As we continue our Defend the Kingdom apologetics series, we reach one of the most controversial questions out there. A question that turns many people away from the Christian faith and belief in God all together. It is a question that we must all wrestle with, and something that will certainly impact all of us here on this Earth.
If God is all-loving and all-powerful, why is there suffering and evil in this world?
Why would God allow people to starve if He has the power to feed them? We live in a time when terrorism is a real fear, but how can God allow terrorism to happen at all? Murders, kidnappings, racism, and corruption - these things happen on a daily basis - why? In our own personal lives we know people who suffer from disease, have dysfunctional families, are subject to bullying… If God is all powerful and all loving, then why must evil and suffering continue?
According to Isaiah 6:3, God is holy. Psalm 7:11 says that God is righteous. Deuteronomy 32:4 says God is just, and Daniel 4:17-25 shows that God is sovereign and in control of all things. We can gather from these verses that God is capable of preventing evil and that God desires to rid the universe of evil. So why doesn’t He take it away? Why does evil persist?!
Maybe the most understandable way we can answer this question is to look at three options God could use to remove evil from this world. Let's see if any of them could work...
Option 1: God could change everyone’s personality so that they cannot sin. This would be a great option if we all wanted to be brainless robots. Since we would be programmed to always do what is right, we wouldn’t have the choice between right and wrong, so there would be no meaningful relationships between us and Him. We would be forced to love God, which isn’t very loving at all. Honestly, there really wouldn't be a possibility to have meaningful relationships with anyone, since we'd be forced to do good - there would be no choice to have any ulterior motive in any situation at all, and no authenticity in any interaction.
Option 2: God could make up for people’s evil actions through supernatural power 100% of the time. So, for example, God would just stop the drunk driver from causing a car wreck, He would stop the gunman from robbing 7-11, and He would stop the terrorists from committing terrible acts of violence. Although this option sounds nice, let’s take it a bit deeper. We want God to stop the obvious evil, but what about the lesser evils that we commit that affect other people? Should God only stop murder, or should He also stop the uncontrollable angry thoughts you have towards a person? Should He only stop the bank robber, or also stop the times you steal answers for a test or take a cookie when you’re not supposed to? Should He only stop the terrorist, or should He also stop the times you terrorize someone by making fun of them to make yourself seem funny? Should God stop only the liar that gets away with a huge crime, or should he stop the times you lie to get yourself out of trouble? It is easy to wish for God to take away the major obvious evil things, but then He’d have to take away all evils. Since we constantly struggle with these lesser-evils, it now looks like He is controlling our every move and it starts to look robotic again. And maybe deep down, we don’t really want God to take all our faults away (but that’s a whole different rabbit trail itself…).
Option 3: God could judge and remove all those who commit evil acts. If God went this route, say goodbye to all of your close friends and family because they have all committed and continue to commit evil acts. But then again, you commit them too, so say goodbye to yourself. And I could stop writing this blog because, yep, I'd be a goner too... Just the fact that God allows evil and suffering to exist for a time shows how great His mercy is for all of humanity, because we all deserve to be wiped away from the planet.
Instead of these three options, God has created a real world with real choices - and these choices have real consequences that affect other people. Because of Adam’s choice to sin, the world is impacted by his decision and we now live under the curse of sin (Romans 5:12). And there will be a day when God does judge sin and make everything new. Christians will live with Him in perfection and paradise with all suffering taken away. But God purposefully “delays" that time so that more people can come to know Him and repent of their sins (2 Peter 3:9). And until that day comes, God is concerned with evil and hates sin. He judges nations/rulers who disregards justice and pursues evil. He created law in the Old Testament as a guide to avoid sin and punish evil. In the New Testament, God says the governments are established to provide justice and protect the innocent from evil (Romans 13).
It is God’s ultimate desire for everyone to be in a loving relationship with Him, and He went through the most intense suffering Himself for this to happen (John 3:16).
Jesus came to change our hearts through the power of the Spirit, and all who trust in Him for forgiveness are saved from their sin and the consequence of sin: Hell (2 Corinthians 5:17). In infinite love, God gives us the ability and free will to choose good or evil, and when we choose evil, He allows us and those around us to suffer the consequences of evil.