Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do good things happen to bad people? These two questions have bewildered mankind throughout the centuries. Even the greatest philosophers and theologians have yet to develop a concrete answer. Philosophers, theologians, and even religious leaders have developed many hypotheses. Some of these hypotheses support each other while others conflict. It is for this reason that we must conclude that there is not one answer, but rather a number of reasons.
These questions are built on the assumptions that we are entitled to have good things happen to us and everything that happens to us is either a reward or a punishment from God for something that we did. So, if we behave, we deserve to be reimbursed with an easy life.
At one time, the world was a great place; it was once a world without evil (Garden of Eden). There were no illnesses or diseases, and people had a personal relationship with God. Pain, both physical and emotional, did not exist. All of this changed with original sin – the first sin of Adam and Eve. Pain, old age, disease, accidents and evil of all kinds entered the world. Today, sin flourishes in the world we live in. Since bad things exist in our world, it is only logical that sometimes those bad things are going to affect good people. And it goes beyond just that. The world is not simply passively sinful; we have to face a power that is actively trying to hurt us – Satan (In the Gospel, Jesus calls Satan “the prince of this world”).
In the time of Jesus, the Pharisees claimed that bad things do not happen to good people. They believed that bad things only happened to bad people. God makes them happen to bad people as a punishment for sin. If people suffered, it was because of something they did wrong. If they were sick, poor, or disadvantaged, it was because they sinned. If they were born that way, it was because their parents sinned. However, the current teaching of the Catholic Church on this issue is that God does not make bad things happen as punishment for our sins. God does not make bad things happen at all. It is just the way things are. God does not simply watch us suffer the consequences of this evil, but rather He suffers with us in these times and works through those things that happen to bring some good out of them. God wants us to live freely, but in order to be free to be kind, people must also be granted the freedom to be cruel. It is for this reason that God has to allow people to do what they choose, no matter how hurtful that may be.
Most bad things happen solely because we as humans have a tendency to be less than perfect. One prime example of this is the fact that we build computers to make businesses more efficient; now and then they malfunction causing the business to run less efficiently. Plenty of disasters, and even some diseases, can be traced to this combining of human ingenuity and the imperfections of the human race. Accidents and natural disasters cannot be taken personally.
Bad things happen to good people. Just as often, good things happen to bad people. Most of these occurrences cannot be avoided. This is one aspect of life we have to live with. There is no specific reason for this phenomenon. The only possible way to find the true answer to these questions is to ask God himself.
*[Much of the supporting information is based on the current teachings of the Catholic Church and the Gospels]