Why Does God Let Good Things Happen To Bad People?


Light In The Darkness

This morning, my alarm went off way too early. It was set for the correct time, I just wasn’t ready for it. So of course, I hit the snooze button. Nine minutes later, the alarm went off again and as I silenced it, I noticed the date, which jumped out at me like a jack-in-the-box. It was January 17th.

Many of us have dates in our personal history that we cannot forget, even if we try. If you have gone through a divorce, you know exactly what I mean. It’s hard to forget the day your spouse walked out or the day you signed the papers. I’ll never forget January 17th because although it began with extreme anxiety, it will always be a reminder to me of how good God has been to me, even though I don’t deserve it.

For me, this date was a game changer because of what I was about to go through. At 4:31am on January 17, 1994 I was asleep on the couch in the living room of my second floor apartment in Woodland Hills, CA and was suddenly lurched off onto the floor by the jolt of a 6.8 magnitude earthquake, centered 5 miles away in Northridge. And as the shaking and breaking and crumbling ensued, all I could think of was why was God adding this insult to my injuries?

My husband had left me 6 months before. I lost my home, many of my friends and was struggling mightily to keep my head above the financial waters that were getting ever deeper. And now, this. I had only been in the apartment for two weeks when the earthquake struck and as the shaking stopped and began again just seconds later with the first powerful aftershock, I saw broken dishes that had jumped out of the cupboard and crashed on the countertops, shattered glass from pictures that had fallen off the walls, and believe it or not, my refrigerator had bounced completely out if it’s place and was blocking the entrance to the kitchen.

Eventually, I was able to make it down the broken cement stairway to the lower level where residents who were not trapped in their apartments were gathering and checking on each other. I didn’t know anyone so I just sat on a lounge chair by the pool hanging on through more aftershocks and choking on smoke from a fire that was raging down the street. It was one of the very low points of my divorce and, although I didn’t doubt God was present in my life, I just couldn’t understand why He let this happen when I was such an emotional mess already. Why was He allowing so much suffering in my life? But my problem was I was asking the wrong question.

In my estimation, I was a good person, a practicing Catholic, and a faithful spouse. I assumed living a good life was an insurance policy that would protect me from suffering. But although I was living a good life, I was still a sinner. Even though I did good things, I still offended God on a daily basis through my pride and selfishness; through my indifference and laziness; through my judgmentalness and gluttony. Despite my offensive behavior toward Christ, He gave me the gifts of waking up every day in good health, with all my faculties. Finances may have been tight but I had two jobs during a time when the state unemployment was 9%. All my family members were alive and well. So the question I really should have been asking was why does God let good things happen to me, a sinner.

A Bridge Between Crosses And Blessings

Suffering plays an essential role in a Christian’s ability to understand redemption. There is no change without pain. There is no growth without discomfort. But even more important than this basic understanding, is recognizing the true glory of suffering when it is united to Christ’s own suffering. Offering up your struggles and sufferings, no matter how big or small, changes you, strengthens you, builds a higher level of virtue.

Bushidō, literally “the way of the warrior”, is a Japanese word for the way of the samurai life, loosely analogous to the concept of chivalry. The Bushido embraces suffering and wears it as a badge that signifies personal integrity. This is what suffering should mean to us everyday people. It is not God frowning upon us, it is not a curse. It is the way God turns our face toward Him and beckons us to come closer to Him. It is a spiritual refinement that can be brought about by no other means.

Suffering is a means to an end, and the end should be the conversion of your heart. Let your trials change you into a better, stronger, more perfect person.






12 Comments

  1. Anay-832060 January 18, 2013

    That was beautiful. Thank you for sharing and reminding me of what it means to suffer because it can be difficult to realize the blessings that we have despite what may not be going to our liking.

  2. Raphael-930793 January 18, 2013

    What a beautiful way to end your story. One of the strongest facets of the Holy Spirit for me is reconciliation. As I continue to give myself over to God daily I am reminded that life is not a crystal stair but I can do all things through Him who gives me strength. It is in that place where I am happy to have the strength to endure life when it becomes difficult.

