Why Do Bad Things Happen?

Sharon JaynesBy Sharon Jaynes5 Minutes

Excerpt taken from Chapter 2 of When You Don’t Like Your Story: What If Your Worst Chapters Could Become Your Greatest Victories? by Sharon Jaynes



Before we delve into how to have a better story—how to transform our worst chapters into our greatest victories—we need to acknowledge the proverbial elephant in the room. Why are bad chapters part of our narratives in the first place? Why does a loving God allow such pain?

There’s no easy answer to why bad things happen. But the Bible does acknowledge at least three reasons we might experience pain: God’s discipline for disobedience, consequences of our own poor decisions, and fallout from the devil’s deception.

God’s Discipline for Disobedience

The Bible says, “Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you” (Deuteronomy 8:5). God disciplined Miriam for gossiping about her brother Moses by inflicting her with leprosy (Numbers 12). He disciplined Moses for striking a rock rather than speaking to it as instructed by not allowing him to enter the promised land (Numbers 20:10–13). He disciplined David with three days of pestilence for depending on his army rather than on God’s power (2 Samuel 24). Every time we read about God disciplining someone in the Bible, that person knew that the pain they were experiencing was God’s discipline for disobedience.

If what we’re suffering is God’s discipline, we probably won’t have to wonder why it’s happening or why God allowed it. If it’s not clear, then it’s probably not discipline—even though the devil will want us to always blame God for every bad thing that happens in our life.

Consequences of Our Own Poor Decisions

Sometimes bad things happen because of our own poor decisions. A decision to have an affair leads to shattered lives. A decision to betray a confidence leads to a broken relationship. A decision to be chronically late for work leads to getting fired. If you jump off of a tall building, you’re going to get hurt, or worse. Period. That’s not God’s doing; it’s just a bad decision. Author and psychologist Henry Cloud once said that we are ridiculously in charge of our choices. We can choose to make poor decisions, but we can’t choose the consequences of those decisions.

Fallout from the Devil’s Deception

Bad things also happen when we succumb to the devil’s deception. He’s called the “father of lies” (John 8:44 nlt), “the accuser” (Revelation 12:10), and “the thief” (John 10:10); and in Genesis 3:13 he is a deceiver. Jesus tells us, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).

We’ve all seen evil. We know what it looks like and what it feels like, but do we believe that the source of evil is an evil being? When a Barna poll asked American Christians what they believed about the devil, 40 percent “strongly agreed” that Satan “is not a living being but a symbol of evil,” and another 19 percent said they “agreed somewhat” with that perspective. Only 35 percent said they believed Satan to be real, and 8 percent weren’t sure what they believed about the existence of Satan.3 If we don’t believe in the devil’s existence, he’s already got a foothold in the fight.

The apostle Paul wrote: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

Yes, there is an active invisible realm of evil that we cannot see. There is also an active invisible realm of warring angels working on our behalf (2 Kings 6:11–16). And while Satan’s ultimate battle is against God himself, his schemes play out within the human story. To understand the big picture of why bad things happen, we need to go all the way back to where it first went wrong: the garden, where Satan plays a leading role.

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