How can I believe in a good God when…?

How can I believe in a good God when…?

There Is So Much Evil In the World

Earthquakes.  Tornadoes.  Hurricanes.

Tsunamis.  Embezzlement.  Rape.

Murder.  Cancer.  Arthritis.

Diabetes.  Parkinson’s disease.

There’s just a whole lot of bad stuff going on in this world, and it can make it awful hard to believe in a good God, a God of love and mercy.

Some of us really have to come to terms with evil before we can fully believe in a God who is good.

God is not the author of evil. God created a perfect world in which humans lived in complete harmony with him. But he also gave them freedom of choice. In exercising that freedom, Adam and Eve chose to disobey God (Genesis 3). And it was through that act of disobedience that sin entered the world.

Now, the Bible says the penalty of sin is death (Romans 6:23). So sin is like an inherited disease. We are all born with it and our bodies will ultimately die from it. But sin affects more than just our bodies. Sin affects everything around us. Plainly put, the world is in a state of decay because of it.

All sickness, pain, injustice, and death result from sin. So why doesn’t God intervene? Why doesn’t He just put an end to evil by eliminating sin? The fact is He has done just that! God sent Jesus Christ to take the penalty for our sin and break the cycle of death. His death in our place bought forgiveness for all who believe in him. In addition, God gives us his Spirit to live inside us and help us break free from the chains of sin.

We will all still suffer because of the presence of sin—whether it’s from our own wrong choices, the choices others or the result from a living in a fallen world. But when we suffer we can remember that Jesus Christ underwent the ultimate unjust suffering when He died on the cross at Calvary. He was the only human ever to live without sin, but he took on himself all the pain and evil that has ever been known in the history of the world (1 Peter 2:19-24).

Many still choose not to believe in Jesus, but the Bible says a day is coming when those people will be punished. Wrongs will be righted and God’s perfect justice will be meted out. When Jesus Christ returns, all those who have put their faith in him will go to be with him forever. But those who have persisted in sin by rejecting him will go to eternal punishment. But God is patient. He is waiting because he loves everyone—even those who deny him. He wants everyone to have a chance to receive forgiveness (2 Peter 3:3-9).

Jesus said his Father’s plan is like that of a farmer who planted a wheat field but whose enemy came and planted weeds in the field. The farmer chose to let the wheat and weeds grow together until the harvest. Then it would be clear which plants were weeds and which were wheat, and they could be easily separated (Matthew 13:24-30).

Our loving and caring God actually uses hardship to serve a useful purpose. Imagine if we all went happily about our business without God—but without pain. Then, when we died, we would discover our rejection of God had earned us eternal punishment. The suffering that results from evil is like a symptom of a disease that sends us in search of a cure.

God often uses hardship to make people who are busy with their own pursuits aware of their need for him. When we realize we can’t deal with our circumstances, we go in search of a God who can. The apostle Paul saw suffering as an opportunity to prove God’s strength. He wrote, “I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me…For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Adapted from Where Is God When Bad Things Happen? by Dr. Luis Palau, Doubleday, 1999.

More Questions?

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

Practical and Philosophical Response

Part 1: The practical response

This is a difficult question to answer because it’s quite possible that you or someone you know has suffered some type of loss or trauma in your life and you are trying to understand why it happened. The truth is no one really knows why bad things happen to good people. Only God Himself really knows the answer to that. As the Apostle Paul explains, “Now all we can see of God is like a cloudy picture in a mirror. Later we will see him face to face. We don’t know everything, but then we will, just as God completely understands us.” (1 Co 13:12)

In other words, there will be a time when we will have complete understanding. We just don’t have that right now. However, there are things we DO know, the most important of which is that God under- stands the pain we go through when tragedy strikes. The Bible tells us that two thousand years ago, when Jesus walked the earth, one of his closest friends died prematurely. The man’s name was Laza- rus. When Jesus saw Lazarus’s sister crying, and heard the weeping of the others at the funeral, the Bible says, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).

A few moments later, Jesus actually raised Lazarus from the dead, and turned their grief into joy. But he still wept. Even though he knew Lazarus would soon be restored to those who loved him, he wept. Jesus, the Son of God, wept. Why? Why did he weep?

Jesus wept because God hurts when you hurt. He shares your sorrow. He does not sit on some dis- tant throne, uncaringly letting bad things happen to you, or to those you love.

When bad things happen to you, he shares your grief. If you’re hurting right now, God is hurting with you. If you’re crying, his heart is weeping with you. If you’re angry about the bad things you or someone you love is suffering, he is angry too, because that’s not how he designed this world to be. His original design did not include bad things happening to anyone. God DID, however, design us in such a way that we had the freewill to either follow God’s original plan or do things our own way. Man chose to deviate from God’s plan and do things his own way which resulted in the imperfect world we know today.

The good news is that the Bible tells us that a time will come when there will be no more tears, no more death, no mourning, no crying out, and no more pain.” (Rev 21:4) That is God’s promise to those who choose to enter into a relationship with Him.

Part 2: The philosophical response

Just to put things in perspective, no one is completely good, according to the Bible. In Romans 3:23 we read, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That means no one is “innocent.” True, some people commit more heinous offenses than others, but we have fallen far short of God’s absolute stan- dard of conduct. Perhaps the only adequate answer to the question of human suffering is the cross. In it God enters into suffering with us, taking the worst of it upon himself—the suffering for our sins.

Scripture tells us the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). That’s what we deserve. Anything else we receive is the gracious gift of our loving heavenly Father. In fact, he has already gone to great lengths to keep us from the greatest hardship of all—spending eternity in hell apart from him. By sending Jesus to take the penalty for our sin, God made it possible for us not only to escape punishment, but also to experience the joy of life with him.

