This post originally appeared on Theology Rocks
It’s the question your atheist friend uses to poke holes in your argument. It’s the question you stay up late at night asking yourself on your darkest days. If God is good and loving, how could this evil thing happen to me? For some, this question is a sword to slice at any idea of a “good god”. But for many believers, this question is a nightmare. “Either God is not powerful enough to stop evil, or He’s really not all that good,” some sneer. But does this purported problem of evil really assess all attributes of God?
I find this problem often in my life: I like to see God how I want to see Him. But God doesn’t do all that I desire, He does whatever He pleases (Psalm 115:3). You see, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, what should have happened is their immediate punishment: eternal separation from God with no hope. But God did something quite different–He promised Jesus (Gen. 3:15). God created mankind in His image for His glory and put them in a garden full of “yes’s”. But they took the one “no”. How does God respond? With “good”. They deserved every bit of the curse, and much more. The problem is not that God did not prevent evil. The problem is that God responded to evil with good. If God is holy and just, how can anything good happen to me?
The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation. Exodus 34:6-7
Here, God reveals Himself to Moses and gives one of the greatest contradictions. God says He will forgive sin, but will not clear the guilty. How is that possible? If God does not clear the guilty, He should not have allowed Moses and his family to live. God should not have given His law and revealed His nature, or rescued a people for Himself and bring them into the Promised Land, or allowed Solomon to build a temple so He could dwell with His people. God should not have given prophets to warn people. God should not have given His Son to live a perfect life on our behalf. There should be no happiness, no giving in marriage, no celebrations or festivals, no blue skies. This world should experience the eternal wrath of God because He does not clear the guilty. However, the only time this earth experienced the fullness of God’s wrath was on the cross.
Jesus satisfied the wrath of God for the whole of the world (1 John 2:2). Now, some look at this text and try to use it for many different ideas, “Maybe… just maybe, Jesus saved you.” This verse does not make justification a mere random happenstance. Look at it this way: how can someone take their first breath on this earth without experiencing the very wrath of God for their sinfulness? The definite work of Christ for everyone. How does the believer experience salvation and dwell with God forever? The definite work of Christ for the believer (1 Tim. 4:10). Therefore, whatever good transpires, no matter how trivial, testifies to the triumph of Jesus.
Why does evil still occur? In Luke 13:1-5, Jesus tells about two evil events: the slaughter of people by government official and a natural occurrence killing people. Were the people who died in these events worse off? Are the people who die by tornado or lightning or earthquake worse than those who don’t? Are the people who die in terrorist attacks or war worse than those who don’t? No. But unless we repent, we will also perish. God used the greatest evil (the cross of Christ) to bring about the greatest thing–redemption of His people. He also uses evil today so that people will see there is something wrong with the world, there is something wrong with me. God uses pain so people repent.
Evil is not easy to experience. In my darkest days, I am tempted to shake my fist at God and scream, “How could You allow this?” I feel cheated for such a meaningless painful happening. I forget that this is less than what I deserve. I forget that I need to repent of so many sins. I forget that God uses everything in my life for good, to produce a particular glory for Him. May God help us remember how He used evil on that tree. May God help us remember He can use evil in our lives to bring about our good and His glory.