One of the most common questions I am asked as a Pastor is this:-
If God’s so good, why does evil exist?
Good question and a question that theologians, philosophers, and even sceptics have dealt with for centuries. Several possible answers have been proposed, but each one seems to spark more questions.
The problem that we face really boils down to three statements which at first glance seem to contradict each other. You could take any two of them and have no problem, but when you take all three together, that’s when you need to think a little harder.
Three Statements that Appear Contradictory:
A. God is all good.
B. God is all powerful.
C. Evil exists.
These three statements don’t seem to go together. If God is so good and evil exists, why doesn’t he do something about it? He must not be able to, in which case he is powerless. But if God is able to eradicate evil, why doesn’t He? He must not be so good after all. And that’s the dilemma.
A. Is God all good?
Men and women throughout history would answer this by saying yes, without a doubt. God is entirely good. He provides for our most basic needs, and some of our wants, too. He blesses us with life itself. He gives our lives meaning and purpose. He embraces us with His love and tender mercy. He gave us beautiful creation, gave us the ability to love and experience joy and happiness. Think right now of all the positive things of life.
Many people, including myself would say from personal experience that God is good. No question. He loves me and has never given me any reason to doubt that.
The Bible itself would say that God is good, without any hint of evil.
James 1:17-18 (NLT)
Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above, who created all heaven’s lights. Unlike them, he never changes or casts shifting shadows. In his goodness he chose to make us his own children by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his choice possession.
1 John 1:5 (NLT)
This is the message he has given us to announce to you: God is light and there is no darkness in him at all.
Psalm 34:8 (NLT)
Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who trust in him!
Is God all good? YES
B. Is God all powerful?
Well, let’s see. Just by speaking, God created the world and everything in it.
He created the stars and arranged them in galaxies throughout the universe. He gave life to every plant, every animal, every person. He set the moon in orbit around the earth, and organized all of creation at the sub-atomic level. He built Mount Everest, and wrote the blueprint for your DNA. From the vastness of space to the minute details of life itself, God is in control. Seems to me that the creator of the cosmos is pretty powerful.
Let’s see what the Bible has to say…
Isaiah 40:25-31 (NLT)
“To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One.
Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out one after another, calling each by its name. And he counts them to see that none are lost or have strayed away.
O Israel, how can you say the LORD does not see your troubles? How can you say God 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. But those who wait on the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God,
Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him!
But the thunder of his power who can understand?”
with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, for his steadfast love endures forever;
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Is God all powerful? YES
Of course, answering “YES” to both of those questions leaves us in a bit of a bind.
If God is all-good, it seems logical to believe that He would want to destroy evil.
If God is all-powerful, it seems logical to believe that He would be able to destroy all evil.
C) So why does evil still exist?
Let me give you some statements to help you understand a little more how a good, loving all-powerful God could allow evil to exist:
1) God did not create evil, but He created the potential for evil.
God created us with the ability to choose. We often call this free will. It means that we have the capability to make decisions in everyday life, and we have the capability to decide whether we will love and honour God or if we will reject Him. When we reject him, evil becomes a reality.
Now, God could have made us without the ability to choose.
But without the ability to choose, we would end up being his puppets. He wanted us to be able to freely choose to love Him and express that love to Him. He didn’t want to force us to love Him, because any love that is forced is not genuine. It needs to be offered willingly.
Of course, along with the ability to choose to love God comes the ability to choose not to love Him. And when we reject Him and reject Biblical morals and values, we’re left with what we call evil.
There were Two trees in the garden for a reason.
Listen to what Peter Kreeft, a philosopher at Boston College had to say about this…
“…it is not logically possible to have free will and have no possibility of moral evil. In other words, once God chose to create human beings with free will, it was up to them, rather than God, as to whether there was sin or not.
That’s what free will means. Built into the situation of God deciding to create human beings is the chance of evil, and , consequently, the suffering that results.”
~ Peter Kreeft
2) Another way to look at it is that Evil is the absence of God
Love this story – not sure its true, but whether it is or not doesn’t take away from the truth of the principle:-
The professor of a university challenged his students with this question. “Did God create everything that exists?” A student answered bravely, “Yes, he did”.
The professor then asked, “If God created everything, then he created evil. Since evil exists (as noticed by our own actions), so God is evil. The student couldn’t respond to that statement causing the professor to conclude that he had “proved” that “belief in God” was a fairy tale, and therefore worthless.
Another student raised his hand and asked the professor, “May I pose a question? ” “Of course” answered the professor.
The young student stood up and asked : “Professor does Cold exists?”
The professor answered, “What kind of question is that? …Of course the cold exists… haven’t you ever been cold?”
