How Can A Loving God Allow Evil?
Questions: How can a loving God allow evil to exist?
Rodney Atkins “If you’re going through hell”
Suffering, pain, disease, poverty, murder, war, infidelity, lies, hate; How can a loving God allow evil to exist? Upon the death of his wife, C.S. Lewis wrote, "Meanwhile, where is God? … go to Him when your need is desperate when all other help is in vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside." (A Grief Observed, page 4).
How can a loving God allow such evil to exist? That’s the question we need an answer for. Many have offered answers. Today you're offered one more possibility for your consideration.
The scriptures proclaim that God is light and love and Father.
1 John 1:5 (MSG)
God is light, pure light; there's not a trace of darkness in him.
Light is a great word picture. Obviously, if you walk into a darkened room in your home, flick on the light switch, the bulb illuminates you don’t say—“Well, Hello God, nice to see you here.” Light is a word picture that describes the nature and character of God. From the Bible, we learn that light symbolizes righteousness (Proverbs 4:18). When things are the way they are intended to be, those things are righteous. Light symbolizes being blameless and pure (Philippians 2:15). Light symbolizes being on the right path (John 8:12) on which you are loving actions are recognized by others (Matthew 5:16).
It was Jesus who said:
John 8:12 (NIV)
"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
Walking in darkness means you are living a life that is out of sync with the way you have been designed to live.
God is light and God is love. Love is another word picture that describes the nature and character of God.
1 John 4:16 (NIV)
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.
Loving others means treating everyone with respect, seeking to meet their need at the cost of a personal sacrifice, regardless of feelings. This describes the kind of love God has lavished upon people.
God respects your freedom to choose to follow Him or to reject Him. The greatest need humanity has is reconciliation with God, we can call that salvation (2 Corinthians 5:19). The Atonement, Christ's sacrificial death on the Cross, was very personal, God incarnate choose to make reconciliation possible for you and if you recall Jesus prayer in the night he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, he didn’t feel like doing it. “Let this pass from me” (Matthew 26:39). Yet his hero heart, his love, won the battle, and the way is opened for whosoever wants to be made right with God (Revelation 22:17).
God is light, God is love, and God is Father. Again father is a word picture that brings to mind the good father, the protector, provider and mentor; one who nurtures and sustains; one in whose arms you are safe and cherished.
Malachi 2:10 (MSG) & Romans 8:15 (NIV)
“Don't we all come from one Father? Aren't we all created by the same God?” “… you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him, we cry, "Abba, Father."
Chris Tomlin wrote the song Good Father, that puts music to this idea that we can enjoy a Father-child relationship with God.
God is light, God is love, and God is Father. If this is so why are the headlines filled with bad news? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why are people who do wicked things not brought to account? Why natural disaster? Why cancer? Why heartache? Why?
Traditionally we have been taught that God is all knowing, all seeing and all powerful. If you speak theologian you’d say omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. I have struggled with the question of why did God allow, or why didn’t God intervene, in situations if He is all knowing, all seeing and all powerful; light, love and father. The natural conclusion is that God should protect us like a loving parent protects his or her child. When something “bad” happens, we wonder—what happened, why didn’t God prevent this, why doesn’t God intervene? The temptation is to leave, to call it all superstition, and forget the faith.
I’ve been told it’s a test, or it’s a trial, or God’s ways aren’t our ways. Maybe God uses your situation to show the world His glory through you. Maybe the purpose is to draw you closer to God. But Jesus said it best:
John 16:33 (NIV)
In this world, you will have trouble.
All the evil, all the suffering, all the frustrations, are the troubles Jesus is warning us of.
I have battled with this for a long time now. I have come to the conclusion that the reason we have Trouble is that the Bible reveals that in our origins we rebelled against God. In the Garden planted in Eden humanity enjoyed right relationships with God, Others, and the Earth. The consequences of disobedience created a legacy of estrangement. The relationships that existed in perfection were now plagued with disaffection, schism, and separation. The result of these broken relationships led to egoism taking root. Egoism is self-centeredness, do what one wants regardless of how it affects others. Such a way of life produces suffering. That’s the world we live in. Sin, our ancestors, mine, yours, everyone else’s corrupts the creation. This is not how God intended for us to live. Since the rebellion, God’s plan has been the restoration of righteousness for His creation. That restoration is part of what we mean when we say the Kingdom of God.
God does not cause the Troubles. The Troubles are a consequence of the actions of humanity. It is only with the consummation of the Kingdom of God, the consummation that begins with the Second Coming of Christ, that God will fix the Troubles. Troubles are the result of the predicament we are in until the day of consummation, to which I say “Come, Lord Jesus.”
Here’s something to remember, the Kingdom of God is not a realm with geographical boundaries, it’s not a place, the Kingdom of God refers to the reign or rule of God. You can think of the reign of God as all made righteous. Life operating as originally designed and intended.
This explanation for Troubles lets us continue to pursue an answer to our question. Let’s press on.
I’ve been taught that God has an individual and specific plan for my life. That idea is based on a promise that was made to the nation of Israel.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
What we have tended to do this verse is to individualize it and then define prosper in terms of the American Dream. I think that misleads us in our thoughts about what God intends for us in light of this verse.
God’s plan to prosper, is a corporate plan, not an individual plan per say, it’s a plan for the entire Church, capital C, that includes the individuals who comprise the Church. This is a very important concept to adopt in your thinking. It’s not me, it’s we.
The prosperity is securing for us a place in His Kingdom. When the Kingdom fully comes the scripture reveals the type of prosperity that is yours.
