Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People? -- By: Steve Lemke

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 04:1 (Spring 2007)
Article: Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?
Author: Steve Lemke


Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?1

Steve Lemke

Provost and Professor of Philosophy and Ethics, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

“Why do good things happen to good people?” Now, by asking that question, we have already set the teeth on edge of any good theologian among us because it is a poorly framed question. First of all, none of us are really good people, are we? We’re not righteous, for “there is none righteous, no not one” (Rom. 3:10; c.f. Ps. 14:1, 3; 53:1, 3; Isa. 64:6; Rom. 3:12, 23).2 No one of us can claim to be truly and completely good except God (Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19). None of us are so good that we deserve to be exempt from the vicissitudes of life. Secondly, it is difficult in some situations to know that something is indeed a bad thing, because God may work a blessing out of what we initially took to be a bad circumstance. We realize in the end that it was not really a bad thing after all.

But let us suspend those theological reservations for the present, because this is a question raised repeatedly in the Bible. Job, Jeremiah, Asaph, Habakkuk, Peter, and James raised this issue, just to name a few. And this is a question that, not adequately answered, has been a hindrance to faith for many persons who have suffered loss. I am addressing today many persons who were deeply and personally impacted by hurricane Katrina, as was I. Perhaps your minds turn immediately to the impact of that disaster on your own personal lives. But I am directing these remarks not just to the impact of Katrina on persons, but to all the many kinds of suffering that invade our lives.

What challenges confront you in your life? Are their problems or health issues that you face in your family? Are you struggling with relational issues? Do financial challenges weigh upon your spirit? Do you wonder how you will ever have the time and energy to complete all these academic assignments on the syllabi you’ve just received in your courses while you work two jobs and serve in a ministry?

If you are here, it is because you feel called into the ministry. You have came here as an obedient response to God’s leadership and direction in your life. And yet, you suffer all these challenges. Some of you had just arrived on the seminary campus, in obedience to a very clear sense of God’s leadership, only ...

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