Jesus Christ once said, “[God] makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45 Matthew 5:45That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
American King James Version×). We’ve probably all witnessed this ourselves over time. But often, it leaves us with a question: Why? Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people and vice versa? Or what about natural disasters? Why does God allow bad things to happen to random people? These are hard questions we sometimes struggle to answer.
The first thing to recognize is that regardless of His reasons, God has the authority to make the decisions and/or allow things to happen.
On a surface level, we might think God is being unfair. For example, we can look at the Bible and see that God says we are to keep His commandments out of a love and respect for Him (Deuteronomy 30:16 Deuteronomy 30:16In that I command you this day to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that you may live and multiply: and the LORD your God shall bless you in the land where you go to possess it.
American King James Version×, Micah 6:8 Micah 6:8He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
American King James Version×, John 14:15 John 14:15If you love me, keep my commandments.
American King James Version×, 1 John 2:2-6 1 John 2:2-6 2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our’s only, but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that said, I know him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps his word, in him truly is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 6 He that said he stays in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
American King James Version×). One might assume that if we did this, he’d treat us pretty nice, right? So why do bad things sometimes happen? Is it because we slipped up and sinned?
While there can be natural consequences for sin, this isn’t always the case. In John 9:2 John 9:2And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
American King James Version×, Jesus’ disciples asked this question about a blind man. Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him” (John 9:3 John 9:3Jesus answered, Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
American King James Version×). In this case, Christ says this man was blind so that the works of God—indeed the divinity of Christ—could be shown. Regardless of the exact reason, He says it happens for a reason.
The first thing to recognize is that regardless of His reasons, God has the authority to make the decisions and/or allow things to happen. It’s helpful to look at the context of what Jesus was talking about when He made the statement about rain falling on the just and unjust in Matthew 5:45 Matthew 5:45That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
American King James Version×. At that time some people only treated those people that they perceived as righteous well. In pointing out that a Christian should treat all people with love and respect, Christ said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:43-45 Matthew 5:43-45 43 You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
American King James Version×). Jesus was addressing the problem of people casting judgment on others. But it brings out a broader spiritual principle: If only God has the ability to judge people and bless or curse them with or without rain in due season, then it goes to follow that only He can decide how to deal with people both specifically, and humanity as a whole.
Still, we’re left with the question, why allow suffering?
Before answering that question, let’s look at this from a different angle. Do we ever wonder why God allows good things to happen to people? Even to people who might not believe the same way you do? For example, perhaps a man grew up a bitter atheist, raised to believe that if he was a good boy, good things would happen to him. When bad things began to happen to him, he concluded that God was a fairy tale. At a point much later in life, something happened in his life to show him that God existed! He begins to pray and ask God for help and understanding, and God begins to open his mind and lead Him. Does this happen overnight? Of course not. While the atheist might still be in the learning process, will he do everything the right way? Probably not. But since he is beginning to recognize and understand the need for God in his life, God begins to work with him.
As an outward observer, we have no way of knowing what is in someone’s heart. Only God knows the heart (Jeremiah 17:10 Jeremiah 17:10I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
American King James Version×). In addition, note what the apostle Paul said when people were judging how well he was obeying God: “For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God” (1 Corinthians 4:4-5 1 Corinthians 4:4-5 4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judges me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.
American King James Version×). We simply do not know what is in another person’s heart. We don’t know how long God has been working with them, or what their attitude is. God and God alone knows their hearts and decides if and how to answer their prayers.
So does this mean God just randomly does good and bad? Not at all. But the example of the atheist shows us that God is present in our lives and listening. But there are times when forces—whether they be man-made natural—are set in motion and unfold before our eyes in a tragic way.
We live in a world that has, by and large, rejected following God. We can trace this back to the choice Adam and Eve had between the two trees—that of life, and that of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:1-7 Genesis 3:1-7 1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, Yes, has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
2 And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.
4 And the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die:
5 For God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also to her husband with her; and he did eat.
7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
American King James Version×). Most people, even Christians, have struggled to worship God the way He wants to be worshipped. We try to cram Him into our lives between soccer practice and work. Even into the holidays we try to celebrate. Perhaps you’ve examined the origins of Christmas and found the presence of Christ lacking (more on that here ). Because of mankind’s overall rejection of God, He has allowed this world to take a course other than what it could have taken in the garden of Eden. Satan is now the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4 2 Corinthians 4:4In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
American King James Version×). The choice made in the garden of Eden has been compounded by billions of choices over human history. We now reap the natural consequences of those choices.
The good news is that this time will not last forever. A time is coming when Jesus Christ will return to this Earth and establish God’s kingdom on Earth! (Revelation 19:11-21 Revelation 19:11-21 11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he does judge and make war.
12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
13 And he was clothed with a clothing dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him on white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
15 And out of his mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treads the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
16 And he has on his clothing and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the middle of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together to the supper of the great God;
18 That you may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.
19 And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.
20 And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that worked miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
21 And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat on the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.
American King James Version×). Until then, we can have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Consider what Paul wrote: “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4 1 Timothy 2:1-4 1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
American King James Version×). We are exhorted to pray for all people, not just believers of like mind. Why? Because God desires for all people to come to the knowledge of the truth.
His desire, His goal, His aim, is to have a relationship with everyone. While that will not be fulfilled until the return of Jesus Christ, we can find comfort and hope through a relationship with God, even in the midst of tragedy.