Type this into your search browser (because you know we all go to google when faced with life's most pressing questions), and you'll find a myriad of responses ranging from empty letdowns like "because there is no God" to obviously evasive remarks like "God can bring comfort and the existence of evil proves there is a God." Whoopee.
My favorite though, is the common crutch most Christians lean on when under this particular spotlight of interrogation... "We just have to trust God had a good reason." My problem with this pious His-ways-are-higher-than-my-ways rhetoric is not so much the fact that we still have yet to get an answer to the REAL question of WHY bad things happen to good people... but the fact that this popular "trust Him" response asks us to blindly accept the bad while simultaneously blaming a supposedly "good" God for it. That's what really gets me.
You heard it right. And a few too many of us are guilty of this very thing. We blame God for the evil by implying He must have had a "good reason" for doing such a "bad thing." If I didn't realize that many of us do this unintentionally, it would not only break my heart... It would make me sick.
First off, let me get on my soap box. Whatever evil has befallen you, God DID NOT CAUSE IT! Yes, He can comfort you. Yes, He can work it all together for good. Yes, He's still a good good God. But He is not the cause of your suffering or pain. He did not give you cancer. He did not kill your loved one. He did not cause your car to break down. In the words of Bill Johnson, "You can only get from God what He has. He doesn't have sickness, so He can't give it to you."
So if you believe me at all when I say "God didn't do this to you," you're probably now asking, "then why did He ALLOW it?"
If I knew the answer to that question, well, I'd be God... But I'm not, so the best I can do is offer you the pieces of His heart that He has offered me in my restless pursuit of His reasoning.
Keep in mind, God does not revel in your pain. He hates to see you hurt. I feel too often, Jesus makes out as the "good guy" (which He is) while God gets dealt an unfair hand as the One who spends all His time deciding what nasty fate will befall us next should we slip out of His good graces. We forget that He is a Father. And not just A Father but THE Father. He originated the role! Think about all the things a "dad" is supposed to be. What that looks like. A provider. A protector. A big bear hug. "I'm proud of you. Everything is going to be okay. You're mine and I love you." Would your dad ever give you a terminal disease to teach you a lesson? Or will a skinned knee upon you because you refused to do the dishes? Would he kill your best friend to draw you closer to Him? No. Dads who behave like this could be classified as psychopaths. Yet we treat God like one every time we suggest that there is some "higher purpose" behind the pain He's supposedly putting us through. We forget that, like any good dad, He hurts when His babies are hurting. Not only that, but we indirectly presume our earthly fathers are better than our Heavenly Father, the STANDARD of fatherhood, by suggesting He would outright do to us evil things that we know even our earthly fathers would never do. But there ARE things that cause suffering / tragedy to come into our lives...
1. Intentional Sin - God saved us from the kingdom of this world when we accepted Jesus as Lord and crossed into His kingdom. I'm not throwing stones here, but when we knowingly do something sinful, we have made the choice to operate under the ways of the world and are then subject to that kingdom's laws. Imagine dad told you to only play in the yard where he could see you and to stay out of the creek. You venture into the creek and get bit by a snake. He knew you were safe on his turf, but you made the choice to enter the infested waters. When we confess and cross back into His kingdom, God governs over us and decides what happens ("forgiveness," "mercy," "grace..." - ring any bells?). But until we cross the threshold of repentance, we are vulnerable to the consequences associated with the sins of this world. The "Prince of the Air" rules here and even though God gave us dominion over the devil, we forsake that authority when we "eat the forbidden fruit" he offers us. God is just and operates according to a government; He does not demand control over the devil's government when we choose to submit to the devil instead of to Him. It's just part of free will. By opening the door to letting evil into our lives, we put a barrier between us and God. He does NOT punish us for this sin by allowing evil to befall us because in so doing, He would make the sacrifice of His Son null and void. What was the purpose of Jesus taking our punishment for us if God was just going to punish us anyway? In His sacrifice, Jesus said, "As long as you are a child in my Father's Kingdom, you will bear the seal of righteousness - My Name - and I will bear the necessary recompense for His justice." He will not subject you to consequences His Son already paid for, but as long as you make the choice to walk outside His covering, He cannot stop the devil from wielding his consequences at you.
