Super Saturday: When Bad Things Happen to Good People

This was originally published on December 2, 2011. It’s funny how my life seems so much more connected now. It’s like I was writing this blog post to myself and people who loved me for the future.

In fifth grade, my class held a contest to see who could read the most books. I had the credentials to win this contest. In the third grade, I had set the record for most books read over the year. It was somewhere in the sixties. And some of those books had been long. The Hobbit was on that list. Every summer, I participated in the library’s reading contest. It took me a week or two to get to the t-shirt reward for 1,000 pages read. I was not a reader to be messed with. It’s what I did.

That’s why it hurt so much when I lost the fifth grade contest.

See, there’s another lie that the world tells us. It’s that if you put in the work, if you do the right thing, and if you are a good person, then good tings happen. Sometimes, bad things happen to good people. 

I was listening to a podcast from Shane Hipps. He was talking about all of these righteous people that don’t get to experience the fruits of their righteousness. One of the stories was about Dirk Willems, a sixteenth century Dutch Baptist. Dirk Willems was being chased by a magistrate who wanted to execute him, and Dirk went across a thinly iced river. Dirk made it across, but the magistrate wasn’t so lucky. Dirk, feeling compelled to turn the other cheek, went back and saved the magistrate. The magistrate then captured him and executed him. Sometimes, bad things happen to good people.

Dirk Willems saving a magistrate and condemning himself

We are trained to believe that we should do good things because they lead to good rewards, but sometimes they don’t. We should do good things because they are good. I may not have won my fifth grade reading contest, but I did read a bunch of books for it, and that was good because it was good.

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