This post is part 2 of the series, “Does Everything Happen for a Reason?” To read the previous post, click here.
“If there is a God, why do bad things happen?”
“If God is so powerful, then why was this ruler able to murder all these people?”
“God doesn’t work in the world today. If He did, He wouldn’t have allowed my child to die.”
People from every race, color, and time have asked questions like these. Humanity is perpetually baffled by suffering. Grief or pain cause some to lash out at God or abandon Him altogether. How do we reconcile a loving, all-powerful God with a world overrun with destruction?
First, what are common sources of grief and suffering?
- A person’s sin (including pride, greed, lust, selfishness, and hatred)
- Satan’s desire to undermine God
- Natural Disasters
In the case of the first, God has given us free will, allowing us to choose whether we serve God or serve ourselves. Most people choose the latter with dire consequences. God earnestly longs for us to give Him our hearts, our minds, and our oh-so-stubborn wills.
In the case of the second, Satan is constantly at war with God. He knows that men and women are cherished by God and so he does everything he can to lure them away from God. Humanity can choose (as Adam and Eve could have chosen) to disregard his wheedling ways, but unfortunately, we all give in to Him at one point or another. God allows Satan to walk about, but only to a point. Here is what the Bible tells us:
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
~ 1 Corinthians 10.13, ESV
As regards natural disasters, God allows those as a means for the earth to care for itself. Consider, if you will, a forest fire brought about by lightning. Fire may destroy massive acres of trees, but it also clears the undergrowth, alien plant-life, and weaker trees. Some tree species need a fire every 3-25 years for life to continue.* (click here for more info). What we so often see as senseless destruction is often beneficial to the earth itself.
The bottom line: God is wiser than man, stronger than Satan, and holds everything in balance.
Consider, if you will, some scriptural examples of God’s power being greater than the will of man or wiles of Satan:
But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
~ Genesis 50.19-20, ESV
In jealousy and anger, Joseph’s brothers threw him in a pit, intending to murder him. One of the brothers, Reuben, sought to spare his life. Unfortunately, the others decided to sell him off to some Ishmaelite traders. Joseph had just had a vision of himself in a role of power and now he was being treated cruelly and sold as a slave.
Was God without power?
God allowed them to act, knowing that He could turn it to a good purpose. The experience shaped Joseph into a more diligent man with undeniable integrity. God knows humans are going to be cruel to one another, and He will overpower their evil to His good purpose.
You may be thinking that what you have witnessed in a certain situation serves no possible good. Ask yourself—are you omniscient? Are you able to see how all these different things can help people for their ultimate good? We think too much in the moment. God sees both the moment and the big picture and is able to work every detail to His ultimate purpose. He can do all this whether man acts in godliness or wickedness.
Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
~ Esther 4.13-14, ESV
Whether Esther had acted or not, God could have brought about deliverance for the Jews. Instead, she chose to obey to great effect. Mordecai had it right—she was raised up as queen for such a time and she worked with God instead of against Him.
You knew we’d have to get to Job at some point. I bring up Job because Satan had to ask permission to afflict Job.
Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.
~ Job 1.9-12, ESV
He had to continue to ask God’s permission to afflict Job. God allowed it, but only to a point. How much stronger was Job after this ordeal than before it? How much more did Job revere God after standing in His presence? What effect did it have on his three friends after God rebuked them? God always has a greater purpose than our physical prosperity. He wants us to grow closer to Him and in order to do that, He allows Satan to strip away all these false securities we accumulate. Remember, Satan can never overcome God.
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.”
Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
~ Luke 22.31-34, NKJV
Again, we see Satan having to ask permission.
Peter did deny Jesus, but he repented. We see the grace of God through Peter’s ordeal. He was humbled by seeing his own weakness. Humility makes greater leaders than pride ever will. Knowing his susceptibility surely made him more cautious and tempered that bold spirit of his.
Even when Satan or man thinks they have one the battle, they always lose the war. God’s sovereign will surpasses all the schemes of evil. If we do not believe in the power and wisdom of God, how can we have hope?
What separates a Christian from an unbeliever is first the blood of Jesus and second our hope. If we have no confidence in God’s ultimate power over the things in this world, how can we have confidence in the next? Why were the early Christians able to walk joyfully into suffering and death? They possessed unshakeable confidence in the mighty power of God.
The presence of evil
does not negate the power of God.
God is more powerful than anything or anyone in this life. Truly knowing God gives us hope. If we have this hope, we can say, through our tears, “blessed be the name of the Lord.” Hold on to your hope. Cling to the Lord no matter what storm comes your way.