Evil: Blame it on God?
Life is definitely not fair, but why does it have to be so EVIL? It seems like every time I turn around there is some horrible news about some horrific event happening somewhere in the world. Images of earthquakes, tsunamis, rape, murder, theft and disease wash up on the shore of my life like waves on the beach.
And it's not as if I can get away from it just by turning off the TV, radio, or avoiding the internet either. If I read enough e-mails or talk to enough friends, eventually I am going to get some piece of information that once again confirms that bad things happen.
Come to think of it though, there actually is a short period of time when I'm usually not being bombarded with a barrage of bad news. It's when I step through the doors of my church. For two hours I get to praise our awesome Lord, and I am reminded that He is the all-powerful and completely loving God of the universe.
And that's about the time that my brain oftentimes sends an error message.
ERROR: If God is all-powerful and loving...why does He allow evil and suffering?
Maybe you've gotten this error message as well. Some people find that what works best for them is to bust out a mental CTRL-ALT-DELETE and go their happy way. Sure, the message is bound to pop up again, but why deal with the hassle of trying to work out one of the toughest questions ever thrown at Christianity? Just ignore it long enough and maybe it will go away.
Or maybe not...which is why we need to talk. There is no getting around the fact that there is evil and suffering in the world. Christians can't just throw ridiculous answers at people who are in real pain. Nor can we live with the wacky conclusions of other religions like the universe is an illusion, or that everything is going to ying yang out in the end.
What really gets me are the folks who don't believe in God because of evil. Um, how do you even establish the existence of evil without the presence of ultimate good? In other words, without a God who created the universe and established what is good and what is not, evil just becomes personal choices that are on a level moral playing field. Hitler killed people, Mother Teresa helped people...so what? Without God, who can say which one is right and wrong?
So here we are, stuck with one seriously tough question that deserves a seriously thought out answer. Now you have a choice, you can stop reading and continue to hit CTRL-ALT-DELETE, or you can keep reading and think through some of the toughest issues you might have ever face.
Still reading? Awesome! Let's get down to business:
First, let's spell out the dilemma again. It comes in various forms, but it basically boils down to this concept:
If God really is all powerful and loving, He could and would stop evil from happening. But since evil is all around us, then God must not be all powerful or loving after all.
OK...so on the surface this appears to be a valid argument, but when you look at the assumptions behind it, you start to realize that it is a set up invented by people who want to hide from God by using philosophy. So let's look at three arguments that may help you wrestle with this highly difficult issue.
#1- God truly is all powerful (Job 42:2), but that doesn't mean He can do anything imaginable.
Scripture makes it clear that there are some things God cannot do. For instance, God cannot lie (Tit. 1:2). He can't be tempted to sin, nor can He tempt others to sin (James 1:13). In other words, He cannot do anything that is "out of character" for a God whose character is perfect and right. God created all people with a free will, so to get rid of evil He would have to violate the way He created us - and that is something even an all powerful God cannot do. By the way, it was free will that got us in this mess in the first place. God didn't invent evil. We did when our first parents Adam and Eve rebelled against Him in the Garden of Eden. Their single act of disobedience started a chain reaction of pain and suffering that will never end.
#2- God truly is loving (I John 4:8), but His love is balanced with His justice (Isaiah 6:3).
Because He is a holy and righteous God, He can't just look the other way when people disobey Him. A great amount of evil and suffering in the world is the result of God letting the natural consequences of things take their course. So what about the "innocent?" It is critical to remember that there really is no such thing as the suffering of the "innocent." God's Word teaches that "all have sinned; all fall short of God's glorious standard." (Romans 3:23) There is no one on earth who has the right to complete freedom from God's justice on the basis of his/her own innocence, except for people who have no choice in accepting or rejecting Him (babies, young children, and the mentally challenged. ) This reminds me of a question you must ask yourself when it comes to this issue: if God were to wipe out all evil at 12:00 midnight tonight, where would you be at 12:01? I know I'd be toast!
#3- God truly suffers the most.
Stop and think for a moment about how much humanity suffers at the hands of evil. Yet even the worst imaginable pain does not even hold a candle to what Jesus went through on earth when He was crucified and killed (Matthew 27:46), and He is the most innocent person ever born! Remember also that He continues to go through anguish in heaven as He sees the devastating results of an evil world filled with evil people. What is truly amazing is that God could have chosen not to do anything about the mess we made, but instead He took on human form and allowed Himself to be murdered so that we could have a way out of our hopeless and helpless condition. God may have allowed evil into the world, but by doing so He condemned Himself to more suffering than anyone in history.
There are many more facets to the whole issue of why God allows suffering and evil that we have not looked at, but the three above should give you a good foundation on which to build so that the storms of life don't blow you over. So the next time you get that pesky ERROR message, remember that any message that makes God something He is not is definitely in error!
Head: What you need to know about this truth
Heart: What you need to feel about this truth
The problem of evil has the potential of weakening or strengthening your walk with Christ, depending on your perspective. There have been many people who have lost their faith over this issue, and there are others who have come through with more love and trust for the Lord than they ever thought imaginable. Which will it be for you? Below is a link to the story of a man who suffered in unbelievable ways, yet found God's grace. He went on to write music for God that has greatly impacted Christianity. Read the story and try to connect emotionally with the bad and good that this man went through.
Click here to read about Horatio Spafford.
Hands: What you need to do about this truth
Did you know that God has already given an answer to the pain and suffering around us? You don't have to look through books or web sites to find this answer; all you have to do is look in the mirror. That's right: YOU are God's answer for hurting people, because YOU are God's messenger of hope. The arguments I laid out above are meant for people who are wrestling intellectually with the problem of evil, but there is a whole other group of people who are going through suffering on an emotional and/or physical level that need a real human being to come alongside and be "Jesus with skin on" in their lives. This week, pray for opportunities to help the hurting and be God's answer to those who need it.