I am sure you have heard the question: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” You may have asked that question yourself. I was just thinking about a couple of people in the Bible who found themselves in bad positions, yet in each of those situations, good came from the bad.
I will certainly not tell you anything you do not already know. However, I would like to remind you of truths you already know.
Joseph —Remember the young son of Jacob whose jealous brothers sold him to a caravan and, showing their father Joseph’s bloody coat, convinced Jacob that his son was dead? Joseph was then sold again to become a slave and later found himself as a servant to Potiphar, ruler of Egypt. Because of Joseph’s competence, Potiphar made him a personal steward, giving him great responsibility.
Potiphar’s wife lusted for Joseph, and when he rejected her advances, she accused him of sexual assault and convinced her husband that Joseph was guilty. She was lying, of course! Even though Joseph was a godly man whose trust was in the One True God, that didn’t keep him from bad circumstances because Potiphar angrily placed him in prison.
Later, Potiphar experienced a series of troubling dreams. On the advice of another person, He summoned Joseph to interpret the dreams and that resulted in the pleasing of Potiphar and the promotion of Joseph to be in charge of all of Egypt. That opened the opportunity for Joseph to reunite with his father and brothers.
So how did that work out for this godly man in a pagan land? It concluded years later with that family becoming Israel, the beginning of a lineage that centuries later would bring about the birth of Israel’s Messiah — Jesus Christ!
Here is what Joseph said about the long, drawn-out experience as he explained it to his brothers: “But as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, in order as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Gen. 50:20 NKJV).
Naomi — The Book of Ruth is one of my favorites. It focuses on the lives of two women: Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Ruth.
Naomi and her husband, Elimelech, dwelt in Bethlehem, but famine drove them to move to Moab, along with their sons, Mahlon and Killion. A bad situation had caused these Ephrathites to relocate to a Gentile town.
Naomi’s sons married Moabitess women, Orpah and Ruth. Later, all three of the men died, so when Naomi learned that the famine had ended in Bethlehem, she and her daughters-in-law headed back to her hometown. Things were bad for Naomi, and she encouraged her daughters-in-law to return to their home. Orpah did, but Ruth pledged herself to remain with Naomi.
Upon arriving in Bethlehem, Naomi received a warm welcome from the other women of the small town, but her attitude was not good. She felt her bad situation was no better, and it could likely get worse. “Don’t call me Naomi (which meant “pleasant”) she told them, ‘Call me Mara (bitter), because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty as brought misfortune upon me” (Ruth 1:20-21). One might ask, “Why did God let bad things happen to this Jewish woman?”
Ruth was determined to provide for herself and for Naomi, so she went to work gleaning barley in the fields of a cousin of Elimelech whose name was Boaz. The man fell in love with Ruth, and they were soon married since he was near kin to Elimelech. Naomi’s situation was changing! The couple had a son, placed him in Naomi’s lap and she named him Obed.
Obed became the father of Jesse and Jesse became the father of David, who became king of Israel. David’s lineage continued and resulted in a young woman having a son. That woman was Mary and she and her espoused husband, Joseph named the son Jesus. Why? Because He would save His people from their sins.
This all began centuries earlier when a band of jealous brothers sold their brother to a caravan. They meant it for evil, but God had a plan — and through Joseph, Naomi, Ruth, Boaz and David that plan was fulfilled on the cross of Calvary. There, though the Romans and Jews meant it for evil, God meant it for good… our good!
Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? Because He knows the end from the beginning. No one likes to have something bad happen in his/her life. Although we realize that none of us is a Joseph or a Naomi, we can rejoice when we submit ourselves to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, put our trust in the never-failing God and depend on Him to bring about the good after we have endured the bad.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
That is what I was just thinking: good can come from bad situations — when we love God and put our trust in Him!