Last week we discussed how God can be loving, yet judge His creation. It is a valid question, one of the most common presented by critics of Christianity. Perhaps the only question to rival that one in how commonly it is asked or in how great a challenge it presents is the question of why bad things happen to good people.
This is a difficult question, striking at the heart of our insecurities about ourselves and about God. Does He truly love us? If so, why does He allow evil to invade our lives? This question is difficult not because the answers are complex, but because they are not the answers we want. We want our world to be perfect: no danger, no disease, no heartache. That simply is not our world, so we offer answers to the question while recognizing that they will not satisfy our yearning for something greater.
First, we must recognize the limits of our knowledge. If we are honest, we must admit that we do not know what God is doing or from what He has shielded us. Job exemplifies this, not knowing the details of the interaction between God and Satan (Job 1:6-12). How many times has God kept my children from being hurt? My wife from a fatal car accident? My home from burning? These are questions to which none of us have answers.
We must also ask if we value our freedom. Many of the evils that beset us are caused by the sin of others. All evil in this world ultimately sprang from the sin of the first people, Adam and Eve. When humanity fell, so did our world. God could end all of it, and He could have prevented it in the first place, but let’s be clear: it would have happened at the cost of our freedom to choose. He could have stopped Adam and Eve from disobeying Him, but only by removing their ability to choose. He could stop any of us now, but only by forcing us to do things His way.
Instead, God allows us to learn from our struggles. Do not believe for a moment that the hardships in your life are there because God could not stop them or did not care to stop them. He allows each trial in our life precisely because He intends for us to learn and grow from it. C.S. Lewis wrote, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” We listen more attentively and grow more quickly when we have an obstacle to overcome.
God uses all of these things, directing the world to the end He has planned. No evil will be allowed to thwart His purposes, and this is a source of great comfort. John Calvin stated it like this: “His solace, I say, is to know that his Heavenly Father so holds all things in his power, so rules by his authority and will, so governs by his wisdom, that nothing can befall except he determine it...the Lord is everywhere at work...for his welfare” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, I. xvii. 11). We can rest assured that God will not be stymied in His plans, and that those plans will benefit us as well. This is the promise of the often-quoted Romans 8:28.
Ultimately, our hope is in the return of Jesus. Titus called his return our “blessed hope” (2:13), and we look forward to that day when He will return to finish the work He has done throughout history. We know what that completion will bring: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’” (Revelation 21:4-5). When Christ returns, He will give us the perfect world our hearts long to experience, and He will be there among us. Only that will satisfy the yearning of our hearts.
The issue at hand, then, is this: Do you trust Him? Do you believe that His purposes are for your benefit? Will you give your life to Jesus and follow Him today? Questions and comments are welcome through Facebook or private message, and we will come back for the next Theology Thursday two weeks from today.