Three weeks ago Pastor Lanier kicked off a new, four-part series called “Questions & Answers”. We’re shining a light on this important subject of “worldview”. In our first installment, Lanier helped us answer that foundational question, “How can we know what’s true?” Next we considered whether science has made God obsolete. If you missed either of those messages, they’re available at tcc.org. Today we’ll seek to gain some insight into the thorny question—“Why does God allow bad things to happen?” Often this is called “the problem of evil”. We differ on what we think the world ought to be like, but everyone agrees that something has gone wrong; this world is broken. The Greek philosopher Epicurus put it this way: Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God? (When Paul was in Athens he debated Epicurean philosophers; see Acts 17.)
Biblical authors understood suffering and despair (see Psalm 88). Although Epicurus dismissed God as either weak or wicked, the author of Psalm 88, however, never lost his faith in the goodness and power of God. What made the difference? Humility (Psalm 131). It takes humility to live with the tension of not understanding suffering, and yet to allow God to be God. Without humility, no answers will satisfy.
Today we’re asking the question, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to people?” “Bad” things happen for the same reason “good” things do: because people are significant (Psalm 8). We’re the pinnacle of God’s creation—and as a result, we’re capable of great good and great evil. Our choices—for good or for evil— cannot be trivial. We cure polio, and we create atomic bombs. We build homes for Habitat for Humanity—and we build concentration camps. We spring into action for disaster relief and we enslave people to dig for blood diamonds. So, my first answer to the question: “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” is because he made us so significant, and humans use their potential for good and for evil. We cannot be insignificant. We’re made in God’s image.
But there’s more: Think about a time you did something which you now regret. In retrospect, of course—we know that we’d prefer to have been spared the broken relationships, lost money, and wasted time we’ve experienced. But in the moment, without the wisdom of hindsight, we want absolute freedom to call the shots in our lives. And some of those choices are wise and good, and we cherish them the rest of our lives. But plenty of them became the raw material for deep regrets. So, the second reason why God allows bad things to happen is because he created us to be able to make choices. And, in retrospect, we learn that many of our choices are unwise, dangerous, or downright evil. But the alternative is that you be a robot or a slave, and you don’t want either of those options.
But our situation is not hopeless, because God is sovereign. Life is like a cruise ship: we the “passengers” make real, consequential choices (for good and for evil), but God— the “captain”—controls the final destination of the ship.. God promises to redeem all suffering in believers’ lives (Romans 5:1-5). The murder of Christ is the greatest act of evil ever, but notice all the good that God brought out of it: The redemption of the world! And God will redeem our suffering: Christ understands your suffering, he sympathizes with our sufferings (Hebrews 4:14-16). Christ shows us how to suffer without becoming bitter or vindictive (1 Peter 2:21-23). Christ uses our sufferings to make us like him—humble and loving (Romans 8:28-39). Christ gave us the Holy Spirit to empower us to follow his example (Acts 1:8a & Galatians 5:22-23). And, when we fail, when we do sin, Christ forgives us (1 John 2:1)!
Christ even uses our sufferings evangelistically. As non-believers see us responding in love and forgiveness, it draws many to the Savior (1 Peter 2:12). Our Savior really understands our suffering. He really cares. He really brings good out of evil in this world. He did it through his own cross, and he’ll do it through the crosses we have to bear as well (James 1:2-4; Titus 2:13-14). Many people consider the existence of evil and suffering to be a huge obstacle to belief in the Christian worldview, but in fact that’s exactly what the Bible is all about: how evil entered into God’s good world, what Christ did to conquer it, and how we should respond to its continued existence in our world today.
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
- Don’t blame God for the existence of evil in the world—we did it!
- Realize that our sovereign, good God is “Captain” of this ship and he uses evil to accomplish his good plans. Trust God and cooperate with him.
- If hard things are threatening to overwhelm you—let your church family know! We want to help you. Examples include:
- Join a Community Group – Want to get really connected, engaged, and growing? Then, TCC Community Groups are for you!
- Financial Peace University is for anyone who needs improvement in getting out of debt, better budgeting, investing in wise financial decisions, or just simply sharpening your financial skills.
- Grow through your grief – GriefShare is a small group that walks with you to turn your mourning into joy.
- Free Biblical Counseling – No matter what you are facing there is hope!
TAKE ONE STEP
Each week, write down one doable concrete step of obedience, small or large that you will put into practice this week. (James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”)