It is the age-old question that has been asked in various forms, but is essentially the simple quandary; If God is so good, why does He allow evil things to take place? This question is typically asked concerning the general presence of evil and suffering around the world, but for some, it is a deeply personal state of perplexity. For individuals who have experienced some sort of heinous evil done to them, the question is not one of a broad enigma to be solved, but of a deep feeling of abandonment or even, dare I suggest it, betrayal.
Before we continue, let me clarify that we are addressing tragedies and acts of evil that people experience through little or no fault of their own. We are not speaking of consequences brought about by stubborn and rebellious personal choices. In those cases, simply obeying God would have probably kept one out of a horrible experience.
Now, unto the dilemma of why a good God allows evil to exist in the world. Generally speaking, the question itself is a bit problematic. It assumes that God should come in and make right what we as humans are determined to make wrong. We live in a world plagued by our own sin and rebellion against God. Evil exists in the world because we keep putting it there. What we really want God to do is remove the consequences of our sinful behavior. It’s like kindling a campfire on one’s own bed and then getting upset because the mattress becomes engulfed in flames.
“But,” one may ask, “what if I did not kindle the fire, but I am the one who got burned?” Well, that’s the rub of evil. Sin does not behave like a self-ingested poison that only infects the consumer. Sin acts more like a grenade which can maim those who weren’t even involved in pulling the pin. The sins of others have always adversely effected bystanders – sometimes immediately and sometimes with later results. This is one of the many reasons that the Lord holds such an intolerance towards sin.
Of course, such knowledge gives little comfort to the one who has suffered at the hands of someone else’s evil. “Where was God when I was wronged?” It is somewhat futile to try and give direct answers to such a question, because the answers are as varied as the circumstances. What is more, is that even if we received a full explanation of why, it doesn’t mean we would understand it at the time, nor does it mean the pain inflicted would be relieved.
In the Gospel of John chapter nine, an account of Jesus healing a blind man is recorded. The disciples of Christ asked why the man was born blind to which Jesus responded, “… that the works of God should be revealed in him.” (John 9:3) Imagine now, that someone would have told this man when he was young, “I know being blind is tough and even unfair, but someday God is going to use your affliction to help others see who the Christ is and they will find salvation in Him!” I suspect that would have meant little to a thirteen-year-old boy who probably just wanted to have sight. However, the day that his affliction was used to reach the masses is probably one he would not have traded for anything else.
There are, of course, numerous examples in the Bible of people who suffered through little or no fault of their own and wondered at one point where God was when they were wronged. We could mention the stories of Job, of Joseph, of David, of the Prophets and Apostles, and on and on. However, there is one account more pertinent than all of those. As Jesus Christ hung on a cross, dying an agonizing death for no crimes of His own, even He exclaimed, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46) Even the Son asked the question of the Father in the moment of anguish, and Jesus was privy to the entire plan! He knew the purpose of His unfair suffering. My point is that the Lord understands because He Himself has been through it.
The big difference between the accounts of the people of God suffering unfairly or even that of the Lord Jesus Christ, is that we know the outcome of their stories. We, however, are only part way through our own stories. We may be in the midst of the suffering chapter (which can often seem like an unending chapter) or we may find ourselves currently in the aftermath of the suffering chapter. What has not been reached yet is the triumph chapter. Do not close the book early simply because you do not currently understand the whys. You have not reached that chapter yet, but you will.
I realize I have made several Biblical references already in this post, but if we’re going to address a question about God, it is best to go to His word and not rely on someone’s idea of how things are when it comes to God. Therefore, I would humbly ask that you allow me one more Scripture reference as I close this contemplation up.
Romans 8:28 reads, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” That is not to suggest some nonsense about the universe working everything out in the end for us. What the verse is declaring is that if we dedicate our lives to the Lord, He will make even our worst experiences into magnificent tools for good. I am convinced that many a tragic event has remained as nothing but tragedy because the one who suffered, hardened their heart against the very God who can give beauty for ashes.
This life is not easy and for some, it is down-right difficult. However, if you truly want an answer to the question, “God, why did you allow this to happen to me?” you will have to change your question to, “God, what are you now going to do with what happened to me?” When you set your mind and heart to the attitude of that question, you signal to God that you are ready for Him to take you through the process of turning tragedy to triumph.
Until next time, may your coffee and contemplations be rich and fulfilling.