“[God] gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” Matthew 5:45
Questions. We all have them.
Recently I read a study stating that moms are asked an average of three hundred questions a day. That’s an average of one question every two minutes. This must be why our children are so smart (smile).
The questions don’t stop as we get older; they just get harder. One of the hardest questions I’ve ever been asked is this: Why does God allow bad things to happen? This extraordinarily complex question deserves a very thoughtful and sensitive response. In fact, most of the time when this question has been posed to me, it was by someone who really wasn’t looking for an answer, but rather seeking reassurance that even though their world was falling apart, they are going to be ok.
I’ve observed two common responses from people facing loss and tragedy: 1) They believe God is to blame for their suffering; and 2) They concludes that their pain is proof that God doesn’t exist.
Despite the blatantly apparent contradiction, many people manage to hold both of these views at the same time.
It’s universally understood that grief has a way of clouding our judgement and veiling reality, but please realize this: Just because you don’t feel God’s presence or see him working in your situation, that doesn’t mean that He isn’t there. Psalm 34:18 states, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” Your suffering may have caused you to turn away from God, but it hasn’t caused him to turn from you.
Contrary to popular opinion, pain and suffering aren’t proof that God is absent. But the real question is…If God exists, why does He allow suffering?
It is foundational to the Christian worldview to understand the war between good and evil, and to acknowledge that we’re standing in the middle of the battlefield. The Bible makes it clear that the devil is alive and well on planet Earth. Satan is our archenemy, and his plan is—and has always been—to rob, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Without this perspective, nothing that happens in this life will make sense to you.
Evil isn’t just a mystical idea, either. In the same way that God chooses to work in and through us when we submit to the Holy Spirit, Satan uses people to spew his lies, hatred, and violence. We have been given the chance to choose between right and wrong, and our choices have consequences both here on earth and in eternity.
The fact is we live in a fallen world. The source of evil is not God’s power, but man’s freedom.
To go a step further, we cannot control the actions and choices of others. As a result, we have all experienced the consequences of someone else's choices. It’s not our fault, but we still pay the price. It’s the downside to free will.
Other times there are just tragedies that defy logic. As we see from the verse above, good people are not exempt from pain and suffering. Yet, somehow, we think that the One who formed the vast galaxies, set each star in place, commands the waves of the ocean, and holds all of humanity in the palm of his hand owes us an explanation. I’m afraid that I will never understand when a child dies, or a good person suffers from a terrible illness, or when evil rears its ugly head. But I’m also spiritually mature enough to recognize the small-minded, humanness of my own thinking.
In October of 2019, our twenty-two-year-old nephew Josh was killed in a tragic accident. By all accounts he wasn’t doing anything wrong, just driving to work. Josh was kind, had a great work ethic, and just an incredible young man with his whole life ahead of him.
I don’t know why this happened, but one thing I know—God is sovereign. This is a great mystery to us mere mortals. In simple terms, God’s sovereignty “is his right and power to do all that He decides to do.” I’ll never understand, but I trust in God’s goodness and mercy, even when I don’t understand the why.
For more discussion on this important topic, please watch my video, “Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen,” from the FUSION Leadership Group’s series Tough Question! See link below.
[i] Symons, Joanna. 2018. "Mothers Asked Nearly 300 Questions A Day, Study Finds," The Telegraph, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/9959026/Mothers-asked-nearly-300-questions-a-day-study-finds.html. [ii] Kreeft, Peter, Ronald K Tacelli. 2009. Handbook Of Catholic Apologetics, San Francisco, Calif.: Ignatius Press. [iii] Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org, 2019, "Are God's Providence And God's Sovereignty The Same? #1383," Podcast, Ask Pastor God.