We continued our "Seek Truth" series at axis Wednesday by trying to address the really difficult question of "If God is good, why do bad things happen?" I've been serving as a pastor at Grace Community Church for nearly 10 years and during that time I have seen some really difficult things happen ... deaths of the old and the young, families broken apart, abuse, jobs lost, people lied to and lied about, I've witnessed kids in a third world country literally living in a garbage dump and digging for food for the day out of the trash. I've also seen amazingly good things happen as well ... addictions broken, marriages restored, families brought back together, orphans rescued, the starving fed. In our world the potential for both good and bad exists. The difficult question is if God is good (and the Bible says He is), why would He even allow bad things to happen? Why not just put a stop to it all?
I tried to talk to our students openly and honestly about it all and I realize that this is one of those issues that you can't really wrap up nicely, put a bow on it, and then be done with it. There's a bit of a tension that exists and we may have to live with that tension. What I believe to be true are these things:
- The Bible addresses the issue. It doesn't back away from it. Jesus said in John 16:30 "In this world you will have trouble; but take heart, I have overcome the world." He never said expect everything to be easy. He spoke the exact opposite ... expect life to be difficult. He never sugar-coated life. But, He did not leave us without hope, either ... "take heart, I have overcome the world."
- I don't believe God created evil. I do believe that God created the potential for evil when He created mankind with the freedom to choose God or NOT to choose God. The video below speaks of this and is worth the minute and a half that it lasts.
- People hurting other people is the cause of most suffering in the world. There's a lot of injustice in our world and a majority of it is caused by selfish people living life on their own terms and causing others to suffer because of it.
- We often get upset because God doesn't seem to do anything about the injustices around us. But, what if the tables were turned? What if God looked at us and said "What will YOU do about it?"
- Sin has an impact on our world. When one chooses sin, destruction is the natural result. The enemy comes only to "steal, kill, and destroy." (John 10:30). It's all he knows. Our world is under the curse of sin (Genesis 3 and Romans 8). Romans 8:22 actually speaks of our world being in the "pains of childbirth" because of the curse of sin. I've seen the birth of all 3 of my children and with each birth I remember thinking "I'm so glad I'm not a woman!" It's painful. I saw the agony of my wife. The Bible describes sins effect on the world as incredibly painful and it's crying out for relief from the curse of sin ... as we all are.
- God will ultimately judge evil. God is amazingly patient with us (Psalm 103:10, 2 Peter 3:9). But, Galatians 6:7 tells us "Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." A day will come when God says enough is enough.
- Jesus suffered too. Think of what Jesus went through ... abuse, betrayal, torture, murdered ... we do not serve a God who is unsympathetic to our suffering. When we hurt, He hurts. And, our hurt ultimately brings us to grips with our longing for heaven ... we long for more than what this world offers.
- God can bring good out of bad. I've had some difficult things happen in my life and, although I didn't necessarily see it at the time, I can look back and see that those difficulties were used to build character and strength in my life. Some hurts may never go away. But, a hurt is an opportunity for dependence upon God in a way that we never would have had otherwise. Again, I'm not saying this is easy or fun to go through, but the difficult times can be used to build strength in our lives. I remember watching the Steve Jobs commencement address at Stanford a few years ago and he shared openly how some of the hardest times in his life made him a better person.
This is an incredibly difficult issue and there are many others who address it much better than I do (many of my thoughts are from The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask by Mark Mittelberg), but the reality of it is, no matter how well one addresses the issue, hurt is still hurt and none of us enjoy it or want to see others go through it. That makes it incredibly difficult to accept ANY reason for it to happen. But, I believe that in the midst of our hurts, God truly desires to walk with us and He hurts with us too.