I Don’t Understand This Evil

I Don't Understand This Evil

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.


  1. Christiane says

    are you a student of the writings of R.C. Sproul, Jr. ?

    I emphasize the ‘Jr.’ because he went a lot further into the subject of God and evil than his own father. He makes some startling connections, which if you believe in him, it says that God is responsible for creating evil and creating sinners, so that He could prove His glory by showing forth his ‘wrath’.

    I’m sure there is a kind of ‘continuum’ in Calvinism, where there are some beliefs that are almost universally accepted, but there are OTHER Calvinist-ic teachings that border on areas where most Calvinists do not want to go. The existence of the ‘points’ differential is evidence of the diversity of Calvinist belief.

    Are you a believer in R.C. Sproul Jr.’s teachings on God and evil ?

  2. Tarheel says

    These are excellent and needed reminders, Jared.

    Some of the longest drives I’ve ever had in ministry (regardless of actual distance) were ones to the house of a family where tragedy has struck….I know as i am traveling that they are looking for most probably seeking physical, tangible and immediate answers – and I know I can’t give them to them. I’ve learned over time that a simple hug, and a “I’m praying for you and your family” is better than trying to give answers there’s no way I can really offer.

    There’s a line in an old (Newsong, I think it was?) song that says;

    “God is too wise to be mistaken, He is too good to be unkind. So when you can’t trace His hand, when you don’t see His plan – trust his heart.”

  3. says

    The implication I’ve gotten from Job 38-41 is that there is a ton of stuff out there that is beyond Job’s (and our) knowledge – why then is Job surprised or seeing it as an injustice that what has happened to Job is also beyond his knowledge?

  4. Jess says

    In Ecclesiastes 2:16 There is no remembrance of the wise more than a fool. 3:18 says when it comes to death, man has no preeminence above a beast. Through Adam, death entered the world. This sure don’t paint a pretty picture. Just look what has happened to the Saints through the ages, and what will continue to happen as long as we are alive here on earth.

    I for one have more questions than I do answers about death and why there are such tragedies upon this earth. The Pentecostals believe in healing, but yet die at the same rate Baptists die. The Pentecostals believe you can lose your salvation and are some of the happiest people on earth. The Baptist believe you can’t lose your salvation and yet appear to be the saddest bunch of people I’ve ever seen.

    Jared, I’ve enjoyed your post. My answer is simple. Adam sold us out. Just because we are Christians here on earth doesn’t mean we are going to live on a bed of roses. There will be antichrists that will live a better life on earth than we Christians.

    • Ron Smith says

      “The Pentecostals believe in healing, but yet die at the same rate Baptists die. The Pentecostals believe you can lose your salvation and are some of the happiest people on earth. The Baptist believe you can’t lose your salvation and yet appear to be the saddest bunch of people I’ve ever seen.”

      I guess that was a serious comment, but it cracked me up.

  5. says

    The answer is simple, but the task of ministering to the suffering is still difficult.

    A) We deserve far worse.
    B) God demonstrates a small taste of the pain and suffering that death affords so that we can know the seriousness of sin.
    C) The gospel is that Jesus bore the penalty in its fullness on behalf of sinners.
    D) Telling A, B, and C to someone who has lost a loved one or is suffering in some other way doesn’t usually bring the peace of mind we want them to have. Nevertheless, spiritual maturation over time involves appropriating this truth for the purpose of a far deeper peace rooted in the knowledge of God.

  6. Paul says

    Hello, I am a layperson on my own search to try and understand why evil exists and how it relates to a loving God. I believe the bible says that God created evil and evil people (aka, sinners). See below the hopefully familiar scriptures among many more. That makes me squirm but I believe it is the clear teaching of the bible. So God made it and them it would seem it would be his responsibility to ultimately clean it and them up. I believe the bible promises that too. Joseph’s brothers meant evil in their treatment of him, but God meant it for good to save many people. God sent Jesus to be the Savior of the World, and to undo the works of the devil. Could he fail? Can we believe in a god that is not in control of things and that does not take (ultimate) responsibility for his creation and what he has set in motion? I would personally rather squirm with God creating evil and promising to fix it than the thought that he is not in complete control.

    Isaiah 45:7 (KJV) 7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these [things].

    By the way evil in the above verse is the same Hebrew word ‘ra’ as in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

    Proverbs 16:4 (KJV)
    The LORD hath made all [things] for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.

    Amos 3:6 (KJV)
    Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done [it]?