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Why do bad things happen to good people?

Almost every young child eventually asks mom or day, “Why do bad things happen to good people.” It does not take long for one to discover that life does not seem fair and sometimes, the odds seem stacked against you.

To spark conversation on the topic, watch the movie Holes as a group and follow it up with this devotion. It’s one of many great activities from Bryan Belknap’s Blockbuster Movie Events for Youth Ministry: Relevant Retreats and Movie Nights.

Holes introduces Stanley Yelnats (Shi LeBeouf), a young man who follows his family’s tradition of having incredibly bad luck. Wrongfully convicted of stealing a pair of shoes and sentenced to juvenile detention, Stanley joins the ranks of the orange jump-suited teen prisoners at Camp Green Lake. Located in a barren desert wasteland, the “camp” forces the juveniles to dig massive holes as “rehabilitation.” As Stanley slowly makes friends among the delinquents, he begins to suspect that the warden (Sigourney Weaver), psychotic guard Mr. Sir (Jon Voight), and whacked-out Dr. Pendanski (Tim Blake Nelson) are less interested in rehabilitation than finding something buried in the dried-up lake bed. It’s up to Stanley and his buddy Zero (Khleo Thomas) to unravel the mystery of the hidden treasure of ancient outlaw Kissing Kate Barlow and use what they discover to secure their freedom.

This movie hits perfect notes of humor, adventure, mystery, sweetness, and meaning; the plot dives into the issues such as generational sin, judgment, mercy, racism, friendship, substitution, grace, and oppression. Holes becomes a valuable ministry tool by addressing the conundrum of bad things happening to good people. Through this event, your young people will lay the blame for the tragedy at the feet of the proper culprits instead of in front of their loving Lord.

Gather everyone around the TV to watch the movie. Star the film, sit back, relax, and enjoy!

After the movie, allow a five-minute stretch and bathroom break. When everyone has returned, ask:

How would you have felt if you’d been one of the characters in the movie who didn’t “earn” the bad things that happen to him?

How have you felt when you’ve been involved in a bad experience that you didn’t really deserve?

What do you think about God when you learn of horrible current or historical events that affect seemingly decent people? Explain.

When you hear people blame God for painful or unjust events, do you think it’s fair? Why or why not?

The Biblical Enquirer

Say: Now we’re going to see how real people experienced the effects of those sources of bad things.

Have teenagers form their six groups again. Direct them to read about the lives of these Bible characters:

Joseph—Genesis 39

Job—Job 1

Daniel—Daniel 6

Stephen—Acts 6:8-15; 7:51-60

Naomi—Ruth 1

David—1 Samuel 24

After they’ve had time to read, have them discuss the following questions in their groups:

What caused the person’s “bad luck”?

If this happened today, how would a tabloid newspaper write the headline about it?

Ask groups to share with the large group a brief synopsis of their Bible characters’ story and the tabloid headline they created. Then ask a volunteer to read aloud Romans 8:28. Ask:

How did God use the terrible situation you read about for good?

Have groups read Romans 5:1-5, and then ask:

What hope do these verses give people who are enduring tough times?

What are practical ways for you to cling to God during tough times?

How can you help someone going though hard times without sounding “churchy”?

Call everyone back together again, and ask groups to share what they discussed.

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Why do bad things happen to good people?

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