How about turning the question around and asking "Why would an all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful God allow good things to happen to bad people?" After all, if seeing good people suffer is horrible, it's not much fun seeing evil people having fun either.
Being a Christian doesn't exempt you from suffering. Jesus Himself assured us that there will be trouble in our lives.
John 16:33 (NKJV)33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
1 Peter 4:12 (NKJV)12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;
God is sovereign and He knows everything that has or ever will happen good, bad, or indifferent. That means that, in a sense, He allows everything. However allowing and doing are two very different things.
God does not do evil.
James 1:13 (NKJV) 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.
Job 34:12 (NKJV) 12 Surely God will never do wickedly, Nor will the Almighty pervert justice.
If God doesn’t do anything that hurts us what does it mean then when it says in Job that God gives and takes away?
Job 1:20-21 (NKJV) 20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped.21 And he said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD."
When you start reading at verse one of this chapter you will see that God didn't do anything to or take anything from Job. It was Satan that did and took, but God did allow it by giving him permission.
Job 1:1-12 (NKJV) 1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.2 And seven sons and three daughters were born to him.3 Also, his possessions were seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a very large household, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the East.4 And his sons would go and feast in their houses, each on his appointed day, and would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them.
5 So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, "It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts." Thus Job did regularly.6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.7 And the LORD said to Satan, "From where do you come?" So Satan answered the LORD and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it."8 Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?"9 So Satan answered the LORD and said, "Does Job fear God for nothing?10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!"12 And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person." So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.
Job knew that he hadn’t done anything to cause what was happening to him so he, like most of us, needed to find someone or something to blame. Most of us “good Christians” blame Satan or God but never ourselves or acknowledge that some bad things just happen because we live in a fallen world.
Anne Peterson (some edits by me)
Too often we find ourselves rating God based on what he does. Your husband got the raise he worked hard for, my daughter’s fever broke...God is good.
But what about the heartbreaking circumstances of our lives; what then? Isn’t it true that some hurting people have exclaimed “A good God wouldn’t have allowed this!” How can Christians respond?
God Is Good
The Bible tells us that God is good. Psalm 34:8 says we should taste and see that the Lord is good . This is a favorite verse for many. Many other verses also bear witness of God’s goodness:
- Romans 8:28 assures us that God will work all things together for good.
Romans 8:28 (NKJV) 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
- Psalm 84:11 promises God will not withhold any good thing from us.
Psalm 84:11 (NKJV) 11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly.
- James 1:17 reminds us that every good and perfect gift comes from God.
James 1:17 (NKJV) 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
- Psalm 145:9 tells us the Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all he has made.
Psalm 145:9 (NKJV) 9 The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works.
All throughout Scripture, we see promises of God’s goodness, in the midst of struggles. And not only do we nd refreshment in these promises, but we are also witnesses of His goodness.
Cradle a newborn in your arms and you’re witnessing firrst-hand how wonderful the Father is bless us with children. God does give us many blessings. He does show us favor. And he also gives us mercy when we need it.
Dare I say, many of us have even witnessed unexpected miracles we knew were by God’s hand. Truly he is a good God.
We Live in a Fallen World
Genesis 3:17-18 tells us that once sin entered the world things changed. And there were consequences; pain, suffering, and death.
Genesis 3:17-18 (NKJV) 17 Then to Adam He said, "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat of it': "Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life.18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field.
And while it’s true that we still receive God’s blessings, it’s also true that the circumstances of our lives also include times of grief. Sometimes, even, unbelievable suffering.
Someone I know whose husband was fighting cancer was in a car on the way somewhere when she got a call from her doctor. “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but you also now have cancer.”
There are children born with genetic disorders. Our granddaughter was one of them. It is said to be an incompatibility with life. She was 14 months old when she died.
I know someone who left her house to go to work and felt an urge to return home. And when she returned, she saw her house ablaze with her husband and young daughter inside.
None of these circumstances are good. So how can God be good yet, allow things like this to touch us?
God’s Good Ways Are Not Our Ways
Author Hannah Whitall Smith writes about the goodness of God. She explains that God’s goodness is part of his character. God can be nothing less than good. Smith further explains “What does it mean to be good? What but this, the living up to the best and highest that one knows. To be good is exactly the opposite of being bad. To be bad is to know the right and not to do it, but to be good is to do the best we know.”
God is omniscient which means he is all-knowing, all-wise, all-seeing. If God is all-knowing and all-wise, we can rest in the fact that he knows what he is doing. And yet, there are still unbearable things that will happen in our lives.
God tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9 that his ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Which simply put means, we do not think like God thinks.
Isaiah 55:8-9 (NKJV) 8 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD.9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.
God is infinite. He doesn’t have a beginning nor an end. We, on the other hand, are finite. So there is no way we can understand an infinite God, no matter how hard we may try. It’s just not possible.
Ecclesiastes 11:5 tells us that God’s ways are mysterious as the pathway of the wind.
Ecclesiastes 11:5 (NKJV) 5 As you do not know what is the way of the wind, Or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, So you do not know the works of God who makes everything.
Romans 11:33 says to us that God’s ways are inscrutable.
Romans 11:33 (NKJV) 33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
God Freely Gives Us Free Will
We like the fact God has given us free will. We have choices in our lives. But what we don’t like is when someone uses their free will and it affects us negatively. Like the person who drinks and then gets in their car and hurts someone we love, or even kills them.
Some of the circumstances we experience are due to our choices, but some are the result of the choices of others. And while someone may ask, then why didn’t God stop them?”
The answer is, God won’t force us to do something. We are free to make our own choices, even bad ones.
Trusting That God Is Good
The longer we walk with the Lord, the more we learn about his character. And each trial we go through teaches us more about who God is. John 3:16 tells us God loves us so much he gave his only Son to die for us. Romans 8:32 reminds us God didn’t spare his own Son but gave him freely, so there’s nothing we can’t ask him for.
John 3:16 (NKJV) 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Romans 8:32 (NKJV) 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
Trusting God is believing what he says in his Word, no matter what we see before us.
We know God will work all things together for good. But what does that look like? That’s where faith comes in. We trust that God knows what he is doing even when things look different from what we would do. We choose to trust God when we don’t have a clue as to what he’s doing.
Does it always feel okay? No. But we’ve made the decision to trust him and we follow through.
5 Simple Ways to Respond to ‘a Good God Wouldn’t Allow This’
So what is our response to those who question God’s goodness? Those who say, ‘A good God wouldn’t have allowed this?’ We need to remember people in pain may not have fully processed their loss.
Here’s how we can respond:
Be a listening ear. Those who are struggling with God need to share their heartache. James 1:19 advises, My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.
Pray for them. God tells us we can lift others to him in prayer . Go into God’s throne room and lift this person up to God. God cares about them even more than we do.
Be patient. It takes time to work through grief. Those who are questioning God need to process all of it, and this takes a long time. God can handle it when people are angry with him. God’s the one who made our emotions.
Love them. God understands those with broken hearts. It tells us in Psalm 34:18 that he is close to the brokenhearted. As you love those who hurt, they will realize it was God who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 )
Be gracious. Some day you may be questioning God’s goodness as you face a heartache in life. Treat others as you would want to be treated. As it says in Matthew 7:12 , in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.
A Prayer for Wisdom to Know God is Good
God, we know you are good. You can’t be anything but good. But sometimes the painful circumstances of our lives clouds our minds. Give us wisdom as we rub shoulders with those who are hurting and have lost loved ones. Father, many words we speak are out of hurting hearts. Help us remember this. Lord, give us the words and keep us silent when that is what others need. We pray this in your Son’s precious and Holy name. Amen.