Why Does God Allow Evil and Suffering?

Today we’re going to address a very important question.  Why does God allow evil and suffering?  We’re going to get a little deep and heavy as we address this question.  So, stay with me!

This past Tuesday, when I heard the news of the school shooting in Uvalda, TX, where 21 kids and 2 teachers were killed, my heart was hurt, troubled and heavy. I felt an abundance of sadness and sorrow, not only for the innocent little kids and teachers who were killed, but equally as much for the parents and family members who are suffering, with no understanding of this senseless evil that took the lives of their loved ones.

Later, that evening, when I went on my walk, I talked to the Lord, asking Him to comfort the hearts of the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, neighbors and of anyone who knew those who were tragically killed by this evil. I asked the Lord, to draw them unto Him for consolation, comfort and peace, in their most painful hours. To keep the enemy from lying to them, causing them to blame you Lord for allowing or not stopping this tragedy.

Blaming God, is a classic strategy of Satan and his minions, when such tragic evil occurs. Their plan is to cause a ripple effect, of blaming God for the evils in the world.  They whisper in the ears of many, “why would God let this happen if He’s so loving?“Why didn’t God prevent this or stop this evil from occurring?” Or, “God doesn’t care, if there even is a God?”  Their plan is to cause people to doubt God, not trust God, become angry or bitter towards God or stop believing in Him altogether.

When evil and bad things happen in the world, many people are quick to blame God, and they question within themselves,

If God is just and holy, good and righteous, then how do evil and suffering exist? That’s a question many people wrestle with, Christians and non-Christians.

In the movie Batman vs. Superman, Superman’s archenemy, Lex Luthor said:

“If God is all powerful, he cannot be all good. And if he’s all good, then he cannot be all powerful.”

In essences Lex Luthor is saying:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.

Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent or mean.

Is he both able and willing? Then where does evil come from?

Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

Most people are plagued with the same sentiment as Lex Luthor, even if they never say it.  However, as believers in Christ, we know that God is all powerful, Holy, Righteous and Just. But, the question is why does He allow evil and suffering to proliferate?

To answer this question, we first must define what evil actually is. Evil is typically seen by most people as a force opposed to good. Evil is viewed as the ying to good’s yang.  However, the issue with defining evil in this way leads to one major problem, it assumes that evil is an actually force that was created and exist.

Now, hold on before you turn off and tune out, start talking about me saying, “he doesn’t know what he’s talking about”.  I’m not saying evil isn’t real, obviously it is, we witness it every day and see all the suffering brought about by evil.  But, what we’re going to get to is, did God, who created all things, the heavens, the earth, people, light, gravity and all in existence, did he also create evil?  So, stay with me, because we’re going to shed light on the truth and understanding to this question; and also, why there is evil in the world, and why God allows it to proliferate.  O.K.

The Bible defines “evil” as:

in the O.T. (or Hebrew):

רַע ra’ (rah); meaning, morally wrong, sinful, wicked, bad, disagreeable, unpleasant, wrong, malignant, giving pain, unhappiness, misery, unkind, vicious in disposition or temper, thoughts and acts that are injurious to ourselves and others, in attitude or behavior.  The N.T. or Greek is κακός, ή, όν kakos (ka-kos’) – is pretty much defines evil the same way as the O.T. or the Hebrew. 

So evil, as defined by God, runs from one end of the spectrum of being unpleasant, rude to the other side of being morally reprehensible, such as murder, theft, adultery, idolatry, blasphemy, etc.

The Bible describes God as being holy (Isaiah 6:3), righteous (Psalm 7:11) and just.

In Mark 10:17-18 we see where this man ran up to Jesus knelt before Him and said, “Good Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replies, 18“Why do you call Me good?” No one is good but One, and that One is, God. Now, the phrase “no one is” is the Greek word οὐδείς, (oo-dice’); which means, none, nothing.  So, we know God’s very nature and character is only Good!  Therefore, anything that is contrary to God’s good nature and character of God is opposed to God’s nature and character of good.

King David says Psalm 51:4:

Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight— That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge. What David is saying is, God is the only one who is pure and good; and therefore, the only one who can speak blamelessly and truly judge what was done contrary to His very own goodness.