2. Unintentional Sin - You are responsible for the knowledge you have. That's what man signed up for when he ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you know something is wrong and you do it anyway, this is intentional sin. If, however, you do something wrong out of a lack of revelation, God deals you a measure of grace for that. Even so, He again cannot keep you from the consequences of what you are partnering with. For example, speaker Kris Vallotton once told the story of a woman who severely struggled with suicidal thoughts and depression and had no idea why. She had a great life and had not had these feelings before. They just happened. When God revealed to Kris this woman was suicidal, he went to her and asked her if she had been struggling with suicide. She cried and admitted she had but couldn't understand why. He told her God revealed to Him that she had partnered with the spirits of suicide and depression. Shocked, she professed this couldn't be true because she didn't remember ever doing this. Kris asked her if she had ever cursed her life during a tough season, confessing, "I hate my life" or "I wish my life were over," etc. She remembered that during a recent trial in her life, she had verbally said, "I just wish I had never been born. I wish I could just kill myself so it would all be over." Kris told her that in that moment, she spoke in agreement with the spirits of suicide and depression, whether she realized it or not, and in that, agreed to allow them to torment her. She repented for this and thanked the Holy Spirit for breaking this agreement she had made. The woman was set free and never had another suicidal thought. Though it was completely unintentional, she had put up a barrier between her and God by partnering with evil spirits and so opened the door to evil in her life. Fortunately, she was faithful in pursuing God and He revealed to her the cause of her suffering.
3. A Fallen World - We live in a fallen world. It's one of the oldest arguments in the book for people who can't explain why bad things happen. And even though its common use has made it sound cliche, there is some truth in this Christian catch phrase. We are saved, set apart as part of His kingdom, but we do indeed live amidst fallen people in a fallen land. Ever seen this popular conversation circulating the web on t-shirts and billboards?: "Dear God, why do you allow so much violence in our schools? Signed, Concerned Student." "Dear Concerned Student, I am not allowed in schools. Love, God." This may not express the real heartbreak that accompanies God's response to such questions, but it is no less accurate. When America's leaders push God away and insist that He be taken out of their schools and courthouses, and even the very foundations of their country, God -always the gentleman - honors this request (even though it grieves Him). In stepping back as He was asked to, His hedge of protection is lifted and the country befalls tragedy after tragedy, wondering where God is. And the Christians who should be supporting His character don't help the situation by spouting nonsense like, "Well, God is a just god so He had to punish America for her sins," or, "Well, God wanted to bring America closer to Him so He sent this tragedy to make us run back into His arms." The first scenario might work if God was not all loving (He is not the great punisher!). And the second might work if God was not wholly just (He is not the great manipulator!). The simple fact is, we practically beg God to turn His back on us... and then He does... and half the people hate Him for it or stop believing He exists while the other half bash His character by suggesting He is in fact the big hammer in the sky so many suspect Him to be. Or rHe is some vindictive schoolboy who's so not worth our love and attention He has to throw stones when we're not looking and then "play the hero" by rushing in to bind our bruises and wipe our tears. This to me is not just sad, it's tragic. And frankly, it's insulting when God's true standards of love are so breathtakingly higher. If we practice devil worship or act like we're the new "Sodom and Gomhorra," you can bet God's going to be heartbroken when some natural disaster devastates the city or terrorists attack. Did He cause it? No. Did He stop it? No. How could He? We made Him feel like a clean, modestly dressed church girl in a whorehouse, unwelcome, unwanted, and out of place. Not to mention He's so holy that to thrive or even function normally when surrounded by so much filth is practically impossible. God's like that puppy (or a cuddly lion) you kick outside when you've had enough. He waits on the doorstep, sad but ready to lick your face as soon as you open the door and decide you want to let Him in again.
So what does the Bible say about all this? We've all heard the verses talking about how "good" God is. But what about verses that talk about the Old Testament God? Is He the same God we see in the New Testament or was He somehow a harder-handed version? Is this God the same good God of today?
Isaiah 45:7 says, "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I The Lord do all these things."
Seems pretty clear that God creates evil. Plain and simple, yeah? Look deeper...
