If God is Good, Why is There so Much Bad in the World?
I want you to think for a moment, over the last few weeks. If you had to describe the last month would you say that it has been gumdrops and lollipops or something else? In the last month we have had some rough days here; two weeks ago Jean fell in the parking lot and broke her hand and three fingers. Last week Wayne lost his struggle with cancer, and then the family was involved in a car wreck on the way to the graveside.
That’s just the news from our family. If you were to go outside the walls of this church family you would hear stories like Victoria Garza, who is in the 6th grade, has been diagnosed with cancer. I mean I can understand when someone in their 50's or 60's gets diagnosed with cancer, but not a 12 year old. Then there are stories in the news like the woman who decided that she waned to be free from the responsibility of raising her children, so while they slept in their beds she set her house of fire and stood outside while they burned to death.
It seems like everyday we are met with another story of tragedy or loss, and so many of those stories leave us speechless, and wondering what is wrong with people. While we have been rather blessed that there has not been another earthquake like the one that ravaged Haiti or flooding that covered Nashville, or even a hurricane this year that struck the gulf coast, we understand that it could happen at any minute. I'll readily admit that there are times when it would be very easy to just throw up my hands and get pretty mad at God.
Over the last few weeks we have been looking at some questions that demand an answer. We have said that there is a God, the Bible is His Word without errors or contradictions, and last week we saw that Jesus is the Messiah.
Since these things are true, when we are faced with loss and pain our souls begin to turn and quake. In that doubt and despair we are often lead to ask another question that is the hardest for most of us, If God is good, why is there so much bad in the world?
I need to start by saying that I believe that is a very valid question. So when you ask that question don’t get too hard on yourself and think that you have lost all of your faith. God is big enough to answer any question we might have, including this one.
While I am not brash enough to claim that we can find a definitive answer to this question this morning, I do believe that we can look at this question through the filter of the Bible and remove the obstacle it is to our faith. Today I want us to look at six truths that won’t end suffering, won’t make evil seem any more right or fair, but that will give us a little better handle on both God’s goodness and the reality of bad things in this world.
Here’s the first thing we need to know: God is not the creator of evil and suffering.
I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve been asked, “Why didn’t God create a world where there was no bad stuff, no suffering, and no evil?” The answer to that question is, “He did.” In Genesis 1 it says when God first created the world, it was good.
But that leads to the question where did the bad stuff come from? When God created people, He created us with the ability to choose He gave us a free will. He did that so that we could express love to Him and to each other. You know it’s impossible to really, truly love unless we have a choice.
So God created us with the ability to choose. The problem is that we used our ability to choose to do evil. Look at your hands for a moment. These are the hands that you use to comfort a child, or to take food to a hungry person or to build something that was helpful to someone you love. But these are also the hands that you have used to take something that didn’t belong to you, or hit someone who made you mad, or to give the universal sign of disapproval when someone crossed you?
Our hands are capable of good and evil. that's why I struggle when we make a mess of things then expect God to take the blame. Because all too often that’s what we do.
There are two kinds of evil in this world. First, there’s Man-made evil, when we do things that hurt others. The majority of all the pain and suffering in this world is the result of things we do to each other.
You know I struggle when I see pictures of famine in the world. I have even been guilty of wondering how could a loving God allow that? But then I found a little bit of info. Do you know that every year we produce enough food on this planet to feed every living man, woman, boy and girl 3,000 calories a day with food left over? But because there’s corruption, and inefficiency, and apathy almost 30,000 people starve to death every day. And yet we still blame God for our negligence.
The second kind of evil is what’s called, Natural evil, like Hurricane Ike or the earth quake from earlier in the year. Did you know that natural evil is also the result using our freedom of choice to sin and do evil. Remember, back in Genesis 1 when God is creating the world. Over and over it says that God called the things He made “good”. But then we get to Genesis 3, where Adam and Eve sinned and then we read in verses 17-18 that as a result of their sin all of nature was affected.
Let me be clear; God did not create evil. He did not create suffering. He did not create death. But the only way He could create the potential for genuine goodness and genuine love to exist was to create us with the ability to choose. And our wrong choices, bad choices have brought sin, and evil, and pain, and suffering into this world. God did not create them.
Here’s the second thing we need to know God can and does use the bad stuff to accomplish good stuff
God can use pain to draw people to Himself. A few weeks ago the boys were playing football in the street in front of our house and Trafton tagged Rylan a little too hard and Rylan’s nose met the curb. Do you know what he did? He did what all hurt children do, he ran to find me for comfort and to be consoled. Suffering brings us to a place where we turn away from the hurtful and hateful things we do and run towards God.
When life is good and easy and pain free, we tend to forget about God, put Him up on the shelf. But when we suffer, when we experience heartache or disappointment, we’re more likely to turn to Him. God can use the bad stuff that happens in our lives to draw us to the best thing that could ever happen, an intimate relationship with Him that will last for eternity. And the truth is, any price is worth paying if it means coming to know God.
If we will allow Him to, God can use bad stuff to make us stronger and more like Jesus. Romans 5:3-4 says, We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.
