Why do bad things happen to good people?
At first when I am asked this question, my knee-jerk reaction is to say, “Well no one is actually ‘good’ we are all broken”. I do believe we are all inherently broken and no one is good and need a Savior. However, I have friends Christian and Non-Christian, young and old, who have endured some pretty-ugly and messy situations and that answer has never sufficed. Which it doesn’t, but what does bring peace is diving into the nature of God and how He interacts with broken people.
As always, I am not a licensed professional… but as I pursue God’s heart and character I want to take you with me as we unravel some truth.
We are going to dive into one of my favorite books of the Bible, Acts. This book is full of history, and I am a history nerd! This book was written by Luke, a physician and traveling companion of a popular guy named Paul. Acts covers events that occurred right after the death of Jesus in 33 AD and concluded around 62 AD. Now that you know where we are at in history, let’s get to the juice…
THE GOOD GUYS:
I am going to paraphrase this story to avoid copying and pasting a block of Scripture you prolly will glance over. This story can be found in Acts 16:16-40.
Paul and Silas were on their way to pray (“good thing”) and they met a slave girl with an unclean spirit which gave her the ability to predict the future. Her masters/owners made a huge profit off her fortune telling. In the streets, she followed Paul and Silas around shouting and annoying them due to the spirit within her. (don’t fall asleep on me yet, this isn’t a blog on demon possession). Paul done turned around and commanded the spirit out of her. He set her free!
Her masters realized they wouldn’t be able to make money off her anymore- because her ability was gone when the spirit left her lil body. So, the masters were ticked and had Paul and Silas stripped naked, severely flogged in the marketplace, and falsely accused them of promoting customs against Roman law. (sounds a bit like Jesus’ arrest).
To put this in today’s perspective, it’d be like someone rescuing a young girl from sex slavery and giving her protection and new life. She would then be free from the life she was living and her masters would lose a profit. No one would ever look at someone who is rescuing another person in bondage and think that wasn’t a good thing. It is a good thing to help others and offer them hope, right? Now that we can all agree that Paul and Silas were doing good things (I am sorry for overusing the word good… just want you to empathize with these 2 men who were on fire for the Lord but suffered greatly under the hand of men in this world). At some point, I probably would have asked the question “Why me God?”. I am sure you have found yourself asking that question before.
***Maybe instead of saying “good thing” I should refer to them as being obedient to their calling, but I think you are picking up what I am throwing down. Again no one is good or perfect without Jesus… for those of you who think my theology has gone off the deep end. ***
So, we got that, Paul and Silas good guys on their way to pray and saving lives from evil masters and unclean spirits.
After they were flogged, they were thrown into the inner prison and secured with their feet in stocks.
Don’t mean to treat you like kindergarteners, but did they deserve to be in prison? Uhm nay freakin nay they didn’t! These guys can’t seem to catch a break!
WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH:
I would like to take a moment and allow you to think of something bad that has happened to you. A time where it seemed you were being punished for no apparent reason.
What do you do when something bad happens to you? Well for me, I obsess about it. I complain, grow fearful, or pridefully prop myself up arguing that I don’t deserve this. When life gets hard, I also think it is important to recognize the time of day we typically start to grow anxious/weary about our situations.
For me, when I wake up to workout, go to the beach, spend time with friends, or go to work, my mind is preoccupied and gives me less time to dwell. It’s normally at night in isolation when I begin to worry or feel hopeless. Let’s continue the story…
SOMETHING GOOD HAPPENS AFTER MIDNIGHT:
While in prison, Paul and Silas were praising God with songs and prayer at midnight. The other prisoners heard this. Paul and Silas were among people who deserved to be in prison. They would’ve never been in that circle of people if it weren’t for a reason. Suddenly, at midnight during the singing and praying, a violent earthquake shook the foundations of the jail and the doors of the prison flung open and everyone’s chains came loose. Whoa! (Acts 16:26)
When the jailer woke up, he was going to kill himself because if the prisoner’s escaped he would face a worse death than suicide. Paul stopped him from the attempted suicide and the guard fell asking Paul and Silas what he must do to be saved. What a turn of events. The man who had oppressed Paul and Silas was now the man asking for grace and mercy. Funny how God often flips the script following a miracle. The jailer and his family were saved that same night and that same hour the jailer washed Silas and Paul’s wounds, set a meal before them, and rejoiced with them…
LANDING THE PLANE:
1. Sometimes there is no explanation for brokenness. God isn’t picking on you nor has he forgotten about you. If the story would have stopped at the flogging and inner prison, we would be discouraged and could potentially assume God forgot about them. But the story didn’t stop there and neither does yours.
2. We can note that Paul and Silas praised the Lord in the middle of their bondage. I know you may be in a place where you feel like you are in bondage. Cancer, depression, heartbreak, addiction, death have all touched down at some point in our lives. These things have a way of making us feel like we will be in captivity forever. But The Lord, my dear friend is at work.
3. I want to encourage you to sing praises to Him even when it is hard… when you think God has gone silent. Even when you don’t anticipate chains breaking. Paul was the same guy who wrote the book of Romans, which is ironic because Rome was the empire that kept him in chains for no reason. You all know the popular verse, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28). A lot of times, this verse is taken out of context in our minds. We think that good is a better circumstance or lack of bad things. But we can see that God isn’t just about simple rescues from bad circumstances, He is working on multiple levels.
In this story, the person or situation keeping Paul and Silas in bondage ended up being the same person who fed, hosted, and washed their wounds. Through God’s crazy rescue via an earthquake (violent shaking of the Earth caused by sudden movement of rock beneath its surface) to loosen the chains of prisoners, He changed the ending of their story.
There is another earthquake mentioned in the Bible that changes the ending of your story. After the death of Jesus, there was an earthquake when he gave up His spirit on the cross.
“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split, and the tombs broke open… When the Roman guard and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely he was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:50-54)
That earthquake represents the separation between us and God is over. We have been reconciled to Him and His love for us breaks chains.
Your situation has no grip over you. It doesn’t define you. You have been set free.
We are in the age of life where we are watching all things come together to work for good. The kingdom is at hand and you have a place in it. You have a seat at the table. The situations that have held you in bondage are being reversed ever since the earth quaked. The script has been flipped. God did not grant you a one-time quick fix that only benefits you, rather a solution that benefits more and brings them to Him. Don’t lose hope. He hasn’t forgotten about you. He commands nature and breaks chains.