The devastation in the news seems to get worse and worse. Earthquakes are increasing. Tornadoes have been sweeping through the alley at a record pace. Why do bad things happen to good people? The financial cost is devastation to towns, families, and individuals. When many homeowners go to fix their home, they realize that their insurance doesn’t cover certain “Acts of God.” This salt in the wound seems to imply that God is punishing them.
As we reflect on the tornadoes, we can’t help but to ask, Why, God?” In fact, Why doesn’t God stop evil in general?
In Mark 6, we see the pain of evil and unjust killing up close. I remember reading this passage ten years ago. Jesus’s cousin John the Baptist is beheaded in an act of senseless violence.
21 Then an opportune day came when Herod on his birthday gave a feast for his nobles, the high officers, and the chiefmen of Galilee. 22 And when Herodias’ daughter herself came in and danced, and pleased Herod and those who sat with him, the king said to the girl, “Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you.” And she said, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 And the king was exceedingly sorry; yet, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he did not want to refuse her. 27 Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded his head to be brought. And he went and beheaded him in prison, 28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother.29 When his disciples heard of it, they came and took away his corpse and laid it in a tomb.
Jesus didn’t stop the violence. Jesus felt the pain of human cruelty. He gets the news on a busy day of ministry. He is in pain. He is crushed. He knows what we felt on September 11th. He lost his ministry partner, his friend, and his cousin. If Jesus, who was perfect, experienced cruelty in an unjust world, why do we think we will be exempt?
What are the explanation for bad things happening to good people? There are many explanations that philosophies and religions give to this difficult question. Some of them have implied that God is angry. Others have suggested that evil is a reason not to believe in God. Some have said that God is love, all powerful, and all knowing… But he only knows what might happen, not what will happen. This explanation denies God’s power and his full omniscience. So, what are our options to deal with the problem of evil. The world’s religions can be reduced to 5 basic thoughts. Here they are:
The Bible says that evil is NOT always your fault. It is NOT God punishing you. The Bible does NOT teach Karma, though many Christians are caught in the guilt laden thinking of karma’s “universe-is-punishing-you” for wrongdoing in this life and the last. The Bible does NOT teach that suffering is an illusion like Buddha. Evil is real. Pain is bad. Grief is heart breaking. The Bible also teaches that death is the “last enemy.” Death is not a normal part of life. It is not the hero and catalyst to our evolutionary progress. It is not a normal part of the cycle of life. I am afraid Elton John is wrong as the Lion King sings about the “circle of life…” The Bible says that we were not made for this world. We were made for a world without death, suffering, evil, tornadoes, and devastation. The echo of that world still resides in our souls as we compare this world with its brokenness to a faint image in our hearts of the way things “ought to be.” The Bible agrees that things shouldn’t be the way they are. If you struggle with the problem of evil, you are already thinking like Jesus.
The Bible says that we live between two worlds. We live between the world that was perfect and the world that will one day be perfect again. We live in a war zone. We live in a battle zone between good and evil. Jesus says, “In this world, you will have tribulation.” Peter tells us not “to be surprised when the fiery trial comes upon us.” The Bible prepares us for the reality of a broken world so we will be prepared for the pain and be ready to help others. The Bible gives us full freedom to grieve and mourn at the pain because we know that it shouldn’t be this way. A combination of free choice and a broken creation causes pain and hurt. This world itself is broken causing hurricanes, tsunamis, and tornadoes.
So, why are there tornadoes, tsunamis, and 9-11 tragedies? The Bible is clear that the creation is groaning for God to come and fix this broken world.
Romans 8:22 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now
Jesus said that the brokenness of creation will increase like the birth pangs for delivery as we approach Christ’s coming. Jesus said that things will get worse as we and the world long for His return.
Now, the atheist will scoff at this idea. They will build an emotional arsenal of bad stories to prove a good God cannot exist; however, what is atheism’s answer to the problem of evil? It’s one thing to critique Christianity, quite another to offer your own explanation. While Jesus said, “NOT YET” to God’s fixing of evil… Atheism says, “NOT EVER!” While Christianity says, “Death and pain are abnormal,” atheism says, “Death and pain are the natural part of billions of years of evolutionary process.” Those who reject faith and become atheists because of the problem of evil are choosing the worse possible alternative. They shake their fist at God… “You better fix evil and punish it.” Then they turn around and say, “A loving God wouldn’t judge.” Hmmm, which is it? And then after the schizophrenic outburst, he says, “Never mind. I have a better solution. There is no solution to evil and our study of the universe proves that it’s always this way. And death has made us stronger and helped us evolve.” Ahhhh…. The solution to evil is “get used to it” and stop hoping for anything different… (Unless you want to use the argument to criticize people of faith… Then go ahead and use it regularly and often.)
As to wars, attacks, and human tragedy, Jesus warned us that these are a horrible part of living in our broken creation. Jesus said:
Mark 13: 7 But when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled; for such things must happen, but the end is not yet. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles.[a] These are the beginnings of sorrows.
The good news is that God will fix suffering. He does store up every tear and every prayer. He will judge evil. He will reward every good act. There is a solution to suffering. It may be frustrating that He has not fixed it yet… But He will fix it. We can rub that hope into our grief.
As you can see above, these are the 5 worldviews. These are the only answers to the problem of evil (except Scientology which blames evil on Aliens.) The Potato represents The Bible’s answer to suffering. The Tomato represents religion’s answer to evil (A Christianized version of karma that is foreign to the Scripture). The Cheesecake represents the teachings of Buddha while the hamburger explains the view of naturalism (the philosophy behind atheism). Finally, the bread offers the explanation of Hinduism. As you read them, you can both identify where you are, but I hope you can see the real hope offered by Jesus Christ.
For more information, check out www.godonomics.com As a pastor I walk with families through the worst of the the worst pain. Here is a clip from the DVD Godonomics where I explain the Bible’s answer to the problem of pain