Why Does God Let Evil Happen?
- Jennifer Greenberg Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2019 2 Oct
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved Jesus. I’ve believed God is good and he is sovereign. From the placement of atoms, to the orbit of the stars, I know God controls it all. However, as someone who has endured child abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse, stalking, and slander, I’ve also wondered, “If God is good, and if he’s in control, then why does God let evil happen?”
I’ve come to find, ironically, that it’s exactly because God is good, patient, and sovereign. That may seem backwards, but let me explain.
Practically Speaking, God Creates Life
Think about your genealogy; all the millions of people – good and bad – who resulted in you. You and I descend from evildoers; thieves, murderers, rapists, drug dealers, human traffickers, and liars. If God had immediately judged those people’s sins, or blotted them out of existence, you and I would not exist.
Before my parents conceived me, my dad was already who he is today. He abused my mother. And I remember him joking about cruel or violent things he did during his teen or college years. However, had my mother never loved him, they’d never have had me. I would not exist. My children would not exist.
Yet, before time was set in motion, before the foundations of the earth were laid, God loved us. He loved me. He loved my kids. And he loved you. He knew a great deal of evil would occur before you and I came into being. He was not unlike a woman who knows she must endure the agonies of pregnancy and labor before she can hold her beautiful baby.
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” — Ephesians 1:4-5
Biblically Speaking, Scripture Shows Victory in the Presence of Evil
But it’s not enough to say, “Practically speaking, here’s why God lets evil happen.” We need to look to God’s word. We need to find Biblical examples. So, here are a few stories I’ve found enlightening.
Selected for her beauty and sexual appeal, Esther was drafted into the harem of a foreign king. She didn’t want to go, but she had no choice. Objectified, sexualized, and taken from her home, Esther was introduced to the king.
But the king came to love and respect Esther. And because Esther found herself in this situation, she was able to save her people, the Israelites, from genocide.
Despite the sins of misogyny, racism, and lust, God worked all things together for good.
As a teenager, Joseph was beaten up and sold into slavery by his own brothers. He was sexually harassed by his master’s wife, who falsely accused him of raping her.
While in prison, word of Joseph’s prophetic abilities reached the ears of Pharaoh himself. So impressed was he by Joseph’s character, he put Joseph in charge of his entire household. When famine swept the land, as Joseph had predicted, he was in a position to provide food for all those in need.
Despite domestic violence, human trafficking, and sexual abuse, God worked all things together for good.
But God doesn’t relax in Heaven, working evil for good from a safe distance, does he? On the contrary, he gets right down into the pain and suffering with us. He became human—Jesus Christ—and endured slander, mockery, betrayal, abandonment, torture, and even murder, so that you and I could be reconciled with God.
Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins—a price too steep for you and I to ever bear—so that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life in Heaven.
God Doesn’t Cause, Plan, or Desire Evil
But God does give human beings free will. We can choose to love him, or not to love him. Those who choose to love him grow in goodness. Those who choose to hate him grow in evil. In his sovereignty, God causes the wicked deeds of wicked people to backfire, working all things together for good. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But eventually, he will.
You’ve likely noticed that because you’ve suffered, you’re better equipped to understand, help, and sympathize with others who are suffering. Like Joseph, perhaps you and I can now tell our abusers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good, to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20. Certainly, Jesus himself can say he suffered at the hands of evil people, to accomplish what is still being done right now; the saving of many souls.
Hell is Real
Although God’s mercy and love are vaster and mightier than any ocean, God doesn’t give evil a free pass. Our ancestors who were evil didn’t escape justice. If they repented, they’re in heaven, because Jesus took their punishment. But if they did not repent, they’re in hell, because God is holy and just.
God sees everything. There is no sin, no matter how small or how secret, that escapes his notice. There is no statute of limitations in his courtroom. If we’ve been wronged, we will see justice. We will feel closure. All things will be put right in Heaven.
Thanks to God’s mercy, he’s postponed his justice until the afterlife, so that many people—including you and I—could be born, live, and seek his face. And when we die, from God’s perspective, we don’t cease to exist. We don’t pass on to some strange new plane. We come home.
“In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye…the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed…Then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’” –
Jennifer Greenberg was abused by her church-going father. Yet she is still a Christian. In her courageous, compelling book, Not Forsaken, she reflects on how God brought life and hope in the darkest of situations. Jenn shows how the gospel enables survivors to navigate issues of guilt, forgiveness, love, and value. And she challenges church leaders to protect the vulnerable among their congregations. Her reflections offer Biblical truths and gospel hope that can help survivors of abuse as well as those who walk alongside them.
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