Answering Your Kids’ Questions: Why do bad things happen to good people?

Thom DickApologetics, Featured2 Comments

In our grade 7-8 weekend program we teach almost entirely on questions of apologetics. We tackle big questions because students have BIG questions that deserve answers. This week we looked at the question “Why do bad things happen to good people?” It was a question that a student asked me as we were leaving class last weekend and I figured because most people in general ask it, I would spend some time answering it for our students. It’s a question I’ve answered before and one that I think I have a decent handle on so I didn’t expect that I would need tons of time to work it through. The interesting thing is that as I wrote the lesson the Holy Spirit brought me to an angle of the question I’ve never addressed before, certainly not a middle school level. (This is important for parents with kids of any age – don’t assume it’s just for older kids!)

Our questions always say more than we think they are saying. For example, when someone asks “Why do bad things happen to good people?”, they may be asking why bad things happen to good people in general, or they may be asking “Why do bad things happen to me?” because they are going through something very terrible and difficult. Or they may be asking how God could allow such evil on earth; they are questioning the goodness of God. These are different questions and our answers needs to address the question-er not only the question itself. As it is there is one pretty significant assumption that the questioner exposes in this question, one which Jesus even tackled in Matthew 19:16-17 (NLT) Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” “Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. But to answer your question—if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments.”

There is only One who is good, yet when someone asks why bad things happen to good people, they are assuming that people are, in general, good! As I thought about it this week the question flipped from “Why do bad things happen to good people?” to “Why do I do bad things to good people?” Suddenly I had new perspective, am not a good person. I do bad things to people I would normally consider good. And then another question quickly followed, if I am evil, are all people basically good or basically bad?

The way you answer this question will absolutely change the way you parent!

Now, a word of clarification. I am asking whether people are basically good not whether they are capable of good! Of course people have a tremendous capacity to do good, but what I am interested in is whether that goodness is basic or natural to them or something that must be taught? I suppose before you can answer that you must have a definition of goodness, and Jesus actually gives it to us in Matthew 19, God is the only One who is good, therefore God is the definition, or the standard, of goodness. The more we are like God, the more good we are. So, are people naturally like God? Are they born good

The way you answer this question will absolutely change the way you parent!

No of course not! Look at some of the moral commands God gives us,

  • Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them—this is the Law and the Prophets. (The Golden Rule) Matthew 7:12 (HCSB)
  • No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 (HCSB)
  • And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test Him: “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” Matthew 22:35-40 (HCSB)

Do you see what each one of these suggests as a common denominator for goodness? Selflessness! And of course this was one of the dramatic and unexpected characteristics of the “One” who is good when He sent His own Son to die on a cross for His rebellious and wayward creatures.

But if selflessness is a defining quality of goodness, how do your kids stack up? (How do you stack up for that matter?) Oh, our kids are cute and bring joy to our lives, but they are not selfless, in fact, they are the complete opposite, they are self-ishCompletely self-centred! We can describe them in wonderful and endearing terms, but they only have the capacity for goodness, they are not born good!

Here’s the parenting application, if we assume our children are born basically good we won’t raise them with the same intentionality than if we assumed that they only have capacity for goodness! If you assume goodness is unnatural to human beings and therefore must be taught you will be far more intentional in instilling goodness in your children.

You might wonder why this is an issue, well have you ever asked why bad things happen to good people? I don’t know if we are living in the most self-centred time in history, but things are pretty bad. The term used for the concept that people can do it all on their own (i.e. attain peace, cure disease, be good), is called humanism and our schools are filled with it! How could they not be? We are certainly are God-centred in our schools!

We need to help our children understand their desperate need for God! That they have the capacity to be good with His help! We have to help them see that the first problem is not why God allows bad things to happen to good people, but why we do bad things to “good” people. We are bad on the inside, but thank God, He is making us new!

Ephesians 2:8-10 (HCSB)
For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—
not from works, so that no one can boast.
For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.

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About the Author
Thom Dick

Thom Dick

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Thom is an Associate Pastor at Southland Church in Steinbach, Manitoba and has worked with children and youth for 17 years. He and his wife, Tara, have 5 kids; 4 boys, and a daughter. The kids are spread across 20 years too, so that gives him plenty of experimental material to write about! They have also welcomed 27 foster children into their home over the past number of years. He's on Instagram as @thomaswdick.

2 Comments on “Answering Your Kids’ Questions: Why do bad things happen to good people?”

  1. Excellent article. I love that you’re answering these types of questions for our kids. As adults, we can all still learn from these answers as many of us adults still have questions like this also. Thank you for this blog. I love it!

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