One of the secrets to contentment here on earth is an eternal perspective. This life is temporary. But if we know Jesus Christ, our real home is in heaven, and that is where we will spend eternity. Any suffering we experience here is incredibly trivial compared to the joy that awaits us. Paul wrote to the Romans, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

Jesus himself guaranteed that life would be hard—hardest, in fact, for those who follow him! Jesus said: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Later, after his resurrection, Jesus also told them, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Paul calls God “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

We can take further comfort in the knowledge that our suffering is not meaningless. In spite of the way things appear at times, God is in control, and he uses our hardships to accomplish his purposes, both in our lives and in the lives of those around us. Job didn’t know why he was suffering, but we see in Job 1-2 that God was in control of everything that was happening to him. God’s purposes were being worked out through Job’s hardship.

If we have an eternal perspective, we can rejoice when God is glorified even if it requires that we experience difficulty. Sometimes God glorifies himself through our suffering by providing a miraculous escape. Other times he gives us strength to endure in the midst of it.

If we ask God to give us his perspective on the difficulties in our lives, he will assure us of his purpose in allowing them and his presence in the midst of them. We will be able to affirm the words of Romans 8:28: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.”

It would be nice if God explained to us, specifically, why he allows this bad thing or that bad thing to happen, but he doesn’t. But we can trust that He is with us through the suffering. More than that, He has plans to heal your heart, turn your grief into joy, and deliver you and those you love from this painful world we live in (Romans 8:18-21).

Adapted from Where Is God When Bad Things Happen? by Dr. Luis Palau, Doubleday, 1999.

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Did God Create Evil?

God created everything. The Bible says, God created everything in heaven and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—kings, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities (Colossians 1:16).

The Bible also says that God is not the author of wrong:

No one who wants to do wrong should ever say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else either. Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires. These evil desires lead to evil actions, and evil actions lead to death. So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above, who created all heaven’s lights (James 1:13-17 NLT, italics added).

Now, if God created everything, and evil exists, how can it possibly be said that God did not create evil? The answer is that evil is not a part of God’s original creation; it is an indirect result of the world God created.

God certainly could have created a world in which evil was not possible. But, if he had done that, the creatures that populated that world could not have had the freedom to choose to do good, to choose to love him, or to choose to obey him. God knew that the gift of our free will could conceivably result in us not loving him, not obeying him, and not maintaining the kind of world he designed for our enjoyment, which is, of course, precisely what happened and what still happens to this very day. Real goodness, real love, and real obedience can only exist in a person who has free will to choose the opposite but determines not to; true obedience can only result if the choice to disobey is also present.

This is the choice you and I face on a daily basis: to exercise our free will to love God or to turn away from him, to gratefully submit to him or to rebelliously go our own way.

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Why Is There Evil and Suffering In The World?

What’s The Purpose

Can there possibly be any purpose in evil or suffering?

Back in Old Testament times, there was a young man named Joseph who endured a series of injustices that, by all appearances, seemed to ruin his life: he was betrayed by his own brothers, sold into slavery, exiled far from home, falsely accused of rape, imprisoned, and forgotten. For years, his troubles seemed to pile up. But, in truth, every one of the awful things that happened to Joseph eventually had a redeeming purpose, not only for him, but for those he loved and cared about (Genesis 37).

When evil seems to triumph and suffering seems to go on forever, it can be nearly impossible to imagine anything good coming out of all the pain and tragedy. Yet, even our darkest days have a purpose in God’s eternal plan. We can’t know all the details of God’s plan and purpose in this life, but we can find reason to hope that even when we suffer, he is bringing about a wise purpose through it all. Sometimes those purposes include:

  • Warning us of potential danger. Pain can be horrible, but the absence of pain can be worse. The great danger of a disease like leprosy is not the disease itself—which involves the loss of the ability to feel physical pain—but the injury and infection that result when the sufferer loses the benefits of pain. What is true physically is also true of emotional and spiritual pain. Paul the Apostle once wrote to distant friends, “I am no longer sorry that I sent that letter to you, though I was sorry for a time, for I know that it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to have remorse and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For God can use sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin and seek salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:8-10 NLT). Pain can be good when it warns us of danger. Sometimes it is “God’s megaphone,” as C. S. Lewis famously said—the means he uses to get our attention.
  • Turning us to God. A person whose whole life is smooth sailing—no pain, no trouble, no suffering—may go through life like the people who lived in a town called Laodicea in the first century A.D., to whom Jesus said: “You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17 NLT). Suffering sometimes makes us aware of how much we need God, in good times as well as in bad.
  • Teaching us perseverance and strengthening our character. Everyone wants to be strong like an oak, but no one wants to endure the storms that make the oak tree strong. Bonsais are delicate because they are pampered; oaks are strong because they are not. The Bible says, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us— they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us” (Romans 5:3-4 NLT).
  • Preparing us for future challenges. Sometimes pain that seems pointless while we’re suffering becomes a preparation for future effectiveness, even greatness. Joseph’s slavery positioned him to become Pharaoh’s right-hand man. Moses’ exile in Midian prepared him to become a deliverer of multitudes. Jesus’ suffering on the cross paved the way for his resurrection. As the Bible says, “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. So take a new grip with your tired hands and stand firm on your shaky legs. Mark out a straight path for your feet. Then those who follow you, though they are weak and lame, will not stumble and fall but will become strong” (Hebrews 12:11-13 NLT).

All pain has a purpose, whether we learn its purpose in this life or not. It may seem senseless, but God—and only God—can make sense of it all and weave it into a pattern that brings about our eternal good and his eternal glory (see Romans 8:28, 2 Corinthians 4:17).

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