Gods will and love when bad things happen to "good" people

Dear all.

In my little baptist church they know that I completed the core modul and I offered my assistance and help in any questions they might have.

One of my sisters in christ (she is 70, was jewish orthodox and met the Lord 10 years ago, and moved to Panama from the states) she is engaging with her friends in town and recently in a very open conversation with her she told me about their problems and issues and sometimes she does not really know how to handle questions they ask here from non believers. So here is a question she asked me a couple of days ago and I am still kind of struggling to answer this.

Your thoughts on this: how to you explain God’s will and His love when bad and sad things happen to good people? This seems to be the #1 reason why people turn away from God or never even seek Him. They say, “How can there be a God? Where was He when this horrible thing happened?”

some of my thoughts :

  1. issue of good people > luke 18:18-19 only God is good and we have to understand our fallen nature and that only God makes us good
    2)I remember Vince Vitalys speech in the core modul about suffering explaining it from difficult points of view such as the mother who gives birth to her children knowing that the child one day will be suffering and dying but still does it because of love, just as God creates us and gives us life knowing that we will suffer …

more thoughts on this on how to tackle this question?

appreciated and have a wonderful day you all

greetings from Chile (being there for the holiday days, my mother is from there) anybody living down there from this platform by the way?


@bracherbracher That is a challenging question and @Vince_Vitale has some great perspectives on it that it sounds like you have benefited greatly from. A summary of my thoughts would be:

  • suffering is only temporary
  • suffering does not compare to the glory of eternity with God
  • God did not remain distant from our suffering - in Jesus He came near us and suffered with us
  • Christ will comfort us / strengthen us in our suffering
  • God could have purposes for suffering that we do not understand - if God is really God - how can we be sure He does not have a good reason for allowing suffering?
  • Jesus was not God’s plan B - God knew all along that we would fall, the world would be broken and He would send His Son - so He had a reason for allowing suffering even if we do not understand it

In my life, the Biblical example that has helped me the most during times of suffering is that of pregnancy. Like a woman in labor, our suffering is a cry for deliverance (literally) into the glory of the resurrected life. I may not understand why I suffer, but I eagerly await the glory of Christ - the sufferings of this world are nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed!

This portion of Romans 8 from The Message communicates this notion well:

22-25 All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.

26-28 Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

John 16:33 - I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

2 Cor 4:17 - For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

Romans 8:18 -I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.


i was going through the article you posted and I am struggling in understanding the following>

Here Carson sketches a brief defense of compatibilism in which he demonstrates two scriptural tensions: (1) God is absolutely sovereign, but his sovereignty never functions to mitigate human responsibility, and (2) men and women are morally responsible creatures, but their moral responsibility never makes God absolutely contingent.

any help on this?

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@bracherbracher I think that is just a very precise way of saying that humanity’s free will does not make God dependent on human decisions and God’s sovereignty does not strip people of their free will. Both God’s sovereignty and human free will coexist simultaneously even though there is some mystery there - does that make sense?

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yes, it makes sense! thank you !


@bracherbracher Sure thing - glad to clear that up :slight_smile:

Hi Benjamin,

I’m thankful that Sean posted this synopsis of Don Carson’s lecture on suffering. In it, Carson makes some powerful points with regard to preparing ourselves for suffering with a right understanding of God’s sovereignty and goodness in it.

With respect to the two specific points you highlighted, what Carson says in this lecture is that God sovereignly ordains everything that comes to pass, including every human thought, emotion, and decision. This is what he means by “absolutely sovereign.” And, even while it is God who ordains all that comes to pass, human beings are responsible for all of their thoughts, emotions, and decisions.

And by “absolutely contingent” Carson means that, even though human beings are morally responsible, God is not contingent upon creatures to know what they will do. Put another way, God foreordains everything that comes to pass, but he does not foreordain in ignorance of what the creatures will do. And unlike “middle knowledge” propounds, God knows what creatures will do entirely from what is in himself, not because he is contingent upon the creatures. In other words, God is wholly self-sufficient and possesses all knowledge without being dependent, or contingent, upon his creatures.

As scriptural support, Carson references Genesis 50:20, Isaiah 10:5-19, and Acts 4:27-28 where God sovereignly ordains the evil that was committed in each of these accounts, and holds those who committed the evil as morally responsible.

@Brian_Weeks I would not agree that God ordained every thought, emotion and decision. I am not sure what D. A. Carson would say in regard to that point - though I know he does subscribe to Calvin’s tenants. Smethhurst does not seem to be making that point in the article directly. I believe God ordained Christ and the course of history, but that we do have a degree of actual free will. I thought @CarsonWeitnauer had a good discussion in his thread on fatalism and the Christian view of providence where he rules out both option 1 and 2 - total lack of control and total control.

But as we’ve seen, there are only three options:

First - Yes, fate determines our lives.
Second - No, I determine my life.
Finally - God’s purpose is that we would choose his will for our lives.

