Proverbs 12:21—Does God always spare the godly from grave trouble?

Problem: In some places the Bible promises, “No grave trouble will overtake the righteous” (Prov. 12:21; cf. 1 Peter 3:13). But, in other places, such as the fate of Job, it makes a point to show how the godly sometimes suffer great troubles.

Solution: Two factors help to explain this apparent contradiction. First, the promise in Proverbs is only general, not universal. For example, the promise that the enemies of the godly will be at peace with him (Prov. 16:7) is surely not universal. Paul pleased God, and yet his enemies stoned him (Acts 14:19). Surely Jesus pleased God, and yet His enemies crucified Him!

Second, the believer is not promised that no tribulation would befall him. In fact, he is warned that “in the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). On the contrary, God deliberately allowed Job to undergo grave trouble (Job 1), another man to be born blind for His glory (John 9:3), and the Apostle Paul to have an affliction (2 Cor. 12:7–9). What the believer is promised is that no permanent or ultimate evil will befall him. No evil will beset us out of which God cannot bring some greater good (cf. Gen. 50:20; Rom. 8:28).

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.