Isaiah 60:18 & Revelation 21:4 & Isaiah 60:20 & Isaiah 65:19 (NIV)
“No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders…” There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." “…your days of sorrow will end.” “…the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.”
When the Kingdom fully comes—
“…the dead in Christ will rise” 1 Thess 4:16 (NIV). God will “bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” Isaiah 61:3 (NIV)’ “garments of salvation and robes of righteousness” Isaiah 61:10 (NIV).
Romans 14:17 (NIV)
the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit…
When you live the gospel; acknowledging the fact that you are not a citizen of the Kingdom, believing that Jesus atonement, that forgives your sin and estrangement, grants you citizenship; then committing yourself to living by the values of the Kingdom; and asking God to allow you to enter; you will find your life governed by the rule of God. You’ll be part of His Kingdom. The Kingdom is a present reality with a future consummation.
In that present reality of the Kingdom, God’s plan to prosper you includes empowering you to live your life to the full (John 10:10). The present reality of the Kingdom involves you living in community in which you experience acceptance and belonging, love and being a lover, joy, and inner peace, meaning, and purpose. The present reality of the Kingdom produces within you “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23 (NIV). These types of character qualities become your attributes, who you are as a person as you dwell in the Kingdom an objective observer begins to see these traits in you. This is the kind of prosperity God has planned for you. There is no guarantee of the American dream, but rather a warning that you will have Troubles.
Time for a summary to get us all on the same page. God does not cause or allow evil? Why evil? Because of sin.
Why did God allow sin in the first place? God created in love. Love to be reciprocated requires free will. I believe God took a great risk. Genesis reveals free will was used to rebel against the rule of God. I believe that God knew this was a possibility, but not a certainty. Free will is woven into the fabric of creation. Humanity broke fellowship, and God has been redeeming and restoring ever since, opening the doors, lighting the path, sending the invitation, and leaving it up to each person to decide what to do. God’s will is that we respond to His overtures in love. God allowed free will. Humanity exercised that free will to leave the rule and reign of God for self-rule. The result is the Troubles Jesus warned us of.
Why doesn’t God intervene when the Troubles hit us so hard we don’t think we can survive the ordeal?
I don’t know how many have prayed for Grant’s restoration. I trust many thousands have. Still, we wait. Today July 22, 2018, it has been 2718 days hoping, 388 weeks with faith trusting, 7 years 5 months longing for a testimony of God miraculous healing. Why hasn’t God intervened and healed Grant? He’s the God of light and love. He is Father, a good, good Father. In anger, I have prayed: “Can you throw me a bone here?” “Can you wipe some crumbs off your table?” “You’re the God who raises the dead, can’t you get your son, my boy, out of bed?”
Sometimes we can’t hear God because we are only listening for the answer we want.
Here’s what I have learned. Because of the predicament humanity finds itself in, God doesn’t get us out of Troubles, God gets us through Troubles.
Psalms 23:4 (NIV)
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,
for you are with me…”
Troubles are the valley of the shadow of death, a valley we must walk through and here is God’s promise: He’ll never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5); He will supply all your needs (Philippians 4:19); He will fight for you (Deuteronomy 3:22); He will comfort you (Matthew 5:4, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4). God doesn’t get us out of Troubles, God gets us through Troubles.
Are their miraculous interventions? Yes. Does God orchestrate things, creating an opportunity? Yes. Does this always happen? No. Why? I guess that’s another question. Let me take it in a slightly different direction. If God is all knowing, all seeing, all powerful, a God of light, love and being a good Father, why doesn’t He tip us off before we get into a Trouble?
I have two lousy answers for that question. Why doesn’t God warn us? Lousy answer number one: He does but we are not in tune enough with the Spirit to hear His warning. We don’t take time to ask, we just plow ahead with what we think is right, with our plan, with our regular routine. We are surrounded by the noise of our lives and simply miss His voice. That answer makes me feel guilty, it a fixes the blame for my Troubles upon me, I have to consider it, but I don’t like it, because certainly, God can warn in a loud voice. That’s why I think this is a lousy answer.
Lousy answer number two: A vast majority of our Troubles don’t interfere with God’s plan of redemption so there is no need for God to intervene. God “doesn't want anyone lost” (2 Peter 3:9 (MSG). If our Troubles won’t push us out of God’s salvation, maybe in the light of eternity, it just doesn’t really matter all that much. That’s tough because we are so invested in life here, and here there are a lot of things that matter greatly to us. Yet consider what the Apostle Paul wrote:
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (NIV)
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
“These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us” (2 Cor 4:17 (MSG). It causes me to consider that what so greatly Troubles me now, then I will consider insignificant. A loved one dies, you are left alone, that’s a Trouble. When the Kingdom comes in full, you are reunited. That Trouble which caused all that anguish fades into insignificance.
At least this lousy answer gives you some hope.
How can a loving God allow evil to exist? God allows free will, therefore people can choose to do evil.
Why doesn’t God intervene? God does intervene by empowering you to endure and overcome the Trouble. Just because we don’t get the answer we want doesn’t mean that God has left the room.
Why doesn’t God warn us of impending Troubles? Friends, that question still has me stumped. Lousy answer number 1, He does but we don’t hear or heed. Lousy answer number 2, In the light of eternity it doesn’t matter.
What should you do when Troubles feel like they are going to overwhelm you? Jesus said:
John 16:33 (NIV)
“In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
Take heart, trust in God's light, love and fatherhood, and keep walking through that valley.
Good Good Father