So, essentially, what evil is, is defined, by the lack of God’s goodness. Evil is not so much a physical thing; it is a lack or deprivation of what is good. And, such lack or deprivation of what is good begins its existence without an accompanied external action. Jesus explained this to us, in Matthew 5:21-28

Murder is an evil action, but it has its start with the moral evil of anger and hatred in the heart (Matthew 5:21–22). Committing adultery is evil, but so is the moral evil of lust in the heart (Matthew 5:27–28). Jesus said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person” (Mark 7:20–23).

What we see in these evils is that they all are a lack or deprivation of God’s goodness in our hearts.

When God created mankind, He intended for us to live in perfect harmony with Him, without evil or suffering. For man to maintain this harmony with an all good, holy God, man had to not violate God’s goodness. So, God instructed the first man (Adam) to avoid doing one thing, and that was not to be disobedient. So, God instructed Adam not to eat fruit from just one tree in the Garden of Eden where he lived. God warned Adam saying, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17).

There’s three words in this passage I want us to take note of:

Knowledge” which is the Hebrew word (dah’-aa’); which means, premeditation or knowledge.

“Good” which is towb (tove’): meaning pleasant, agreeable, good; and

“Evil” ra’ (rah); which we went over earlier.

Now, here’s what we must understand, Adam already knew “good”- טוֹב(tove’); pleasant, agreeable, good. But, Adam was also aware of evil, ra’ (rah), to do not what was good, disobedience. We know this by the fact, he had been given the choice to obey or disobey God, and told he would be held responsible if he chose to disobey and defy God, for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely dieמוּת muth; perish, deceased, loose your life, etc. (Gen. 2:17). So, Adam was aware of the consequences of being disagreeable to God’s good.

It was not the tree itself, or the eating the fruit of the tree itself that could really give them knowledge, of good and evil, because they already knew good, and was aware of evil.  They knew what God commanded was good, and what He forbid was evil, because it was disagreeable to God’s goodness and would bring with it a consequence of death.

They already had the choice between obedience and disobedience to the will of God before Satan came along. Satan didn’t provide them with a choice, they already had it. The only factor was, up until Satan tempted them, they had not premeditated to commit evil.  Let me try to explain to you the difference between actual knowing and that of knowing by just being aware.

When I was a kid, I knew about sex, by only being aware of sex; but it wasn’t until after having sex for the first time, did I come to know sex, by having internalized it.   I hope that made sense to you?

So, Adam and Eve knew good, having daily experienced it in their daily lives, and they were aware of evil, but had not yet internalized evil.

Satan comes along and says to Eve, Gen. 3:5

For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing (yada = which means intimately, personally experiencing) both good and evil.”

The word ‘eyes’ is the Hebrew word עַ֫יִן ayin; which means, the revealing of mental qualities; such as, rebellion, disobedience, lying, arrogance, pride, selfishness, lust, and other forms of mental qualities opposed to God’s goodness, holiness and righteousness.

Once they acted upon defying and disobeying God, their eyes were “opened” which is פָּקַח p̱â-qaḥ, which means to open the senses to internalize something.  What did they internalize? Knowledge (dah’-aa’), premeditation, of רַע ra’ (rah), or evil; to defying and disobeying God, rebellion, disobedience, lying, pride, selfishness, lust and other forms of mental qualities opposed to God’s goodness, holiness and righteousness. And, as a result, the consequences that God told Adam would happen, their harmony with God was severed, and sin and death entered the world. They were no longer just good, like God. Their goodness was now defiled, damaged, ruined, spoiled, rotten, and they now became like their influencer, the first one to premeditate to defy and disobey God, the evil-one himself Satan. And, as Adam and Eve’s progeny, we inherit their defiled, damaged, ruined, spoiled and rotten goodness, our sin nature.

You still with me?  O.K.

Now, we went through all of this to help us come to this key point of understanding of what I spoke on earlier, that evil itself, is not in and of itself, an actually force that was created. What evil is, is “not”.  What am I talking about?