I am sure you have heard that old saying, “No pain, no gain.” Most of the progress we make in the development of our character does not come when everything is smooth and easy. Rather it comes through a process that involves sacrifice, difficulties, trials, and pain.
Here’s the third thing we need to remember: Suffering is proof of God’s longsuffering.
There are many times that we wonder if God has the power to end suffering and get rid of evil, why doesn’t He just do it. But we need to understand that just because God hasn’t wiped out evil that doesn’t mean He won’t wipe it out someday.
2 Peter 3:9 says The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
If God was to judge the evil in the world right now, a lot of us would end up being judged. If God is going to be truly just, He’d have to take some of us out. God hasn’t fully dealt with evil yet, in part because He wants to extend grace to you and me.
Now someday God will deal with evil, but He’s holding back right now so that more people will have the opportunity to turn to Him and ask for forgiveness. The truth is, God has delayed cleaning up the evil in the world, because some of that evil is in us, and He wants to give us a chance to repent, to turn away from evil, before He judges the world. This is an example of His love, not His inability to do anything.
The fourth thing we need to know The bad stuff we experience here is nothing compared to the good stuff God has in store for His followers.
The last thing I want to do is minimize or trivialize anyone’s pain or suffering, but I think it helps us when we step back and get a long term perspective. Paul was the most influential leader in the early years of the church. He wrote almost half of the New Testament. He was beaten, snake bit, ship wrecked, and stoned and left for dead. And after all of that, look at what he wrote in Romans 8:18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Think about it this way. Let’s roll the calendar back to the first Monday of 2010, and let’s say that you had an absolutely horrible day. The alarm doesn’t go off and you get to work late. You have to leave work early so you can go to the dentist for a root canal, and in the middle of it, he runs out of anesthetic. You wrecked your car on the way home from the dentist, and when you got home, your spouse tells you your mother in law is coming to live with you. Then you find that your dog had chewed up your favorite shoes. And as you are getting ready for bed, the hose behind the commode cracks and fills the bathroom with water. It is a miserable day.
But then, for the rest of 2010, all the rest of the days of the year are just amazingly terrific. Your cousin wins the lottery and gives you $1 million, you get promoted to the dream job you’ve always wanted, you buy a coke and win tickets to the World Series and you catch a home run ball hit by Josh Hamilton that wins the Series for the Rangers, your marriage is idyllic. Your health is great. Everything is just wonderful for the rest of the year.
So on December 31st of this year somebody asks you, “So, how was your year?” What’s your response going to be? Well of course you would say “It was great!” But what about that first day? Well, yeah, I guess that was kind of rough. But the rest of the year was so wonderful, I had forgotten all about it.
That’s what heaven will be like! That doesn’t mean we deny the reality of pain and suffering in this world, but by the time we’ve been in heaven for 10 seconds, all the troubles of this life are going to seem insignificant. God will have wiped every tear from our eyes and they’ll all be a dim and distant memory, if we recall them at all.
So if someone asks us then, “How’s your existence been?” We’re going to say, “Wonderful!” But didn’t you have a painful life? “That’s true. But it pales in comparison to the wonders God has given me since.”
Quickly the fifth thing we need to know Even though this world does contain pain and suffering, God promises to walk with us through the bad stuff
Once again Paul writes in Romans 8:35-39, Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul doesn’t say that we are going to immune to trouble or calamity, or persecution, or hunger, or danger, or death. Rather he says that when we face those trials in our life, nothing will be able to separate us from God and His love. That’s God’s promise to us.
Finally we need to know We decide whether the bad stuff in this world is going to harden us or soften us.
Jesus is pretty clear in John 16:33 when He said that in this world we will all have trials and sorrow. Those things hit every one of us. But we all react differently to those trials. We’ve seen one person go through pain and trial and suffering, and become so bitter they reject God, and become hard and angry and sullen. And then we’ll see someone else go through similar suffering and they have no bitterness at all. Instead they turn to God and become more loving and more caring and more sensitive to others.
Why does one person lose a child to a drunk driver and they descend into a seemingly bottomless pit of rage and despair while another person experiences a similar loss and they turn outward to help others? Because, our free will can be our best friend or our worst enemy, it is up to us whether we will benefit from suffering, whether we will learn from it and move on.
If we take this down to brass tacks we see that it’s a trust issue. Do we trust God? Do we believe that He is in control of the world? Do we trust that He knows better that we do?
It might help if we read the rest of the words Jesus said in John 16:33, After he said, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows…” Jesus said, But take heart, because I have overcome the world. Through Christ, God says to us, I am with you. I will never leave you, nor forsake you. I am with you, and I have overcome the world.
Questions To Consider
Have you ever felt like everything in your life was going right? If so, when was the last time you felt this way?
Have you been taught that if you do the right things, God will take care of you? In what ways do you agree or disagree with that now?
What do we do when we don’t get the answers we are hoping for?
Would having all the answers fix things?
Romans 8:18 What perspective does Paul have about suffering?
How does suffering change our perspective?
Romans 8:31-38 What source of comfort does the Christian have that those living in the world do not?