Why does God allow bad things to happen?

By Pastor Jeff Stott

This week Adam Lanza, a 20-year-old, shot his mother at their Connecticut home, then went to an elementary school and killed 20 children and six adults before taking his own life. Tragic and horrible events like this cause non-Christians and Christians to ask tough questions: Why does God allow evil to happen? If God is all-powerful, why didn’t He stop it? If God is all-knowing, couldn’t He have done something before it happen? If God is loving, then why does He allow bad things to happen? Where was God when Mr. Lanza was aiming at children and pulling the trigger? These are important questions and people, especially Christians, should discuss these and have a ready answer, but I cannot answer them all in a short blog. However, I do what to give some thoughts that can provide some direction.

  • Our world is as Jesus predicted. Jesus said, “You will have suffering in this world” (John 16:33). It is good to know that we have a Savior who really gets it – who sees this fallen world for what it is and who tells the truth about it. God never promised us, this side of heaven, there would be no death, no pain, no suffering, and no heartache.
  • God did not create or cause evil. The Bible says, “God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone” (James 1:13). We cannot and should not blame God when someone does an evil act. God is not the cause behind it, but man’s sinful and evil desires.
  • The cause behind most suffering is human. While it doesn’t remove the pain, it can be important to remind people who are tempted to shake their fists at God for the suffering in the world that the vast majority of human pain has been inflicted directly or indirectly by other people. God says clearly, “These have chosen their ways and delight in their abominations…. They did what was evil in My sight and chose what I didn’t delight in” (Isaiah 66:3-4). People chose to do what God doesn’t want done. Ecclesiastes 7:29 says that “God made people upright, but they pursued many schemes.” Blame the person that did the evil, not God.
  • God can bring good out of evil. Though this truth is often bantered about in ways that are insensitive to the person who is suffering, it is still true that while bad things happen to people, He can bring good out of it, sooner or later. A very clear example is found in the story of Joseph. Scripture clearly says that Joseph’s brothers were wrongly jealous of him (Gen. 37:11), hated him (Gen. 37:4,5,8), wanted to kill him (Gen. 37:20), and did wrong when they cast him into a pit (Gen. 37:24) and then sold him into slavery in Egypt (Gen. 37:28). Yet later Joseph could say to his brothers, “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20).
  • We are not to repay evil with evil. As believers, we are not to pay back evil with evil. We are told in 1 Peter 3:8 to “be compassionate and humble, (9) not paying back evil for evil….” We are not to take vengeance or try to get even. This does not mean we are to avoid protecting ourselves or others, nor does it mean we should not call the law. We are not to plot revenge by coming up with an evil scheme to harm someone who has harmed us.
  • God will someday remove and judge all evil. Some people criticize God by saying, “A good God would get rid of evil, so bad things don’t happen to good people, especially children.” In His wisdom and patience, God has decided to let people make choices, good and evil. From time to time someone will walk into a school and shoot innocent children, a spouse will be abused, and children will be beaten by their parents. As long as there are people and sin we will have to watch evil continue to happen at different levels of intensity. However, one day God will remove and judge all evil. Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed for people to die once – and after this, judgment.” In Romans 2:2-9 we get a glimpse into this judgment, “We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is based on the truth. Do you really think – anyone of you who judges those who do such things yet do the same – that you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? But because of your hardness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed. He will repay each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but wrath and indignation to those who are self-seeking and disobey the truth, but are obeying unrighteousness; affliction and distress for every human being who does evil….”

The Bible repeats over and over that unjust suffering, pain, and evil exist. Humans continue to hurt, abuse, and kill each other in a variety of ways. This will only end when the Lord returns and as believers we live in His presence called heaven where there is no more pain, sorrow, death, or heartache. Until then, we are to be salt and light to a dark world. We are to give the reason for the hope we have. We are to point people to Jesus Christ!

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