I was in seventh grade in 1979 when I first realized the personal impact of a tropical storm. Hurricane Frederic redeveloped in the Gulf of Mexico and was headed in our general direction. By the morning of September 12, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration labelled Frederic as a Category 4 Hurricane with sustained winds approaching 140 miles per hour. My parents had us use the day preparing our house for the storm. We boarded up windows. We cleaned the tub and filled it with emergency water. We were as ready as could be. The eastern side of a hurricane is typically the most dangerous. The rotation of a hurricane spawns multiple tornadoes on its eastern side. At approximately 10:00 p.m. local time the night September 12, 1979 Hurricane Frederic made landfall near Mobile, Alabama. We lived a few miles east of Mobile in West Pensacola, Florida. Our parents put us to bed in our jeans and t-shirts, not knowing what the rest of the night would bring.
The next morning we surveyed the damage. In our neighborhood, the damage was slight. That damage included a few small trees, too many branches and limbs to count, a couple of houses with minor roof damage, and some with broken windows. The biggest issue for my family and our immediate neighbors was a blown transformer on the pole in front of our house. We would spend the next week without power using camping stoves to cook what food would spoil in the hot Florida September. We had more than a few “block parties” that week as neighbors pitched in what food they had.
The damage to the beaches of the Gulf Coast of Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi was much greater. Frederic destroyed fishing piers, public parks, houses, and condominiums all along the Gulf Coast area. Dauphin Island in Mobile Bay became isolated. Frederic destroyed the bridge connecting it to the mainland. The only way to get to Dauphin Island was by boat or ferry. The sand dunes we loved to roll down were no longer there, Frederic had turned every dune covered barrier island into a flat sand box. Recovery would take years.
Storms like Hurricane Frederic, Hurricane Katrina, wildfires, tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods impact the lives of those in their path. They also impact those whose friends, loved ones, and businesses lie in the path of the storms. As a result of storms like these engineers learn a lot about construction techniques.
Many times when storms or tragedy strike, we find ourselves asking a question similar to this, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” I am not sure that anyone can satisfactorily answer that question for everyone. But the Bible does give us the answer, an answer that requires a strong faith and strong foundation.
I find it interesting that Jeremiah asks a similar question in Jeremiah 12:1, “Righteous are you, O LORD, when I complain to you; yet I would plead my case before you. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?” In other words, “Why do good things happen to bad people?”
There is a quick answer to the question “Why do bad things happen to good people?” from Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5:43-45, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
But what are the reasons bad things happen to good people?
First Bad Happens Because we Live in a World Cursed by Sin. We read in Genesis 1:31 at the end of God’s creation that in the beginning all was very good including mankind. Then only a couple chapters and a short while later mankind sins against God and that sin brought its curse. Turn to Genesis 3:16-24, “To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.”
Because of man’s sin, pain and suffering entered man’s experience. Because of his sin, toil and sweat entered man’s world. Because of his sin, sorrow and death became a reality. The serpent was correct, Adam and Eve now knew of the good they had and the evil that resulted from their listening to him.
Because of sin, God removed them from the Tree of life. The Tree of Life Was for Adam and Eve their source of immortality. Now without access to the Tree of Life, disease and pain of deterioration become known to them. Now even nature becomes an agent of potentially bad things. Death can now come to man via animals, accidents, bacterial infections, or viral infections. No person after Adam and Eve is immune.
Consider what the Preacher says in Ecclesiastes 9:2-3 , “It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.”
Consider also the words of the Apostle Paul in 1Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die . . .
Bad Things Happen Because of Satan’s Continued Activity in the World. I hear people say “Everything happens for a reason.” They say that as a statement of faith that indicates that they are trying to trust that God has a reason for causing an event in their life or the life of someone else to occur. But the Bible does not teach that everything happens for a reason predetermined by God! Not everything that happens in this world is “The Lord’s Will.” Our gracious and loving Father does not cause or desire all that happens in our lives. From the life of Job we can learn that God may permit things, or better yet does not prevent them, but He does not cause them. The truth is that Satan is still active in the world to some degree.
