I recently read a book about Louis Zamperini. He was an Olympic runner who later became a crewman on a B-24 bomber in WWII. His plane went down over the Pacific in July 1943. After barely surviving the crash, he floated on a rubber raft for 47 days, drifting more than 2,000 miles with no food or water. He was finally picked up at sea — by the Japanese. For the next two years he was imprisoned, tortured and came close to death many times. Miraculously, he survived. In fact, he just passed away this summer. His story has been made into a movie and will be released in December.
Louise Zamperini was a star athlete, a model soldier and a patriotic citizen. Did Louis deserve all the misfortune he endured? All the torture? The near-death experiences? Why does it seem that God allows bad things (it doesn’t get much worse than what Louis endured) to happen to good people?
This could be one of the hardest questions to answer. It might be helpful to start with our definitions of “good” and “bad.” What measure do you use to determine who is good and who is bad? Different cultures have different definitions. In one culture I know, it is considered virtuous to befriend someone of another tribe, flatter them with acts and words of kindness, then when they are unsuspecting, kill them. This process of treachery is considered the ultimate form of social status.
I believe that to use any other measure of right and wrong other than the Bible is to have a standard that will constantly change. No one can deny that cultures change. Societies change. Governments change. People change. But as the Bible says, “the Word of God abides forever.” The Bible makes clear that there are no truly “good” people. In other words, no truly righteous people (Romans 3:10-18). The standard for who is good and who is bad is God himself. He is holy and righteous. Compared to him we all fall short (Romans 3:23). So good and bad isn’t the same to us as it is to God.
This column will be completed at a later date, but if you truly seek to understand why bad things happen to good people, start by checking out the only reliable source of truth — the Bible.
Pastor Rob Jones is the senior pastor of Fellowship Community Church in Norwalk. The church was founded under his leadership in 1995.