Summary: Habakkuk (along with Job and Gideon) struggled with the question of why God allows His people to suffer. God answered Habakkuk, the subject of this sermon.
Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?
January 17, 2010
TEXT: Turn to Habakkuk 1 (the fifth to the last book in the Old Testament)
Illus. – There was a couple in the church I pastored in Wiesbaden, Germany. They were faithful to the Lord; faithful to services of the church; faithful in their giving; and they served as the youth leaders in our church. They were also great encouragers for Susan and me—truly godly saints. When they returned to Texas, in both churches they were in, they were just as faithful in church, in service, in giving and to the ministry of encouragement. They are still choice servants of the Lord.
But a few years ago their second daughter was in a serious school bus accident in which she received third degree burns over most of her lower body, and many other serious injuries for which she was still receiving treatment for 13 years later. Then, 5 years ago, their youngest daughter was killed in a tragic car wreck. In addition to these horrific tragedies, they both buried parents whome they loved dearly.
That had them and many other people struggling with one of the most perplexing questions a Christian will ever face—the question of suffering in the life of God’s people.
This past week we watched with horror at the unimaginable suffering of the people in Haiti, which raises the inevitable question of “Why does a God of love allow suffering.” That’s certainly an important question, but that’s not really the focus of my sermon today. Today I want us to think not about the PHILOSOPHICAL issue of suffering per se, but the more PERSONAL issue to us who are saved of why God allows His people to suffer.
Habakkuk struggled with this puzzling enigma in our text (EXPAND AS LED):
Habakkuk 1:1-4 – “The burden which Habakkuk the prophet saw. 2 O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear! even cry out to you of violence, and you wilt not save! 3 Why do you show me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence are before me: and there are those who raise up strife and contention. 4 Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment [i.e., “justice”] never goes forth: for the wicked compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceeds.”
Habakkuk 1:13 – “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and can not look on iniquity: why do you idly look on them who deal treacherously, and hold your tongue when the wicked devours the man who is more righteous than he?”
Habakkuk was puzzled and disturbed because of the suffering of God’s people, while evil people prospered and conquered. Consider with me the following thoughts about this passage:
I. NOTE FIRST, HABAKKUK’S QUESTION.
His question was this: Why do the righteous suffer? or phrased another way, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” This is an age-old question that has befuddled believers since the beginning of time.
1. The oldest book in the Bible, Job, addresses this very question.
In Job 5:7, Job said “Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” He would know—for he suffered great trials of affliction himself.
But the enigma was that Job was a GOOD man. Job 1:1 says “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect [i.e., justified before God] and upright, and one who feared God, and turned away from evil.”
And yet—upright, righteous Job was not exempt from trials, even while the wicked seemed to be prospering. The question “Why?” is found 16 times in Job, and most of the book is an attempt to wrestle with this question: Why do the good people suffer?
2. The mighty warrior Gideon asked the same question.
He witnessed great destruction upon Israel by the Midianites, who were prospering in every way. Judges 6 tells how the Midianites defeated the Israelites, and destroyed their towns and their crops and their livestock, so that they were living in caves. Judges 6:6 says, “And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD.” As Gideon surveyed the Midianites’ prosperity in contrast to the impoverishment of God’s people in Israel, he asked “…Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then has all this befallen us? and where are all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ but now the LORD has forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” (Judges 6:13)
Maybe you too have thought that God had forsaken you. You see, Gideon, like you and I, struggled with the question of “Why do good people suffer?”