For many of us, most of the time, the world is a beautiful place – sunsets, falling in love, evocative music, a party with friends, pets and the surf, for example. But we know that isn’t the whole story.
Animals prey on each other, tsunamis and earthquakes can kill thousands, while war, rape, murder, child trafficking, starvation and grief are only too real for many people.
Have you ever wondered why a good God would create a world which, while it has much beauty, can also lead to such heartache and misery? I have, many times.
How can anyone still believe?
Despite all the terrible things that happen many people keep on believing, while many others give up. Which is the more rational response?
There’s no god?
The most obvious conclusion to draw is that there’s no god, or at least, not a good one. But like many ‘obvious’ conclusions, it seems to be an over-simplification as soon as it is examined.
- It has to ignore the mass of evidence that God exists. It provides no explanation for the universe existing, nor that it is so amazingly set up to allow life. It ignores the experience of millions of people that God not only exists, but has communicated with them or healed them or put their lives back together in amazing ways. And it ignores the evidence that Jesus really lived and taught and healed, and showed us who God is, and reassures us that God has things somehow going in the right direction.
- It also ignores the fact that to say the universe, and God (if he exists) are truly evil, we need an objective, true ethical standard to base this judgment on. Without God, we don’t seem to be able to find one.
There’s no problem?
On the other hand, many christians seem to have no problem saying that, despite indications to the contrary, everything’s fine with the world God made – the only problem is with what we humans have done to corrupt God’s world.
But this too seems to be an over-simplification. Animals preying on each other, earthquakes and stillborn babies are forms of suffering that are generally not caused by human sin. And even if all the suffering was caused by people, God must have known this would happen, so why did he allow it? Could the world not have been at least a little less hurtful and evil?
Facing all the facts
I can’t swallow either of these reactions. The first misses more than half of the evidence; the second is a little better, but seems both heartless and unreal. Is there a third option?
I believe there is. We should accept that both sets of facts as facts of life. There is a God, and there is a problem.
The evil in the world is very troubling and deeply distressing, but it doesn’t negate all the positive evidence for God. It doesn’t show that God doesn’t exist. But perhaps it shows that God isn’t quite what we thought he was. Perhaps we have misunderstood him (not surprising, really!) and what he’s on about.
We also need a little humility. I don’t understand why God has allowed things to turn out this way. I can’t understand why some people experience unimaginable evil and many people live lives of quiet desperation or deprivation, while I have blessing upon blessing. It doesn’t seem right, and it certainly isn’t fair.
But it seems to be the case. God exists and gross evil exists. And I cannot explain it.
So where does that leave us?
As a christian, I have two responses:
- I believe part of Jesus’ message to the human race is that, despite what me may sometimes think, there is a God, he really cares, and he will put all things right one day. We may have trouble believing that, but I can only trust Jesus that this is so.
- But it doesn’t stop there. Jesus is putting things right now, and he calls those who follow him to be part of that. That is why, down through the ages right until now, his followers have cared for the underprivileged and suffering and fought for social justice. (To set all that out will take another post.) I should be part of that movement which he called the kingdom of God, and you can join in too.
I don’t understand why things are like they are, but I do know what I can do to make a positive difference. And that gives my life meaning amidst the chaos.
Read more about ideas mentioned here:
- God and evil, a detailed discussion of the problem of evil, summarised in How can God allow evil?
- Why believe?, a summary of the evidence for God, with links to more detailed discussion of the main points.
I have heard a few comments on this before and there are a few that make sense to me. A man goes to the orthodontist and gets braces and after a few years he gets them off and his teeth are nice straight and pertyy. He tells the orthodontist “wooowww thatnk you again. Amzaing! My teeth are so nice. God bless you!!” and in reply the orthodontist says “are you really a christian? You think a ‘loving God’ can actually exist if there are wars horrible things happening left and right?” and the man says “well since you fixed my teeth and the teeth of many, than why do alot of people still have bad teeth?” the orthodontist says, “well i cant help them if they wont come to me. I would love to help them but they wont come close enough for me tomhelp them” the man says “exactly. God tries to reach everyone, but they ignore and or dont want to heal”
Also i heard a cool one about a fox. Imagine you are walking through a forrest, and you cme across a fox caught in a snare. It is suffering and you want to help it, so you go closer, but the fox sees you, and tries to run. Know your thinking why the hell would a fox run away from me if i was just trying to help it? Well the fox cant reason like us humans can. They dont understand whats best for them. They try to run away from you but it keeps hurting itself and hurting itself, when it couldve been free if it had complied with you. Now imagine the fox gets extremely tired and you go closer but it tries to bite you and bite you. After a while the fox gives up and is to tired to resist you anymore. Now is the tricky part. In order to undo the snare, you have to push the leg farther in the snare. You hunters out there know what i mean. So you push the leg farther in, because you know whats best for it. You know that the suffering wont amount to the feeling of freedom itwill get after it is free. This accuratly portraits God. He knows whats best for us, and his knowledge is extremely expansive, after all he is the creator of the universe. He knows that 80 years on earth is the equivalent to the micro second you were born. After that microsecond, you like with God on heaven for all of eternity. It does hurt God to see us suffering. If we turn to him he will make great plans for us, and he might even work to make this micro second of our eternity comfortable because he loves us that much. If your suffering turn to God and you wont be unsatisfied. God will comfort you for eternity. Stay strong, love God, your in my prayers.
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