"Why do bad things happen to good people?" While this question is fundamentally flawed, that's a topic for another post. So as we process this question biblically, theologically, historically, philosophically, and any other -ally that we can, notice that this topic is very much like a diamond refracting light in a thousand different ways; it looks different to everyone, some people will notice things others won't, and just when you think you've seen it for all its worth, someone turns it in another direction and you notice something that wasn't there before.
So why do bad things happen to us? When you turn the diamond just right, the light of 2 Corinthians 1.3-7 jumps out. The Apostle Paul uses the word "comfort" ten times in those five verses. "God is a God of comfort" is the message. So immediately we ask ourselves, How could God comfort us if we never suffered? If life turned into a bed of roses the moment we met Jesus, we would never experience the comfort the Holy Spirit is meant to bring.
But the point here is not just that we are comforted by God - Paul says in verse 4 that God "comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." So there's another element to our own suffering that looks outside of us to the people suffering around us. Now not only is God allowing affliction in our lives so that He can comfort us, but so that we can comfort those around us with that same comfort!
And this is where it becomes real. This is where real people with real problems get real answers. The only people asking "Why do bad things happen," are people not suffering right now. Because the answer to that question, if there even is one, doesn't bring hope or peace. What comforts people in their affliction?
"I've been there."
"I know what you're going through."
What comforts people is knowing someone else has walked in their shoes and now they're stronger because of it. Real hope - real comfort - is found in that person who's been there, and still found God faithful.
And then we turn the diamond again, and as you read further, Paul exposes another angle to this "Why do we suffer" problem. His answer is simple and profound:
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. (2 Cor 1.8-10)