Many people argue that the word "ra'" (used in this verse) literally translates "evil" and that the scholars who replace it with a euphemism like "disaster" or "calamity" are wrong to do so. I concur. And these scholars don't help the perspective that God does not will evil. It is no better for us to say God creates/wills disasters and calamities than it is for us to say He creates/wills evil itself. But the flaw here is in the definition of evil.
Look at the first part of the verse: "I form the light and create darkness." What is darkness exactly? Maybe we should first ask what light is...
Light, according to my 2-second google search ("define light"), is "the natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible." Now, Google, "define darkness."
"Darkness: (noun) the partial or total absence of light." Interesting. So while "light" is a substantial thing, an "agent," "darkness" is not a "thing" at all but the absence of a thing. And how do you create the absence of a thing? Well, I guess you could take that thing away. You would then be, in a sense, "creating" darkness by simply allowing for or causing the absence of light.
Perhaps you've heard this argument before. It's not that uncommon in apologetics circles, or even among friends who enjoy fun, philosophical discussions. With these definitions, let's reread the first part: "I form the light, the natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible, and I create the partial or total absence of light by taking away that light." This makes sense. After all, He IS the God who gives and takes away. So if darkness is the absence of light, what about "peace" and "evil" (the second part of the verse)? I'm not saying the model presented in the first part of the verse necessarily dictates the model for defining the words in the second half. Don't go biting my head off over faulty arguments I'm not explicitly making. I'm just saying, think about it.
Google says peace is, "freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility; freedom from or the cessation of war or violence." Hmmm. To me, google's a little "glass-half-empty" on this one. I wouldn't naturally have thought of peace as the absence of evil but instead the other way around - evil, the absence of peace/good. I mean, in my experience, I can have peace with a war going on all around me. Merely stating, "oh, nothing bad is going on so I guess this is peace"...well, frankly, that definition sounds pretty dull.
This particular usage of peace in the Bible is the word "shalom: completeness, soundness, welfare, peace." These words denote that nothing is missing. Peace is not the absence of something but, rather, the opposite of any kind of absence. It's the fullness, wholeness, manifestation of goodness itself.
Evil, on the other hand. Google says evil is "profound immorality, wickedness, and depravity, esp. when regarded as a supernatural force; a manifestation of this, esp. in people's actions; something that is harmful or undesirable." This fits with the Hebrew translation of "ra': evil, distress, misery, injury, calamity." If the "norm" is that life is typically pretty good, then all of these again denote the disruption of the natural order of things... the "taking away" of something, whether it be morals (immorality), goodness (wickedness), virtue (depravity), peace (distress), joy/contentment (misery), wholeness (injury), order (calamity), and the list goes on... And so if we agree that people and life are normally identified with the former things, it would seem that evil is a disruption of these things, an in-completeness, an absence of "shalom."
In this way, God "allows" the bad things. He withholds the good, the completeness, the "shalom," and in the void is evil. Therefore, whether the barrier between us and His goodness is put up because of intentional sin, unintentional sin, or our fallen world, His infinite love prevents Him from stifling our free will to choose that which would lead to evil consequences and His infinite justice prevents Him from overruling a government we have chosen to submit to. We, then, are good people whom evil has befallen and He, in a sense, has merely flipped the lights off.
So why do bad things happen to good people? The easy answer would be to say we just don't know. In many cases, I believe it is truly difficult to pinpoint the reason some misfortunes occur (cue intercession for Holy Spirit revelation). I've tried to avoid the "easy" answer in this post. As much as I wish I knew what to tell the "good people" to make them feel better about the "bad things," I know the "why's" I've offered to this age old question are not exactly comfort food. But I'm not writing all this to make you feel better about what's already happened. I'm merely trying to send a message that is twofold:
1) Let us live in such a way that we can be confident in our standing with God, allowing no barriers to exist so that He can protect us from whatever would await us on the other side.
2) Whatever evil happens, we cannot blame our Dad. Thank Him for the moments He steps in with a miracle (an operative of His government the circumstances of which I won't pretend to understand at this time) but understand who He is and why He must allow certain things.
No matter what, He IS the same yesterday, today, and forever. He IS the God of the Old AND New Testament. But WE are not the same. Because of Jesus, we are not sinners. We are friends. We are His kids. And we need to walk in this identity knowing that God is good all the time...and all the time...
written by: Anna W.