This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with three children, an SBC pastor, a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.
The problem of evil is real.
A wife and mother of three goes jogging with her sister early one morning. She gets sick due to the baby growing in her womb. She heads back to her car alone. A man rapes and strangles her, ending her life. Then, he goes to work at his job. He is caught and convicted, but she is still gone, and her family mourns.
A tsunami comes upon tourists on vacation suddenly. They do not know what’s happening; they have never seen a tsunami before. The water comes in swiftly, and within seconds, it’s over their heads. The current is strong enough to rip the clothes right off your body. A five year old girl is ripped from her mother’s arms; she is never found. (go view the tsunami caught on camera full movie on youtube. WARNING: It’s beyond R-rated. Real human beings lose their lives in this video; you’ve been warned. It’s the saddest documentary I’ve ever seen).
The list of evil things that have happened to humans at the hands of guilty sinners, and as a result of living in a fallen creation could go on endlessly. The most innocent among us, children, suffer just like the rest of us. It is hard to fathom the loss experienced in such horrific crimes and tragedies. The problem of evil is real. As a pastor, I cannot provide the comfort needed for such awfulness even though I know the biblical answers.
God is sovereign; He is in control of all things. All humans are sinners in rebellion against God, and this creation is cursed. Man is against man, and nature is against man. Creation is a dangerous place due to the Fall. The culprits are sinners. But, does this reality answer why this person dies and that person does not? Do these biblical explanations provide answers that comfort when the murderer or tsunami take our children? It depends on who you trust in. In order words, I do not understand why my children are alive and others are not. I do not understand why I survived my premature birth and my wife’s sister contracted a virus and died.
I say all this to simply say that the problem of evil is a real issue that cannot be met with easy answers. It cannot be dismissed. The sorrow of living under the curse in a cursed creation is overwhelming. Even though we desire satisfactory answers, we will not receive them on this side of Heaven. We know God gives and God takes away; and we know He is in control of all things (Job 1:21; Job 2:10). The murderer’s heart beats solely because God holds his heart in His hands. The tsunami strikes and gains its power from the One who holds all things together (Col. 1:16-17). The providential One placed hundreds of thousands in the path of the tsunami who voluntarily chose to be there (Acts 17:26). One desire, one thought placed in their heads by Him for an inland trip to a tourist attraction, and families would be playing together this summer. One desire or earlier sickness and there is no morning jog for the young mother. She could be playing with her new baby as I type. The awfulness is staggering, even crippling.
But then I remember He who is Sovereign. He is love. My joy is not in understanding the reasons why evil occurs, for no one knows the reasons why this happens and that does not. The reasons “why” are not ours to know. God never told Job why He allowed evil things to happen to him (Job 38-41). When Job asked, God appealed to Himself, reminding Job that He is the Creator and Job is the creature. And Job replied,
I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes (Job 42:1-6).
Therefore, may we weep honestly and openly while trusting the One who gives and takes away. And as Christians, may we weep with those who weep. As pastors, may we encourage those mourning to trust in the One who is sovereign over His creation. He is love; He is good; He is knowledge: He is wisdom; He is Present. We must rest in Him and not in our own understanding.
Praise God, for He is reconciling all things to Himself in Christ (Col. 1:19-20). Heaven is coming.