  3. Naomi-698107 January 18, 2013

    There is a dangerousness within the common [oftentimes Protestant based] misunderstanding of Christian theology, especailly concerning suffering.

    Did God cause our suffering by allowing the Earthquake? Or was it merely the physical laws of geography that have existed in our planet since the dawn of time, the introduction of sin allowing it to cause so much distress through personfied violent changes? Was the pain caused to us by others willed directly by God, or merely willed and caused by the sinful nature of another human being?

    God allows suffering, it is permissively willed. He does not have some mindset of “Right, young Sally hasn’t suffered enough, I”ll kick the planet and cause a quake, or make her collegues agressive to her that her work life suffers”.

    Fr. Barron has a great piece on YouTube that discusses God and suffering in connection with God being the painter. When the picture is in progress it may look ugly, chaotic, but God, knowing the end result, allows the chaos because of the beauty He knows will result of it.

    Does God desire our suffering? No, because that would not be loving. Does He allow it? Yes, because while sin causes us pain, and natural disasters cause us pain, He knows, it also offers the chance to grow. IT also offers us the chance to offer our suffering up for the good of others.

    I’ve seen too many people see their “suffering” as punishment from God, thinking he directly caused an individual to harm them. ie. rape them, murder a family memeber. Suffering is permissively willed by God, never directly willed. Such a slight difference, very easy in this day where suffering is actively avoided, to confuse.

  4. Austin-560784 January 18, 2013

    How humble, thanks for sharing that and thanks to those who commented.

  5. Araceli-935330 January 18, 2013

    Trials and tribulations help us to grow our faith and God, or to truly accept him in our lives. He has a plan for each of us. We need to LET GO AND LET GOD.

  6. Kristin-934795 January 18, 2013

    I enjoyed reading this and having lost my husband suddenly in 2011 , my dog three mobnths later , and then my home all in the wake of his death I struggled with this. However there is one point , that I doffer on and that is the concept of BUSHIDO, to wear our suffereing like a badge of integrity. It has been my thoughts throughout my own suffering that the way I respond to it and my attitude durring my sufferings are a gift of mercy and grace by God. To say that uit should be worn as some sort of badge implies a sort of arrogance and not an attitude of humility. Suffering is opart of the human condtion, it ionly becomes divine when we as beleivers turn it over to god for him to shape us as he wished. Ideally this should be the attitude o ft ose who suffer, it is a journey to get there, and not a badge of merit in and of itself.

  7. Kathleen-5781 January 19, 2013

    What a beautiful reminder about suffering. May we all take up our crosses and offer our sufferings with Jesus. The road to heaven is where we want to go.

  8. Jock-897450 January 19, 2013

    Thank you! A poignant reminder to look beyond ourselves and know suffering is redemptive and mercy is endless for us, despite our fallen nature.

  9. Robert-761351 January 20, 2013

    Yes thank you for this beautiful story. It serves as a reminder that we should always remember to thank The Good Lord for our blessings, and to accept our trials and tribulations as a penance for our sins. God never gives us a problem we can not handle though sometimes we feel overwhelmed. God’s Divine Mercy is always available to us.

  10. Nice piece…needed a reminder today…had an emotional reaction after cleaning out a cabinet and finding a picture from pre-marriage, and our children’s video collection (they are teens and young adults now). But my response did slide into the “why, God, why”? and that leads to the spiral into self-pity, resentment, overwhelming thoughts of despair, displacement, etc. This article came to my attention (divine intervention???) in a very timely fashion. Thank you.

  11. Jason V. March 26, 2014

    Sometimes the devil allows people to live a life free of trouble because he doesn’t want them turning to God. Their sin is like a jail cell, except it is all nice and comfy and there doesn’t seem to be any reason to leave. The door’s wide open. Till one day, time runs out, and the cell door slams shut, and suddenly it’s too late.

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