Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

Question: I have always considered myself a good person. I tried to live by the golden rule. Six years ago I suffered a very traumatic event that destroyed my faith in God and people. I became very ill, lost my job, my apartment and my car. Lived on the streets for almost 3 years, began to drink and abuse drugs. I have been taking small steps to improve my life but I have not been able to regain my faith. I still question why God allowed so much to happen to me when I always put others before my own wants and needs and treated people right?

The fact that you are even thinking about restoring yourself to a healthy sense of faith betrays the fact that you would like a relationship with God despite all that has happened. That also shows that somewhere down deep you still believe in some way–otherwise you wouldn’t care at all.

With this in mind it’s helpful to think about what life might be like if we never knew such tragedy? We would have nothing to compare the good with if we did not have evil in the world. That’s not the most comforting thought, to be sure. But another way to think about this is to consider how much stronger you are now than you were before you went through all this horrible stuff. Perhaps it’s not God who thrusted the bad stuff on you but rather, God can be seen in those who helped you get back to health, get off of drugs, back into an apartment or home and maybe even gave you a ride to work or a supermarket for a day?

We all want a God who saves us, but God doesn’t save us. What we believe as Catholics is that God suffers with us because God became one of us, even to our death. Besides a sense of understanding, God also chooses to REDEEM our suffering. Meaning that God can make all things whole again, even when all seems hopeless, even when people needlessly die, or suffer, of befall upon some tragedy. God, despite evil being in the world, can make it all OK again. Suffering and death never have the last word.

Certainly that’s hard to see when we are in the midst of suffering. But even small signs of faith are important to cling to during tough times. During this reconciliation process for you, consider even small things that are great in your life and really savor gratitude in your life–and know that God is there rejoicing with you over those times and sorrowful with you over the bad times as well.

Reading the Wisdom Literature in the Old Testament (Job, Wisdom, Psalms, Sirach are just some that may be helpful) provides us with some insight to this age old question. A second good book to read is by Rabbi Harold Kushner, Why Bad Things Happen to Good People. You could buy the Kindle Version for a mere dollar.

Lastly, it should be noted that people at the time of Jesus believed that God was cursing people with sickness or disease or some other malady. The healing miracles of Jesus show this to be fallacious thinking. By healing people that others considered sinful people because of their illness was something that Jesus railed against in his entire ministry. Taking note of that brings us to a new vision of God, one that suffers with rather than, inflicts suffering on His people.