A common argument against the existence of God is the presence of evil and suffering. How can God be truly sovereign if suffering and evil is allowed to exist? Is God all-powerful, but just doesn’t care, or is He caring but not all-powerful?
I think if we’re going to ask these questions, we need to reflect on what evil really is. Is evil just the actions, or does it extend to thoughts and intentions? Where do you want God to stop when it comes to eliminating evil from the world? Do you want Him to destroy all evil, or just some of it? Jesus stated that hatred and anger is just as evil as murder (Matthew 5:22), and lust as evil as rape (Matthew 5:27). If all of evil is purged from this Earth, we are going along with it.
Evil isn’t just something that exists on Earth that God can’t get rid of. Evil is a decision we choose every time we reject God in favor of the world. Evil is anything that opposes God. We create evil. We embraced it way back when Adam and Eve decided to turn against God. At that moment, we were banished from the Garden, where God does not allow evil, to Earth, where we have brought evil. We are separated from God because we chose to be. Evil exists because we brought it here. We gave into Satan’s temptation, and continue to struggle between Satan’s temptations and God’s promise. What happened when Satan turned against God? He was banished from Heaven (Luke 10:18, Revelation 12:9). What happened when we turned against God? We were banished from the Garden (Genesis 3:23).
The truth is: God can eliminate evil. He can get rid of it. He can, and He did. We have been separated from Him, and so has the Enemy. But the amazing and incredible part of the story is he allowed us to live, that someday we may return to Him. And yet we see in the scriptures that despite every attempt from God to show us His mercies and grace, there were still those who chose to reject Him. And from this rejection of God spawns all the evil that we witness in the world: the murder, the homocide, the rape, the slavery, the injustice. Do the victims deserve justice? Absolutely. Are the sins of those oppressing greater than the individual sins of the oppressed? Absolutely not. All sin is equal.
The fact of the matter is that no matter how oppressive someone may be, that person can never have an impact on the eternal fate of those who are oppressed. In the end everyone is judged according to what they have done (Romans 2:6). Everyone is responsible for their own actions. Too often we look at the suffering in the world and we blame God, when really man is to blame. Granted, there are circumstances where man does not directly cause the suffering (natural disasters, sickness, etc.), but even still, we should not blame God. God stated Himself that He would never again destroy the Earth by a flood (Genesis 9:11). If God were to destroy one people for their sin via natural disaster, He would have to destroy all peoples, because all sin is equal. We can rest in His covenant that states that He would never do this. We live in a fallen world not because God neglects it, but because man has corrupted it. Suffering and evil are products of this fallen world, not God’s neglect.
Many times people look at the book of Job and attribute his suffering to God letting it happen. This is not the case at all. God only let happen to Job what He knew Job could handle, and to prove to Satan that Job’s commitment to Him was not dependent on how well He provides for him. We should instead look at the book of Job as an example of God’s sovereign power. God forbid Satan from doing certain things. He drew lines and Satan obeyed. Satan rules over this fallen world, causing temptation, evil, and suffering, but we can rest assured that God triumphs over Satan, evil, and restores those who are suffering. Jesus stated that although we may face hardships in this world, we should take heart in the fact that He has overcome the world (John 16:33).
It is clear that God does not turn a blind eye to our sufferings. Jesus wept when Lazarus died (John 11:35), showing His deep compassion for His children. When we are sad, God is sad also, wiping away every tear (Revelation 21:4), and hearing our every cry for help (Isaiah 30:19). He LONGS to be gracious to us and He RISES to show us compassion (Isaiah 30:18). We are not distant from God when we are suffering, no matter how tough it may be. No, we are closest to Him! God reveals to us that His grace alone is sufficient for us, and that His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
So the real question is this: How can God truly be just and allow our sin to go unpunished? Why does He let us walk this Earth when we consistently reject Him in favor of the things of this world? How, although we sin, are we saved from God’s wrath? The answer is Christ. We deserve death, Hell, and the divine wrath of sin for all the crimes we have committed against an infinitely holy God, from our thoughts to our actions. Even still, we can be saved from that wrath by His grace through our faith in Christ Jesus, who He sent to bare the sins due us on the cross.
No amount of oppression can separate us from that Love. No wave of the ocean can wash it away. No bullet can pierce it. No words can prove it wrong. No evil can overtake it. Love never fails. First, however, we must accept His love. We must put our whole faith in to it. We must trust it, go all in, bet our lives on it. It’s all we’ll ever need, and we all desperately need it.
God cares and we can be sure of it: Jesus took on the cup of the wrath of God so that we may be re-united with Him. Let us rejoice in our sufferings and keep in mind that “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” - Romans 5:3-5
in His grip,