Evil itself is the lack of, deprived or absence of goodness.  For example:

God created light, but did He also “create” darkness? No, because darkness in and of itself does not exist. Darkness is only a term to describe relative lack of light. Darkness is entirely defined in terms of lack or deprivation of light. Darkness is simply the absence of light. Without light there is darkness. But, light is not a result of darkness. They do not coexist. For example:  go into a dark room with a light switch.  Turn the light on – there is no more darkness.  When you turn the light off there’s darkness.  Darkness is the result of lack or deprivation of light.

Another example is the “number” 0. The term zero literally refers to that which does not exist. It is a reference to nothing, it is the absence of something, anything. This is why adding or subtracting 0 results in no change, multiplying 0 is still “nothing,” and you can’t divide nothing from nothing.  Zero, in a sense is a term we use to understand the absence of something.

So, when we put all of what we just covered, together, we see the same can be said of evil. Evil, is not some “thing” God created or some force outside of God that He cannot control. Evil is, is not, or the lack or deprivation of God’s goodness, Holiness or Righteousness in our lives. Evil is a relative term used to describe anything that deviates from the will and moral perfection of God.

If all of this didn’t make clear sense to you, then I suggest you watch this sermon several times until you really get the understanding of all of what we just went over.  Amen!

Now, when we understand this, then the meaning of the question of why God allows evil and suffering becomes very different.

Come with me over to Jeremiah 13:1-7

1Thus the Lord said to me: “Go and get yourself a linen sash, and put it [a]around your waist, but do not put it in water.” 2So I got a [b]sash according to the word of the Lord, and put it around my waist.3And the word of the Lord came to me the second time, saying, 4“Take the [c]sash that you acquired, which is [d]around your waist, and arise, go to the [e]Euphrates, and hide it there in a hole in the rock.” 5So I went and hid it by the Euphrates, as the Lord commanded me. 6Now it came to pass after many days that the Lord said to me, “Arise, go to the Euphrates, and take from there the sash which I commanded you to hide there.” 7Then I went to the Euphrates and dug, and I took the [f]sash from the place where I had hidden it; and there was the sash, ruined, (which is the Hebrew word (shaw-hath) which means rotted). And, It was profitable for nothing. 

Why was loin sash rotted and good for nothing?  Well, it’s obvious, the sash was worn and never washed and cleansed, it was removed from light and air, all sustenance’s need to maintain the health and wellbeing of the sash. Instead, the sash was kept in darkness; so it decayed, deteriorate, become defiled, damaged, ruined, spoiled, it rotted.

Did you know a definition for “rotted” is to deteriorate, to become morally corrupt? Such is the world, separated from God, who is light, water for cleansing, air of truth, and this world we live in, as Jesus says, loves darkness rather than light, and it does not want to be washed or cleansed of its evil filth; and is therefore, damaged, ruined, spoiled, decaying, deteriorating, and rotting, while being separated from the sovereignty of its creator, who is holy, righteous, just and good.

When we understand this, what evil is, is not, then all that is required for us to understand then, is why God “allows” evil to proliferate?

God created mankind with the capacity for moral free choice. In other words, he allows for deviation from His Will and goodness, leading to “evil.” God desires love and glory from His creation—but there can be no love given by robotic, choice-less creations. So, for God to preclude even the possibility of evil, He must either not have created man or created man without the capacity to love, and glorify Him, which would be something utterly pointless. So, logically, it stands to reason that God allows the potential for evil because such freedom of choice of will is basically the same that allows the potential for good, honor and glorifying God. God allows the potential for evil, because, without it, there is no potential for good.  It’s like this, the same natural laws that allow man to build skyscrapers and develop medicines, also allows for man to make bombs and illicit drugs. Without that potential to do evil, man would not have the choice to do “good”. Once we understand that evil has to be possible in order for us to have a meaningful free choice, you then understand why God allows evil to exist in our world.  Man has to be allowed the free choice to reject God’s goodness, holiness and righteousness.

Now, this brings us to, is God capable of preventing or getting rid of evil? As, we know, the answer to this question is yes.  So, why doesn’t God get rid of evil or at least stem it?

Perhaps a practical way to look at this question would be to consider some alternative ways people might have God get rid of evil in the world:

1) God could change everyone’s personality so that they cannot commit evil. This would also mean that we would not have free choice of will. We would not be able to choose right or wrong because we would be “programmed” to only do right. If God chose to do this, there would be no meaningful relationships between Him and His creation.

