Many skeptics and atheists have asked some of these questions: If God exists, why doesn’t God stop innocent people from getting senselessly shot and killed by a crazy gunman; Why would God do nothing as a young child is raped and abused; Why would God watch people die from starvation every day or why doesn’t God stop a hurricane from destroying people’s homes and lives?
In other words – if God exists, and if God is loving, then why does He allow evil and suffering?
In order to understand the issue of evil and suffering and why they exist, we need to have an understanding of the following:
1. The Nature of Mankind
Mankind is sinful or imperfect. We are capable of doing evil things to each other because of the sinful condition of our heart. We are not only capable of harming others – but our own sinful actions can bring harm to ourselves or our own lives.
In Jeremiah 17:9, God says: “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?”
2 Timothy 3:1-4 says: But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God
Therefore, Scripture is clear that mankind contributes to the evil and suffering that is in the world because the condition of our own hearts are sinful.
For example, whenever we hear that someone cheated on his wife; or that somebody is abusing others; or when we lie and deceive one another – it is important to understand that these actions and many others such as those mentioned in 2 Timothy 3:1-4, contribute to the suffering of others and to the evil that is in the world.
It is the nature of cause and effect. Our actions affect others directly or indirectly.
God has also given mankind freewill. Therefore man is not a machine – but instead man has the ability to make his own choices and decisions. This means that man has the freewill to make good choices and bad choices. God says “See, I set before you today life and good, death and evil…” (Deuteronomy 30:15-19).
Adam and Eve were given a choice in the Garden of Eden to either obey God or disobey Him. Eventually they decided to disobey God and as a result, a once perfect world became imperfect and full of evil because of the entrance of sin in the life of man and on the earth (Genesis 3:1-24).
Therefore mankind must accept responsibility and accountability for evil existing in the world. There is no human being in the world who can claim that he/she has never sinned or done anything bad.
Romans 3:10 says that “none is righteous, no, not one”.
2. God Can Use Evil To Fulfill His Plan & Purpose
In Genesis there is the story of a young man by the name of Joseph whose older brothers were so jealous of him that they planned to murder Joseph (Genesis 37:18). Later instead of killing Joseph, the brothers decided to throw Joseph in a pit and then they sold him as a slave to the Ishmaelites who then took him to Egypt to live as a slave (Genesis 37:26-28). In Egypt Joseph is falsely accused of rape by Potiphar’s wife and he’s thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
These bad circumstances in Joseph’s life depict and reflect some of the most unfair and terrible things that can happen to a person in life. One could say that Joseph did not deserve the evil and injustice that happened to him at the hands of his own family and in Egypt.
However the reality is that God is able to use all situations – whether good or evil to fulfill His own plan and purposes. Joseph himself came to this realization in the midst of his sufferings.
We learn that because of his trials Joseph grew spiritually and God used Joseph’s experiences to prepare him and mold him into the type of man that God wanted him to be. Even through his circumstances, the Bible depicts that God was with Joseph.
Joseph eventually meets his brothers who once tried to kill him at a time when his brothers were in great need of assistance. Joseph says to his brothers who had once tried to kill him by saying “… You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good…” (Genesis 50:19-20).
Many people who have gone through bad experiences or traumatic circumstances are often some of the most equipped people to help, empathize or counsel others to overcome the same issues.
Romans 8:28 says: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
God works ALL things together for GOOD. This means that God works BOTH good and bad situations for GOOD and for His own purposes.
3. God is Patient to Sinners
God is so loving that He is patient even to evil people. God is so loving that He is willing to give even the wicked a chance to repent and accepted Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 3:9 says: The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
The truth is, we are all sinners who are not deserving of Heaven. However, God is gracious, loving and patient towards us.
Therefore if it appears as if God is delaying justice; or if it appears as if God is not dealing with the problem of evil – it’s because God is also exercising patience towards those who are not born again Christians. God is still working to bring many people to repentance and to accept Christ as Lord and Saviour.
The apostle Paul is an example of a man who did wicked things before his conversion. Paul killed many Christians until he was converted by Jesus Christ. Therefore Christ showed patience, love and grace towards Paul who had once killed Christians (Acts 9:1-19).
4. God Is Sovereign and In Total Control
Even though evil exists and even though there appears to be so much confusion in the world – God is fully and always in control.
There is nothing that can surprise God and there is nothing that God cannot handle.
In Isaiah 46:9-10, God says that He declares the end from the beginning and that He shall accomplish all that He plans and purposes.
With our finite minds it is difficult to understand or grasp why God allows specific evil events to occur – such as the murder of innocent people or the abuse of a child.
When we read the book of Job in the Bible – Job suffered many pains and losses – yet in the end, God does not explain to Job the reasons why He allowed Job to suffer.
All we should know and trust as finite human beings is that God is sovereign and in control. He is able to use all situations for His plans and purposes. We must also know that eventually God will indeed rid the world of all evil.