Sometimes, Life Stinks.

Sometimes, life just plain stinks.

Last week, my orthopedic surgeon informed me that I need a total hip replacement.

Yesterday, I lost my job.

My immediate reaction to both issues was to get angry, then depressed. And honestly, I’m still more than a little upset.

How should I, as a follower of Jesus Christ, respond when bad stuff happens?

First, it’s important to understand why evil exists.

God created this world sinless and perfect. There was no death, no illness, no unemployment, and no sin. There was no anger, no depression, and no crap to deal with. It was a perfect world.

Until Adam sinned.

17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:

“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)

12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. (Romans 5:12-15)

All of the sin, death, illness, anger, natural disasters, depression, other problems, and other evils are a direct consequence of Adam’s sin. Adam’s sin changed the perfect world that God designed, and polluted it.

However, we can’t blame it all on Adam. Our sin has added to the problem.

Sometimes, bad stuff happens as a direct result of our own sin. We make bad choices that lead to bad consequences.

But sometimes, bad stuff happens, and it has nothing to do with anything we personally did; it’s a result of the sin in the world. It can be the result of demonic activity, and it can also be the result of God’s judgement for the sin of society. Evil can have different causes, but those causes all trace back to the same root cause – sin.

In any case, how should followers of Jesus Christ handle the crap that life serves us?

For me, the key is to realize the sufferings of this life are temporary. The perfection God planned for the human race will be realized in eternity.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. (Revelation 22:3)

Life on this earth is but the blink of an eye in the grand scheme of eternity. The junk we live through in this life is only temporary. For followers of Jesus Christ, the current life is the worst it will ever be; for unbelievers, unfortunately, this life is the best it will ever be.

The other thing is that, even though we must face a lot of pain and suffering in this world, as a Christian, I have the Holy Spirit living inside me to comfort, guide, and direct me through the junk of life.

33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 
As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

While I’m still hurt, depressed, and scared about both my hip and my job situation, I am holding on to the promises God has given me in His word. God never promised to keep His followers from the difficulties of life, but rather promised to walk with us through the difficulties. And, while I know I’ll struggle during the next days (or weeks, or months, depending on when I find another job and/or have my surgery), I know that God is with me through the process, and that He is in control of the situation.

How Can God Allow Evil?

The Problem of Evil

One of the main arguments skeptics use to challenge Christianity is the issue of a loving God permitting evil.

The Argument against the Existence of God Because of Evil

According to the Bible, God is:

  1. God is all-knowing
  2. God is all-powerful
  3. God is all Loving

Yet evil exists.

Therefore, the God of the Bible cannot exist because He is either not all-knowing, not all-powerful, or not all loving.

Problems with the Argument

  1. If there is no God, then what is evil?  There cannot be an absolute standard of good and evil without God.  In order to claim that evil exists, the skeptic must steal the concept of good and evil from the Christian worldview.  In fact, from an evolutionary worldview, death and suffering must be good, because they are the causes of natural selection (survival of the fittest).  This leads to a self-contradictory argument.
  2. God’s love does not imply that pain and suffering cannot exist.  God uses pain and suffering to discipline us, much like a shepherd uses pain to direct his sheep or a parent uses pain to direct a child.
  3. The fact that God is all-powerful does not imply that God can do everything.  God cannot violate His own nature.  God cannot lie, cannot act irrationally, and cannot be immoral.  Because He created us in His image, He also cannot violate our nature.  He gave us a will, and cannot force us to act against our wills.

The argument against God because of evil can be refuted by the addition of a fourth premise:

  1. God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil which exists.

As long as there exists at least one morally sufficient reason why God allows evil to exist, the skeptic’s argument falls apart.  What could such a “morally sufficient” reason be?  Some options:

  1.  One might argue that God has reasons He has not revealed to us.  Although this is a weak argument, it would solve the problem of evil.
  2. The second argument is that evil is caused by mankind’s sin rather than God’s will.  This is the traditional argument. Because they were created in God’s image (Gen 1:26-27), Adam and Eve had a free will choice to follow God or disobey.  Unfortunately, they chose disobedience.  Evil, then, is the result of Adam’s sin, which resulted in a curse upon the whole earth, since the whole earth was under his dominion (Gen 1:28, 3:17; Rom 8:19–22; Rev 22:3).
  3. The third approach to providing a morally sufficient reason for evil is that evil serves redemptive or revelational purposes.  God uses evil for a greater good, the redemption of sinners and/or the revelation of Himself to His creation.
  4. The fourth approach to providing a morally sufficient reason for the existence of evil is the “best of all worlds” theodicy.  Gottfried Leibniz argued that of all the worlds God could have created, the one He actually created is the best of all possible options.  He argued, “It is true that one may imagine possible worlds without sin and without unhappiness, and one could make some like Utopian or Sevarambian romances:  but these same worlds again would be very inferior to ours in goodness.”   Although God could have hypothetically created a world without evil, such a world would not have the benefit of freedom of will.
  5. The final approach to the logical problem of evil is known as the free will argument.  This argument overlaps significantly with the other approaches, and has been proposed in various forms since the second century.  Simply stated, the free will defense claims that God could not have created humans with a free will without permitting them to exercise that will to do evil.  Alvin Plantinga proposed the following:
  • Free will is of moral value. That is, a world with free will is better than one without it.
  • It is a contradiction to say that God brings it about that humans freely will only the good
  • God must bring about the best possible world in his capacity.
  • Therefore, God must create a world with free will
  • But then God is not responsible for evil (choices), since it is not in His power to bring it about that men freely choose only the good.

If God changed everyone’s personality so that they could not cause evil, it would also mean that we would not have a free will. We would not be able to choose right or wrong because we would be “programmed” to only do right. Had God chosen to do this, there would be no meaningful relationships between Him and His creation.

As long as at least one of these arguments – or another argument – is true, then God has a morally sufficient reason for allowing evil, and the skeptic’s argument is invalid.

Conclusion

The logical problem of evil, it seems, is more of a problem for the non-Christian than for the Christian.  Within Christian theology, there are several non-contradictory answers to the question of why God allows evil to exist.  Several of these morally sufficient reasons for God allowing evil have been presented here; undoubtedly, others also exist.  The problem for non-Christians is that they reject Christian theology.  Because they approach the problem of evil with false presuppositions, the problem of evil can never be resolved to their satisfaction.  The very syllogism they propose is fallacious, and no answer consistent with the teaching of the Bible can ever be consistent with a non-Christian’s worldview.  Thus, for the non-Christian, the so-called logical problem of evil is merely a symptom of a larger problem, the rejection of God and His Word.