us and wants a relationship with us.

Everything will be okay in the end...

There is a saying that goes, “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

Whatever their trigger, trials have one purpose: to make us better.

This is the promise we have in God: that although we or others may face seemingly insurmountable trials in this life—and even death—God’s people will have a place in His Kingdom, where “He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).

All things will work together for good. That is a promise.