Through the centuries people have asked: “How can a good God allow evil and suffering? Why does He not prevent genocide, disease, hatred, wars, rape, atrocities, tornadoes? Is God unloving, powerless or retired? I would prefer earth to be like heaven, a suffering-free zone.”
1. The main answer, the big reply, is that God has not chosen to reveal everything about everything, including evil. Why not? I personally believe that God is testing man to see who will really trust Him without having everything spelled out. In some sense this life is a proving ground, a boot camp for faith! The Christian life is about pressing onward inspite of evil, unfairness and injustices.
Before they were kicked out of heaven,Lucifer and the fallen angels had more answers up there then we have here. They still rebelled against God. Understanding that God is real – head facts are not enough. God is looking for those who will trust Him.
Think of a three year old who wants to eat candy instead of his vegetables. Candy tastes better. How could he possibly be wrong? But he is thinking short term. His parents are concerned about his long term health, his nutrition. Later he will understand their thinking but for now he should trust their judgment. Does the child have faith in the parent? God is watching to see.
Our father God puts it this way in Isaiah 40: “Look up to the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out one after another, calling each by its name. And he counts to see that none are lost or have strayed away. O Israel, how can you say that the Lord does not see your troubles? How can you say that the Lord refuses to hear your case? Have you never heard or understood? Don’t you know that the Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth? He never grows faint or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; he offers strength to the weak. Even youths will become exhausted, and young men will give up.” (Isa 40.27-30 NLT).
We have several insights here:
- God offers His ability to create stars as evidence that He can handle our concerns. If He can manage galaxies He can handle lesser matters including Israel’s “troubles” or justice. How could evil be too strong for God?
- The Lord has not refused to hear their case. It is on the docket. He has not forgotten them. Who will believe this – by faith?
- God’s depth of understanding explains much. He has greater knowledge than we have. His thinking is above little mans.’ We should not even think we can comprehend all that He is doing. God is above us. Our humility, our trust, are obviously at issue.
- God also has greater power.
- God offers power to those who are needy — “tired and worn out.”
- He is interested in building strong people not giving an easy life.
2. Satan is the father of lies. “for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (Jn 8.44e NAS). He used a lie to separate Eve from God (Gen 3.1-6). Satan tries to use lies to separate us from God our Provider also. Below are some lies, some blind spots, some tricks regarding evil. The devil not only does evil but lies about it.
LIE #1: God has overlooked the matter of evil. He hasn’t worked the bugs out of creation.
LIE #2: Suffering has no purpose. It is a bad, unnecessary intrusion in my life of pleasure.
LIE #3: Satan and sinful man are not responsible for evil and much suffering. Blame God for everything.
LIE #4: Living by faith in God is not important. Live by feelings of the moment.
LIE #5: It is not sin to judge God. Believe that you are right and God is wrong. You are wiser than God. You are right to blame Him.
LIE #6: God does not love you because He is not telling you everything you want to know about evil and pain.
LIE #7: If God loves man He cannot also love justice and holiness. He will not punish sin and evil.
BIBLE TRUTH: “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Heb 11.6 NAS). . . . . “This Good News tells us how God makes us right in His sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, ‘It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” (Rom 1.17 NLT).
3. Instead of putting God down, true seekers of truth can learn what the Bible says about evil, trials, suffering. Several reasons and causes are found there: Satan, other people, God’s testing, chastening, endurance, patience, strength, hope character, persecution, punishment and judgment.
4. In Isaiah for example, God judges several nations for their sins: Babylon, Philistia, Moab, Damascus, Samaria, Ethiopia, Egypt et al. (chapt. 13-23). Are nations any more godly today? If one thinks of God as only a sugar daddy, Santa Claus, then seeing nations and people’s punished could be difficult.
Through history, some of the worst evil or suffering seems to fall on those peoples and nations that: rejected God, worshipped idols or attacked Israel (God’s people). There are no accidents with a sovereign God. To adapt an expression from Einstein, God is not playing dice with the nations. Hardships serve some purpose of God. (Rom 8.28). He does not cause evil but He certainly uses it and brings good out of it. We do not know what is behind an evil act but God has a plan.
“There is nothing the body suffers that the soul may not profit by.” – George Meredith.
5. “The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord saying, ‘Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and I will announce my words to you.’ Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it please the potter to make. Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?’ declares the O Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand,O house of Israel.” (Jer 18.1-6 NAS).
God has not asked man to sit on His “Board of Directors” and judge Him. A good ballplayer knows his role on the team. He respects the coach. He is a team player. Good employees and soldiers do likewise. Two people may ask why evil exists but how they react to God’s reply will differ. One will accept it and the other may endlessly blame God.
6. Martin Luther is credited with saying that even Satan is God’s Satan. Thus the devil can only do what God allows for His purposes. God lets Satan do some of His spanking – see 1 Cor. 5.1,5!
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those wo love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Rom 8.28 NAS).
7. A wise Christian has a “faith closet” for unanswered questions. When we get home to heaven we can ask Jesus the answers. But for now, walk by faith not sight.
8. Amy Carmichael started an orphan’s home in India. Later she had a bad fall and spent her remaining years as an invalid. She said, “In acceptance lies peace.”
9. Deep illness, suffering, crises and evil around us cause a man to think more seriously about his spiritual condition. Can God not so use evil in the lives of others around the world as well?
10. Not all, but much suffering could have been eliminated if God had created man as robots programmed to do good and avoid all evil. Think of the hatred, fighting and wars that could have been avoided. But robots, machines, cannot love. God risked by giving us free will. Many use it to do evil not good. Who is to blame?
11. The prophet Habakkuk questions why God is using the evil Chaldeans to punish Judah? God replies: “Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days—You would not believe it if you were told.” (Hab 1.5 NAS). God is doing some exciting things. Stay tuned. Believe in Him! Trust Him.
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result,so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (Jm 1.2-4 NAS).
The problem of evil issue may be raised for different reasons: (A) casual conversation; (B) skeptic, religious debater, scoffer; (C) truly seeking God’s answer as evidenced by reading about evil in the Bible, attending church or asking a Christian about it.
A possible reply to a debater or skeptic: “Travis, do you accept God as your all-powerful Creator? if I showed you from the Bible what Creator God says about injustice, would you be willing to accept it? Thank Him? Would you trust God to handle it? . . . . if not then is the real issue, not a lack of information but a resistant will?”