To the Word

Reflections on the call to live by the Word of God

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Location: Mud Creek, Tennessee, United States

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

The What-is-he?

Since shortly after Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, human beings have struggled with the question, Why does a good, loving God allow evil in the world? Philosophy has a name for this issue: theodicy. Theodicy is the effort to explain the goodness of God in the face of all the evil we see around us.

The Bible addresses this question from start to finish. The opening chapters of Genesis describe how evil came into the world, and the final verses of Revelation deal with the ultimate triumph of good. Job and his friends wrestled with this question around the time of Abraham, and Jesus himself faced the issue in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross.

Human reason can give us a simple answer to the question. In a nutshell, we have evil in the world because God loved us enough to give us the power to choose. If some persons choose evil, then other persons will suffer unjustly. The only way to do away with evil in the world would be to do away with free will for human beings.

As simple as that answer is for our minds, however, it does little to comfort our hearts when we’re face-to-face with the pain of a fallen world: sickness, death, abuse, addiction, injustice, broken relationships. Worse yet, it does nothing to answer the question of why God sometimes intervenes to help people while for others our prayers go unanswered.

If we look at these difficult facts strictly with our human eyes, we may fall into despair. We may even begin to look at answered prayer as a heavenly equivalent to the lottery: just enough winners to get our hopes up, but too few for us ever having much chance of winning. If we ever reach that point, we need not only a change of mind, but of heart as well.

The real answer is found not in reason but in relation. We can try and try, think and think, reason and reason, but no one in this life will fully understand why God does everything he does. We simply don’t know why God brings amazing healing to one Christian while allowing another to suffer or die, despite the fervent prayers of the saints. We cannot fully explain why one child is born healthy and strong into a loving, Christian family while another is born into a shattered household teeming with abuse, neglect, and sin.

But those who put their trust in the God revealed in the Bible still have hope despite all the evil in the world. The Bible tells us of a holy God who created us and longs for us to be in a loving relationship with him. The answer to evil is found not in focusing on the evil we’ve done (although we should never ignore it) but in pursuing a relationship with the God who made us in his image. The question is ultimately not “What do we see” or even “What do we think,” but “Who do we trust?” When our hearts fully trust in the goodness and wisdom of God, we can stand against the world’s evil with obedience and hope. Having that kind of hope is not easy—especially when the weight of a fallen world is bearing down on us—but it’s worth all we have and all we are to be in a relationship where we trust God no matter what happens around us.

Copyright 2004, New York Avenue Church of Christ


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