Our lives are filled with tragedy until we see our pain through the lens of God’s goodness.
From the day we are born, we have trouble. And what we discover as we get older is that life is filled with lots of it. In fact, when we have a conflict-free day where there is no crisis—large or small—that is a very good day.
Then there are those days when it seems like the bottom drops out. What could go wrong, does go wrong, and then even more things go wrong beyond that. And we question why it’s happening to us.
As we look at our world today, we wonder about the heartbreaking things that take place. Why do things like that happen? Why does God allow tragedy?
We hear it stated many ways: Why does God allow wars to rage? Why does he allow innocent people to be killed? What about all the horrible injustices in our world? If God can prevent tragedies, then why does he allow them to happen?
Here’s the classic statement of the problem: Either God is all-powerful but is not all good, therefore, he doesn’t stop evil. Or he is all good but is not all-powerful, therefore, he can’t stop evil. The general tendency is to blame all the problems of the world on God.
We’ve heard the question posed this way: If God is so good and loving, then why does he allow evil?
The first part of that question implies that God isn’t good and loving. Someone who asks that question is, in essence, saying they are moral center of the universe, and they determine what is good and loving.
The Bible Provides Truth
Yet, God doesn’t become good because that is our opinion of him or because we personally agree with his actions or his words. Rather, God is good because God says that he is good. Jesus said, “Only God is truly good” (Luke 18:19).
You see, God is good whether we believe it or not. God—and God alone—is the final court of arbitration. As the apostle Paul wrote, “Even if everyone else is a liar, God is true” (Rom. 3:4).
Good is whatever God approves. To put it another way, good is what God says is good. And bad is what God says is bad.
Some might say that is circular reasoning, but I would describe it as biblical reasoning. We’re coming back to a source of truth, the Word of God, and to God himself, who is telling us what our values ought to be, what right and wrong are, what good and evil are.
In the Old Testament book of Isaiah, we read, “‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts’” (55:8–9).
The Cause of Evil
Let’s come back to the second part of that question: why does God allow evil? Remember that Adam and Eve were not created as evil beings. They were innocent, ageless and immortal.
Of course, we know that our first parents made the wrong choice and did just what God told them not to do. But before we’re too critical of them, let’s recognize that if we had been in the Garden of Eden, we would have done the same thing, evidenced by the fact that we all make wrong choices throughout our lives.
As a result of the sin of Adam and Eve, sin and death entered the human race. The Bible tells us, “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned” (Rom. 5:12).
Therefore, we need to keep in mind that it is humanity, not God, who is responsible for sin.
Then why didn’t God make us incapable of sin? It’s because he didn’t want puppets on a string. He didn’t want windup robots, preprogrammed people who had no choice or free will. God doesn’t want us to love him because we have to. He wants us to love him because we choose to. He gave us the ability to choose.
Adam and Eve made the wrong choice, we make the wrong choices, and so much of the evil in the world and the wrongs that are done are because people make wrong choices.
Maybe you’re thinking, “I can accept that. But, why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” Most of us can accept the idea of suffering in general, especially when it comes as a consequence of bad behavior.
For example, if someone lives a wicked life, does horrible things, and then faces the repercussions of it, we might say, “Well, they got what they deserved. They reaped what they sowed.” We can accept the idea of suffering in certain instances. But we struggle with the idea of undeserved suffering, when suffering comes into the life of someone we think of as innocent or godly.
Faith During Suffering
I think of Job, who was a man of integrity, a man of character. God himself said so, and Job could not have had a higher endorsement (Job 1:8). But in one day, Job lost all his children and went from being the wealthiest person in the land to essentially being bankrupt. Yet the Bible tells us that “in all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God” (Job 1:22).
Job was a real man with real problems with a real God whom he turned to—the same God whom we can turn to in our time of need.
We can approach God at any time, based on the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and his shed blood for us. It is not about our worthiness; it’s about his grace extended to us.
The writer of Hebrews says, “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (4:6).
Everyone suffers. Calamity comes into every life, both righteous and unrighteous. But our comfort is in Christ. Our hope is in God. And the place where we need to put our faith is in him.