I’ve tried to make a case that the first and second options do not hold up to scrutiny. I think the worldview that best accounts for our experience of significance and purpose is Christianity.

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Hi Sean,

Sorry for the confusion. My reply was regarding Don Carson’s lecture - the synopsis of which you posted - that Benjamin referenced. I’ll go back and edit my post to make this clearer. Thanks for pointing this out.

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@Brian_Weeks Thanks for clarifying! When I see ‘Carson’ these days I immediately think of our friendly neighborhood community founder. I amended my response accordingly.

I was wondering if I would confuse some by referring to Don Carson as “Carson.”

The article you posted wasn’t written by Don Carson. It was written by Matt Smethurst who wrote a summary of Don Carson’s lecture titled Going Beyond Cliches: Christian Reflections on Suffering and Evil. In his lecture, Carson explains what he means in the two points Benjamin asked about, especially as it pertains to God’s absolute sovereignty.

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@Brian_Weeks Amended :slight_smile:

@bracherbracher @SeanO and others have already given you good answers and much has been said about suffering in many other posts. Nonetheless, I would like to join the conversation.

Let’s suppose God did what we want. We want him to stop all suffering and what causes it. Better yet, we wish God had snuffed any chance of suffering when the first bubble of pride stirred in Satan’s thoughts. “Is there really only one God. Why not more? Why not me?” (Isaiah 14:12-14). His pride roiled into rebellion among the angels and the ruin of the creation that God had pronounced “very good.” Ever since, “all creation is still groaning and is in pain” (Romans 8:22).

Step back in time and into heavenly realms and watch God do what we think he should. God, who knows the thoughts of man, certainly knows the thoughts of angels, too, and detects the seed of darkness in the Angel of Light. God has already rendered judgment — the wages of sin is death — and he pays immediately. Execution is instant, The Almighty destroys the devil. One casualty. Creation is safe. But at what cost?

We don’t know God any better and we probably like him less. He is sovereign, but we already knew that. He is almighty, but we knew this, too, because think of what it took to create all there is from nothing. God makes the rules because, after all, he is the one who made everything and he is sovereign. We know all the more that God can do what he wants, when he wants and how he wants because he is all powerful — and sovereign.

So, watching The Almighty destroy the devil doesn’t deepen my affection. He frightens me. He is quick to anger and just as quick to weed the garden. He is an all consuming fire. Who can stand before him? There is a tinge of tyranny in the Trinity.

Thankfully, God’s ways are not our ways. If to love him is the greatest command, God ordained that forgiveness, not fear, will be the spring from which love flows (Luke 7:47). Forgiveness means something went wrong and there has been suffering on both sides. Indeed, we suffer for a season, but God even more — He is long suffering. But how would we know, if he had aborted sorrow before it was born?

His wisdom to delay execution and allow suffering looks foolish to us, but suffering is the window through which we see the gracious side of God. He leads us through the valley of the shadow of death, ministering grace and mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation, redemption and restoration. We want his trigger finger on justice but are glad — when we think about it — that he is “a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth” (Exodus 34:6). Tyrant? Not at all. When I want (when I suffer) I discover he is The Good Shepherd and surely goodness and mercy are not far behind.

A family who lived just outside Jerusalem in the days of Jesus makes the point. Jesus loved the two sisters, Mary and Martha, and their brother Lazarus, but he did a strange thing when he learned that Lazarus was seriously ill. Jesus pocketed the sisters’ request to come and and he stayed where he was. Strange behavior for the Lord who heals. Even stranger was his response, “This sickness … is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4).

Just how is there glory in watching someone you love suffer in sickness, and finally die? Mary and Martha didn’t get it. They chided Jesus when he eventually arrived four days after the funeral. “If you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died!” said each one at different times (John 11:21, 32).

Listen to their faith in this intense encounter with Jesus.

  • Jesus loves us (11:3)
  • Jesus heals (11:21, 32)
  • Jesus has God’s ear and favor (11:22)
  • Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God (11:27)

What a statement of faith! They would fit in with just about any evangelical church today. Yet, for all this, one thing they didn’t know: Jesus is the resurrection and the life.

How do you teach a truth this startling? The one who raises the dead goes where the living have fallen. You go to a tomb and speak the words of life. You unveil your glory, letting others know something about you they didn’t know before and could learn no other way.

Lazarus suffered in his body. Martha and Mary suffered in their hearts. And Jesus suffered with them. He came to their home. He went to the tomb. He wept.

All of this for the glory of God.

All of this so a family awash in bad news could receive the good news. “ I am the resurrection and the life.

All of this so that he could bear the sorrow he allowed.

Do we wish God had never allowed suffering? Yes. But how we love this Jesus, this man sent from God, himself a man of sorrows — God with us. Because of suffering, we have seen his glory and one day will enter it ourselves.

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