A Barna Poll once asked, “If you could ask God one question and you knew He would give you an answer, what would you ask?”
The most common response was, “Why is there pain and suffering in the world?”
In the aftermath of what is being called “The Mandalay Massacre” similar questions are being raised. One of our regular readers, Stephen, asked if I would write about the Las Vegas shooting as it relates to the Book of Job. “One specific question I have (with a Book of Job context) — is it reasonable for Christians to expect God to protect us from the prowl of Satan?”
He further inquired, “If a Christian was attending this concert and was killed, how should we react to this? Pretend you were a friend of a shooting victim talking to his/her family (like one of Job’s three friends). What “should” you say?
These are challenging questions. And the answers are not always obvious or easy to accept. This will be at least a two-part post.
Let’s begin with three fundamental Bible truths.
(1) The Devil is presented as real. He is not a fictional character. He is said to roam “to and fro on the earth” (Job 1:6). The Bible teaches that he tempted Eve in the beginning and deceived her with his subtlety and lies (Gen 3:1-6; 2 Cor 11:3).
(2)Evil originates from the Devil, not God. The Devil is called “the evil one” and is identified by Jesus as “the father of lies” and “a murderer” (Lk 11:4; Jn. 6:44). It was the devil who entered the heart of Judas and led him to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (Jn. 13:2).
God, however, is the giver of good gifts (Jas. 1:17). In the beginning, when God created the world “it was very good” (Gen 1:31). “God made man upright” (Eccl. 7:29).
So, what happened?
(3) God created humankind as creatures of choice.
We can choose to serve Him or Satan. We can do good or evil. One writer called evil “the ugly twin of goodness.” He wrote that God’s “greatest blessing and our worst curse; our capacity to make choices.”
God could have made us mere marionettes. Puppets on a string, if you please. That could be controlled at God’s whim. Instead, he gave us free will. Volition. The power to choose. He gave us the opportunity to make a conscious decision to love Him and our fellow-man. Without that ability, there can be no real, genuine love.
Unfortunately, if we can choose to love, we can also hate. If we choose to build, we can also destroy. If we choose to do good, we can also do evil. If we choose to heal, we can also kill. This massacre is impossible to understand except that we live in a world where some people choose to do evil. And some people are possessed by it.
C.S. Lewis said that the “problem of pain is atheism’s most potent weapon against the Christian faith.” So, the issue is raised, “How could a God of love allow tragedy, pain, and suffering?”
Human tendency is to question God, blame God for evil, or even doubt there is a God. The conundrum is expressed this way. Either God is all powerful, but not good. Or He is good, but not all-powerful. If he was all powerful, he would stop evil. If he could stop evil, but doesn’t, then God is not good.
Of course, these questions are based upon false assumptions. They are focused on human wisdom and understanding. And they assume our definition of goodness.
Jesus affirmed that no one is good except God (Matt. 19:17). The Old Testament writers often affirmed the goodness of God. When Job was faced with his troubles, his wife said, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!”
Job’s response. “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”
While Job, at this point, did not understand the source of his adversity, he trusted in the goodness of God. It’s a good lesson for us today.
Tomorrow we will further explore our reader’s questions. In the meantime, do not doubt God’s goodness, love, and compassion even in a world filled with evil.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman