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Innocent people seem to suffer a lot. Why do bad things happen to good people? And why do so many bad people seem to have it made?

By Opal Reddin

My godly mother was beaten and left for dead by a young prison parolee. Mother lived five more years, faithfully praying for the man’s salvation. Many asked, "Why would God allow such a good woman to suffer such a bad thing?"

God has not given one simple answer that will satisfy everyone, but His Word has given us all we need to know in order to live victoriously (2 Peter 1:3,4). Being all-powerful and all-loving, He absolutely works all things for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

Christians are subject to common calamities. If God protected His children from all storms, disappointments, poverty and plagues, people would be tempted to serve Him for selfish reasons, as Satan falsely accused Job of doing (Job 1:10,11). Good people have no insurance against physical death; even innocent children and babies die. Heartbroken loved ones can be comforted by God’s promise that He sometimes takes the righteous one away "from the evil to come" (Isaiah 57:1).

When believers sow to the flesh, they reap bad consequences; Galatians 6:7 was written to Christians. God chastens His children (Hebrews 12:5) to correct wrong attitudes and prevent sin. Paul suffered a painful infirmity, "a messenger of Satan" to keep him from pride (2 Corinthians 12:7).

Fiery trials come to purify our faith (1 Peter 1:7). Tribulation is essential to perseverance, and these produce character, the only thing we can take with us into heaven for eternity (Roman 5:3,4). As believers, we share in the "fellowship of his suffering" (Philippians 3:10). The same world that hated Him hates us (John 15:18-21); all who are godly will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). The sufferings of Christ abound in good people so they can know the comfort God gives. Then — and only then — are they prepared to comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-6).

Why do the wicked prosper? Job wrestled with this question (21:7-15). Psalm 73 tells how David’s steps nearly slipped because he was envious when he saw the prosperity of the wicked (vv. 2,3).

Jesus explained why bad people prosper. He said the world loves its own (John 15:19). Satan’s people help each other. From the far-reaching Mafia to local scams, bad people shrewdly cheat others out of wealth (Luke 16:8). Abraham reminded Dives (the rich man) that in his life on earth he received good things (Luke 16:25).

For the present, God allows the devil to be "the god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4). He can give the kingdoms of the world to whomsoever he will unless God overrules (Luke 4:6).

God’s goodness toward the sinner is intended to lead him to repentance; if he spurns God’s mercies, he stores up greater wrath for himself at the final judgment (Romans 2:4,5).

God’s final answer to these questions is in the Cross. Jesus used the ultimate "bad thing" to crush the serpent’s head (Colossians 2:15; Genesis 3:15). Soon God’s people will be in the only place in the universe that is totally free of all bad things; all who follow Satan will have lost all that is good forever.


Opal Reddin, D.Min., an Assemblies of God minister, is distinguished professor emeritus in Bible/theology at Central Bible College in Springfield, Mo.

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