But, because God loves His creation, and wants us to respond to His love and trust Him, we are allowed the choice to obey or disobey, He gives us that choice. Because He maintains His position on man having free will of choice, we live in a world where we can choose our actions, but not their consequences, man’s decisions to commit evil has an impact on us and those around us, and those who will come after us.

2) God, through supernatural intervention, could stop all evils.  God could stop that drunk driver from causing an automobile accident. God could stop a lazy worker from doing a substandard job that would later cause grief to the person whom the work was performed for. God could stop a father who is addicted to drugs or alcohol from doing any harm to his wife, children, or extended family. God could stop gunmen from robbing convenience stores. God could stop high school bullies from tormenting other kids. God could stop thieves from stealing, and so on and so forth. And, yes, God could stop school and racist shootings, from happening.

While this solution sounds appealing, it would immediately become less appealing as soon as God’s intervention infringed on something we want or wanted to do, that may seem to us a “lesser evil”.

Should God only stop murders or a person’s lesser evil of being mad at someone, which could lead to murder?  Should God only stop robberies or a person’s lesser evil of coveting, which could lead to robbery?  Should God only stop actual sexual affairs, or a person’s lessor evil of having sexual lust, but not yet acted upon their sexual desires?  Should God stop only thieves, or should He stop all who cheat on their taxes?  Should God only stop the horrible racist murders of people at a grocery store, or should God stop every person who has racist thoughts?  You get what I’m saying?

We want God to prevent horribly evil actions, but are we willing to let “lesser-evil” actions slide—not realizing that those “lesser-evil” actions are what usually lead to the “greater-evil” actions.  And, before God all evil is an affront to His Goodness, be it unpleasantness, gossip, holding a grudge all the way up to robbery and murder. I’m not saying that all sin is the same before God, because it’s not. But, that’s another Bible study.  What I’m saying is all evil from one spectrum to another is opposed to His goodness.

3) Another choice would be for God to judge and remove those who commit evil acts. The problem with this possibility is that there would be no one left, for God would have to remove us all. We all sin and commit evil acts.

Romans 3:10

There is none righteous, no not one!

Romans 3:23:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

While some people are more evil than others, where would God draw the line? Ultimately, all evil causes harm to others.

Instead of these options, we must realize that God is consistent in His “allowance” of our free choice of will in the natural function of His creation. This includes allowing people the freedom to reject His will and spurn His commands. And, as a result, the consequences for man’s rebellion and wanting not to live to God’s goodness, is why evil and suffering exist, because of man’s decisions which result in harm to ourselves and other people. God is being consistent in allowing humanity the freedom to act. All of man’s actions affect others. Because of Adam’s choice to sin, the world now lives under the curse, and we are all born with a sin nature (Romans 5:12).

Man wants to be autonomous, not under the rule and sovereignty of God. Man wants to be like the prince of the power of the air, Lucifer, the evil-one, do what thy wilt. Be, sovereign unto thyself, follow what man wants, man’s will, not our creators will.

For this limited time, the creator of heaven and earth has allowed rebellion against His sovereignty. Why? To show that no effort to rule without Him benefits humanity or this planet. Ecc. 7:29:

Truly, this only I have found: That God made man upright, But they have sought out many schemes.”

In summary, we live in a world where our good and evil actions have direct consequences and indirect consequences upon us and those around us. God’s desire is that for all of our sakes we would obey Him that it might be well with us (Deuteronomy 5:29). Instead, what happens is that we choose our own way, and then we blame God for not doing anything about it. Such is the heart of sinful man.

But Jesus came to change men’s hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit, and He does this for those who will turn from evil and call on Him to save them from their sin and its consequences (2 Corinthians 5:17).

God does prevent and restrain some acts of evil. This world would be MUCH WORSE were God not restraining evil. At the same time, God has given us the ability to choose good and evil, and when we choose evil, He allows us, and those around us, to suffer the consequences of evil.

Rather than blaming God and questioning God on why He does not prevent all evil, we should be about the business of proclaiming the cure for evil and its consequences—Jesus Christ!

May God Bless and keep you my friends in Jesus Holy and Precious Name Amen!

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