Why do bad things happen to God's people?
The book of Malachi tells us about a very interesting complaint from the people of Israel against God. They said, “It is vain to serve God.” They said there was no profit in serving Him. They were suffering. They were mourning! Here is their complaint.
Your words have been arrogant against Me,” says the LORD. “Yet you say, ‘What have we spoken against Thee?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept His charge, and that we have walked in mourning before the LORD of hosts? So now we call the arrogant blessed; not only are the doers of wickedness built up, but they also test God and escape.’ (NASB) Malachi 3:13-15
They had noticed that the “doers of wickedness” were doing just great. They were not suffering, at least so they thought. The Israelites were suffering but not those doing evil. It did not seem fair to them.
The Old Testament saints had lost perspective. They needed to be reminded that God does not forget His own.
Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard it . . . So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him. (NASB) Malachi 3:16, 18
That is what we need to remember – God does not leave us. He remembers those whose hearts are right and whose hearts are not. God is not interested in obedience from a heart that does not love Him.
Reasons For Suffering
“Bad things happen to Christians.” That is, Christians suffer for three main reasons: discipline, prevention, and growth. As a boy, my father would discipline me for “bad things” that I did. I remember that I never enjoyed the punishment he gave me. There were times I wished I had “been good.” They were not the only “bad times” in my life. He even denied me “my rights” to do other things I wanted to do. Denial was never enjoyable either. But both were for my own benefit. Suffering is always bad from our perspective.
One reason Christians have “bad things” happen to them is because they have sinned.
But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (NASB) Heb. 12:8-11
The most common reason we suffer is because we have sinned. It can be an ongoing sin habit or a one time “big” sin in our life. God will adjust the pain to ensure that we suffer – so that we understand that we were willful and disobedient. It is like getting cut with a knife. If it did not hurt, we would not fear being cut in the future.
Another reason God allows us to suffer is to prevent us from sinning. This happened to the apostle Paul. God had given him great revelations and Paul could have become proud. So God allowed him to suffer this as a reminder – a preventive from being proud. Paul even asked three times for the suffering to go away but God said, “My grace is sufficient” (2 Cor. 12:8-9).
And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me–to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (NASB) 2 Cor. 12:7-10
This is another reason we suffer, especially for those actively serving the Lord in ministry. Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was a constant reminder to not sin. It was a humbling way to suffer.
The other reason Christians suffer is a reason some Christians do not want to accept. A well known preacher recently said that Job suffered because he had sinned. But that is not what the Bible says. Listen to the very first verse in Job before anything happened.
There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job, and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil. (NASB) Job 1:1
He is described as blameless. Then eight verses later God Himself says that Job was blameless.
And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” (NASB) Job 1:8
Then God allows Satan to inflict suffering on Job (Job 1:9-21). Job lost his home, cattle, children – every earthly possession he had, except for his wife. Most of us would have complained and sinned but not Job. Scripture says that he did not sin. God even tells Satan that Job did not sin. Job did not suffer because he sinned.
Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God. (NASB) Job 1:22
And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to ruin him without cause.” (NASB) Job 2:3
His wife complained later and Job did sin – LATER. Why did Job suffer? He suffered for two reasons – the glory of God and for personal growth. In the end God doubled his wealth, but more importantly Job understood God.
I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees Thee . . . (NASB) Job 42:5
Now that is an exciting spiritual growth.
Bad things happen to Christians for one basic reason. God is more interested in our holiness than in our comfort. He is calling us to be like Him!
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” (NASB) 1 Peter 1:14-16
Let’s be like Him!