Satan is the source of sin and sin brings about consequences in our lives. Jesus says that the devil “was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44
And John tells his readers “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” 1John 3:8
Satan was the source of Job’s sorrows. He was the source of Paul’s thorn in the flesh (messenger of Satan) according to 2 Corinthians 12:7. On at least one occasion, Satan hindered Paul’s ministry (1Thessalonians 2:18). Add to that this scripture in Luke 13:16, “And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” According to Jesus, this woman was infertile because of Satan’s work.
But what do we do when tragedy strikes? How can we survive what are seemingly catastrophic events? Jesus will tell us that how we build our life determines how we survive? “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-27.
As we consider what Jesus had to say, let’s first define His terminology. Our house is the life we are building. While we are in this house we will face the changing circumstances of life. If you have lived any amount of time you already know that life’s moments are for better and for worse. Our building, our life, will face more than a few storms.
Our Foundation is the philosophy we build our life on. Our life philosophy might be original, borrowed, adapted, or learned, but we default to that philosophy to get us by when life becomes a challenge. I took some time to look up a few different philosophies that people claim. Some of them sound healthy at first reading and some appear far-fetched.
- “To have some deep feeling about Buddhism is not the point; we just do what we should do, like eating supper and going to bed. This is Buddhism.” ― Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice.
- “Anyone can grow into something beautiful.” ― Vanessa Diffenbaugh, The Language of Flowers.
- “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.” ― Craig Lancaster, Quantum Physics and the Art of Departure.
- “Focus on making yourself better, not on thinking that you are better.” ― Bohdi Sanders, The Secrets of Worldly Wisdom: Your Key to Unlocking Success.
- “Have a big enough heart to love unconditionally, and a broad enough mind to embrace the differences that make each of us unique.”― D.B. Harrop.
- “Think, Travel, Celebrate, Charm, Decorate, Dress, Live – colorfully” ― Kate Spade, Becoming Myself: Reflections on Growing Up Female.
- “Live each day as if it were your last, for one day, you’re sure to be right.” ― Kenneth G. Ross.
- “Life is such a journey on a sea of constant waves and splashing desires.” ― Nadina Boun.
Will these philosophies shore us up through every storm?
There are physical literal storms of life. They arrive in the form of tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, windstorms, and blizzards. These so-called natural disasters may destroy homes, ruin possessions, or even result in the death of one we dearly love. How we respond reveals the strength of our life’s foundation. When tragedy strikes are we emotionally devastated? When the storm causes great damage are we spiritually devastated? Do we have the intestinal fortitude to stand strong, keep calm, and will ourselves to continue? Or do we rely on God and His people to help us through?
There are also physical figurative storms of life. They come in the forms of things like major illnesses, the death of a family member or a very close friend. They include financial failure or job loss. They can be disasters like fires or automobile accidents. These events can take away our loved ones, damage our health, damage our home, or destroy our possessions. How we respond reveals the strength of our life’s foundation. When tragedy strikes are we emotionally devastated? When the storm causes great damage are we spiritually devastated? Do we have the intestinal fortitude to stand strong, keep calm, and will ourselves to continue? Or do we rely on God and His people to help us through?
As you look at you building, your house, your life, what type of builder are you? His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ (Matthew 25:21). Are you a good and faithful builder? But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? (Matthew 25:26) Or are you wicked and lazy?
Wise builders build on the foundation of Jesus’ message as their philosophy.
- Matthew 6:1-18, “”Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Build on a righteous heart and life.
- Matthew 6:19-21, “”Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Make heavenly things your treasure.
- Matthew 6:30-34, “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Learn now to depend on God and putt His kingdom first.
- Matthew 7:1-6, “”Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” Be merciful and loving. Do not be inconsistent
- Matthew 7:7-11, “”Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Seek good from God not from the world.
- Matthew 7:13-14, “”Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Follow the straight and narrow way.
- Matthew 7:15-20, “”Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” Bear good fruit that grows from a pure heart.
Jesus says not to just hear these words, but put them into practice. Matthew 7:24-27, “”Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
James echoes Jesus’ statement. James 1:22-25, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”
What is the foundation of your life? Jesus and His messages will hold you firm. “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 1Corinthains 15:58.
Remember the words of the Psalmist, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” Psalm 121:1-8.