The young student answered, “In fact sir, Cold does not exist. According to the laws of Physics, what we consider cold, in fact is the absence of heat. Anything is able to be studied as long as it transmits energy (heat). Absolute Zero is the total absence of heat, but cold does not exist. What we have done is create a term to describe how we feel if we don’t have body heat or we are not hot.”
“And, does Dark exist?”, he continued. The professor answered “Of course”. This time the student responded, “Again you’re wrong, Sir. Darkness does not exist either. Darkness is in fact simply the absence of light. Light can be studied, darkness can not. Darkness cannot be broken down. A simple ray of light tears the darkness and illuminates the surface where the light beam finishes. Dark is a term that we humans have created to describe what happens when there’s lack of light.”
Finally, the student asked the professor, “Sir, does evil exist?” The professor replied, “Of course it exists, as I mentioned at the beginning, we see violations, crimes and violence anywhere in the world, and those things are evil.”
The student responded, “Sir, Evil does not exist. Just as in the previous cases, Evil is a term which man has created to describe the result of the absence of God’s presence in the hearts of man.”
After this, the professor bowed down his head, and didn’t answer back.
3) Evil is a corruption of what is good.
God created us with the ability to choose. But when the choices we make lead us away from God, that’s when evil comes into the picture. Free will is a good thing that God created us with, but evil is a corruption of that free will.
You can trace it all the way back to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. When Eve and then Adam first choose to disobey God, evil entered into our world. And spread through every generation and even into nature. In fact, in Genesis 3 we learn that thorns and thistles appeared in the ground for the first time as a consequence of Adam and Eve disobeying God. That helps us understand why natural evil exists… things like earthquakes and floods and volcanoes and famines.
4) God could destroy all evil, but that would include you and me.
We may not all be murderers or rapists or international terrorists, but we are all experienced in evil in our thoughts, our actions, and our attitudes.
In Matthew 5 it goes beyond murder to tell us that if we’re even angry with someone and treat them with contempt or call them names, we are acting in an evil manner. It goes beyond adultery to say that if we even look at a person lustfully it is evil. It says if you’ve every sought to get even with someone for something they’ve done to you, it is evil.
Romans 3:23 (NLT)
For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
So instead of whining and complaining that God allows evil to exist, thank Him for not destroying you.
Because when it comes to sin and evil, it’s only a matter of degrees, and God can’t stand any of it.
5) God has provided a future without evil for those who choose Him now.
This is the whole message of the Church: that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to face the death sentence that we deserved for our own evil so that we could experience a full and abundant life with Him now and forever in heaven.
2 Timothy 4:18 (NLT)
Yes, and the Lord will deliver me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly Kingdom. To God be the glory forever and ever.
6) God has provided peace and hope in the face of evil.
Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
1 Corinthians 15:54-55 (NLT)
When this happens—when our perishable earthly bodies have been transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die—then at last the Scriptures will come true:
“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
How Do I Cope With Evil and Suffering?
1) It’s okay to question God.
It’s okay to ask God, “Why?” It’s okay to express your grief and your disappointment and your frustration and your pain. God understands all of that and welcomes your honest questions. He’s faced worse.
You may or may not be aware that David wrote many of the Psalms we find in our Bible. Psalm 13 is one of them. Listen to this:
Psalm 13: 1-4 (NLT)
O LORD, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
Turn and answer me, O LORD my God! Restore the light to my eyes, or I will die.
Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.
David obviously had some serious issues. He had faced evil and actually felt abandoned by God. So he expressed that openly to God. And I don’t think God minded that at all. Because God cares deeply about what we’re going through. And He wants us to be honest with Him.
2) God is still trustworthy.
You may be able to identify with David in feeling like you’ve been abandoned. You may want to know what the deal is with God. You may not understand why He doesn’t fight against the evil on your behalf the way you want Him to.
But remember that God is still trustworthy even when your emotions may be trying to convince you otherwise.
We looked at the first four verses of Psalm 13. Let’s look at the rest:
Psalm 13:5-6 (NLT)
But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the LORD because he has been so good to me.
3) God is working through the evil.
God doesn’t cause the evil, but He can use it for good.
Romans 8:28 (NLT)
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD
4) Do what you can to ease suffering.
The name “Christian” literally means “little Christ”. So as Christians, we are to be doing the things that He would do. Remember the WWJD band that were popular 8 years ago That’s what it’s about: asking, “What Would Jesus Do?”
James 1:27 (NLT)
Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us.
We help people who are suffering. We represent Jesus to them. That’s what it’s all about.
5) Wait and Trust.
This is not always easy, but sometimes it’s all we have left. We’ve done everything we can do, and it’s now up to God to do the rest. And when you wait for Him and trust Him, he’ll always come through for you.
Psalm 34:6 (NLT)
I cried out to the LORD in my suffering, and he heard me. He set me free from all my fears.
Trust in God because He is trustworthy.
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