Why do bad things happen to good people? I have long been plagued by this question. Some of the best people I know are continually called upon to face the most difficult and trying challenges this world has to offer. On the flip side, some of the worst people I know seem to have everything: good jobs, good looks, nice cars, and (more importantly, and perhaps even more unfairly) people that love them. Lots and lots of people. So what gives?
There are a number of different explanations, and the answer you reach probably depends on your belief system. If you believe in God, then you believe that God is in control. As such, you are left with two options: either (1) God causes bad things to happen to good people and good things to happen to bad people, or (2) (and more common) God allows these things to happen. Most people that believe in God, at least a Judeo-Christian God, believe that He is inherently kind and good. So they have a hard time getting their heads around a God that would cause bad things to befall the good and good things to bless the bad. Maybe it’s just semantics, but they prefer to believe that God allows these things to happen.
The catch-all explanation is that everything has a purpose, and this life is a chance to learn and to grow. To be stretched. To be challenged. So if God allows something bad to happen to you, it is, ultimately, designed to help you grow. To become better. It’s for your good. It is, in essence, a good thing, happening to a good person, albeit by roundabout and difficult means.
Of course, good things happen to good people sometimes, too. If something good happens to a good person, then it is a blessing, something God causes to happen to you to reward you for your goodness. If you are a good person and bad things happen to you, though, it is something God has allowed to happen to you, it is for your good, and you will grow from it. Essentially, also a blessing, though not quite as directly so.
Under this system, then, why do good things still happen to bad people? It’s simple, good things happen to bad people so that God-fearing good people can look on the bad people with the good things and be stretched even further. If you can look at a bad person lavished with good things while your life is in the toilet, and still believe that God is good and life is fair, then you are either very naive, or very convinced that even this (good person forced to see bad person up to his eyeballs in good things while good person’s life flounders) is a blessing. And I think this is the conclusion most religious people come up with: everything is for your good. Everything is a blessing. There is no such thing as a bad thing. These God-fearing good people have an explanation for everything.
Of course, not everyone believes in God. Erase God from the equation, and it becomes quite simple: there are good people, there are bad people, sometimes good things happen, sometimes bad things happen, there is no rhyme or reason, that’s just the way it is (and no matter what your belief system, doesn’t it seem, at least sometimes, like this is the way it really is? If you’re honest, I think you have to answer “yes”).
So what do you think? God is omniscient and He knows when your life needs something really crappy to happen so that somewhere down the road you will appreciate what you have? If so, is He allowing these things to happen? Causing them to happen? Or is His role less active? Is He just a passive observer? Or is He there at all?