I started reading a book last week called “The God Questions: Exploring Life’s Greatest Questions About God” and its been extremely encouraging to me. (You can click on that title to go directly to Amazon.com to order/preview the book yourself) It does an amazing job at answering some really tough questions like, “is God real? What do other religions believe? Is the Bible even true? If so, where did the Bible come from?”
One of the questions in this book was “Can a loving God really send people to hell?” And as a pastor I’ve really wrestled with this question. I’ve often wonder why and how evil was created and why there seems to be so much evil stuff in the world all around me.
I know those were my thoughts on September 11, 2001 after my roommate in college woke me up to the news of what was happening that morning. Everything changed that day for so many of us. I was fortunate enough to not know someone directly who died that day in those planes, or in the buildings, or in trying to save those in danger. I had friends who lost family and friends, but I myself was not directly affected by the deaths. I was however affected and challenged by what I thought about terrorism and racism and many other of my views of others and this world would be challenged.
And as a Christian, the one thing that was challenging then, and every time since this is this question of “Why? Why does a loving God allow bad to happen? Why does He allow evil to be successful?”
Now as a pastor I face that question a lot. Sometimes I get it during a good conversation, but usually it comes my way during the face of adversity, pain and loss. I get it from committed followers of Christ, and from people bankrupt on God’s love and from the skeptics and naysayers.
I truly believe that regardless of what category we fit into, God deeply desires to answer that question for all of us. People just want the answer. There are some hard answers to this question. There are some logical, head answers to this question too. And, there are some heart answers, answers that might actually make a person feel better about the pain they’ve experienced.
The book I am reading paints this picture…
Jesus said in John 16:33 that “…in this world you will have trouble…” and I’ll be the first to admit that portion of the verse is not extremely comforting. Asking God why bad things happen is one of the biggest questions all of us have. Because in this world we have experienced trouble. And we don’t like it. And it doesn’t seem right.
The hard answer to why does bad happen is simply this: God will not violate our opportunities to choose what we want and our choices have consequences. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” [Galatians 6:7]
In my mind I want to know why there is evil and where it came from? Well God is not the creator of evil and suffering. Lots of people ask “Why didn’t God create a world then, where there was no suffering? Where there is no evil?” The answer is He did. We are told in the book of Genesis that when God created the world it was good. After God created humanity that He, out of love I cannot even fathom, that He created them with a free will so they could express [real] love to Him and to each other. In my mind, that makes sense, that it’s impossible to truly love unless you have a choice. In our world there are 2 types of evil: Man-made evil where we do things and where we make choices that hurt other people and there is natural evil, things like earthquakes and tornadoes and nasty diseases that break out.
This book has really helped me to understand more about who God really is. It helped think through the suffering of 9/11 and helped bring answers to my questions. I find it amazing, as well as humbling, to be able to continue to learn about why the Lord does the things He does.
Our church will be spending time this Fall trying to answer these “God Questions” and I’m really looking forward to how that will carry into our youth ministry as well.
I’m learning this…that God is not the creator of evil, but He allowed it so that we can have the freedom to choose to love Him. God does not delight in our suffering but He’s fully capable of making good come from the suffering we face. Suffering won’t always be apart of our lives. There will come a day when the Lord will wipe it out once and for all. So until then, the way I see it, is that we have a choice. We can decide whether the pain we face will make us bitter, or if it will make us better. And when we face pain, not if, but when, we can always remember that God promises us that He will be with us, that He will walk with us through our sorrow, if we let Him.
Or in the words of Jesus, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” [John 16:33]