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When Bad Things Happen to Good People

 In the first thirteen verses of Luke 13 Jesus is tackling the age-old question, “When bad things happen is it because our Good God has to punish us for our bad past behaviors OR is God simply not good because he allowed bad things to happen?”

Think about how many times we tend to give up on God because we could not reconcile a negative experience. Other times we tend to judge others/ ourselves because surely God got fed up with him/her/me, surely the messy situation that came out of nowhere must have come from God.

Carrying this logic further, it is easy to assume that we will not receive God’s blessings because God knows you/ I don’t deserve God’s blessing.  Grace is a great philosophical concept, but it can’t apply to me because of my past.

Carry this logic further; if we get a lot of extra cash, we believe we have been blessed by God. Yet we look away from the reality that there are many wealthy amongst us who are far from Holy people. We believe that large numbers means that God is at work; in contrast the lonely missionary who is dealing with a tough region presumes he/she is a failure.  Ironically, while I am blessed to be a part of a healthy mega church, there are many mega churches in our country have some pretty screwed up theology.  Also when someone is healed we say, “This is evidence that God is good!” Yet what are the implications for the many that don’t have positive physical results?


Jesus dealt with these type assumptions in Luke 13

  •  Where was God when perfectly good religious people, in the middle of church service, were murdered and their blood was poured over everything sacred in the church?
  • A whole group of people, eighteen to be exact, was in the wrong place at the wrong time and skyscraper toppled and killed them all.  Is this evidence that that while all of us have issues, they must have been pretty messed up for God to have allowed this – right? Clearly God was punishing them for previous bad behavior?
  • Then a parable to ask: If you are not seeing the results out of someone you want to see fast enough, is it fair to assume they are useless for the Kingdom so prune them into good riddens?
  • Then there was the sick woman for eighteen years; surely she is someone God did not see worthy of His attention?
  • If someone who breaks out of our understanding of spiritualty, like Jesus was being accused for breaking the rules, is that someone you cant take seriously?

 Not all that different from many conversations I had this last week alone.  Here is a sampling:

  • Counseled a person in the witness protection program who had a brutal past.  (Keeping this very generic for this person protection).  Grew up with perfect church attendance and lived a better life then most. Got caught up in a bad situation, endured unimaginable acts and now has to live life far from home with an alias.  Did God abandon this person?
  • Buried a middle age man who died of a rare brain cancer. In his past there are some pretty bad things, yet for the last few years he we really turning his life around for God. Upon discovery of his disease there was miracle after miracle that blew away just about every doctor.  His new wife and himself were gladly and boldly giving God all of the credit.  Lined up to begin a highly successful world-renowned treatment, excitement was high and again God was getting all of the glory!  The night before something went terribly wrong on his hospital bed and he died.  Is he being punished?  Did God abandon them?
  • Worked with a group of lay church leaders who were firing on all four cylinders and was really doing a lot of things right.  Targeting a known need; prayerfully moved forward and used high level leadership skills.  Yet attendance was disappointingly low.   People trying hard to serve God well, yet it appears as if God did not show up.
  • A woman’s fiancé called me and he asked me to visit her in the hospital.  She went in for a basic hysterectomy and when the surgeon opened her up he discovers cancer all throughout her body.  Upon visiting her she ask me, “Am I that bad of a person?”
  • Something very painful that hurt my family very badly some year’s back was brought back to surface in some social media post, it appears that those who acted in such harmful ways still have not changed.  They even take on the role of victim, ignoring their bad behaviors.  Out of God’s grace my family have gone through much healing, restoration and renewal.  Yet when does God bring justice?


What Jesus Says:

The answer He gives then is the answer for today.  Ironically, he never really answers the questions.  He is God after all; He could have nailed the answer with pinpointed accuracy.   Instead, he answers a different question.  The clear implication is that when bad things happen we tend to ask bad questions. 

So, what was His reply to all of these difficult questions?  1) No to the bad assumptions, but 2) the right answer is yes to God.

Jesus could have answered the questions, but the implication would have been that God always owes us answers.  Like a child who is getting a sharp needle jammed in his arm by a complete stranger in a white outfit, while mom holds him down, seems like such a violation of trust and safety.  Mom could explain all day long about vaccinations and their health benefits, but in the end the child would not only not understand, he really wants to know, mom are you safe?  Tell me I can still absolutely trust you.      


What this means for us

Sometimes bad things that happen are allowed by God, other times they are just unimaginable acts that are the consequence of a free choice of a fallen world.  Either way, the answer is the same.  LEAN INTO GOD.  In the end, no matter what the question, this is the answer.  Have you ever gotten so caught up in the questions that you miss the answer? 


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