I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil:
I the Lord do all these things.
(This post is longer than most. Only those who have an interest or need will read it in its entirety. I apologize for its length. In the words of Mark Twain: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”)
I have had the privilege of spending time in the last year with two people who really want to believe God. People who want to tell Him they are sorry for their sins, and they want to accept Jesus’ death in their place in front of God. They want to, but they have questions…struggles…deep, emotional pain. They have been dealt some very bad things in this life.
I have also had the opportunity to sit with a newer believer with similar circumstances and have observed fellow Christians attempt to skim over their valid questions with a cheery smile, often proclaiming “trust” as the answer to all inquiries. They have announced “all things really do work for the good of those who love Him”. These types of scriptures spoken to address cancer, rape, horrible atrocities…
For those of us who have been walking this road awhile, we understand those scriptures. We still don’t understand the “why’s” in this life, but we accept and trust that when we open our eyes on the other side, God really will reveal the purpose of the unimaginable emotional and physical pain of this life. That knowledge we possess as Christians still does not ease the ache of this world.
Seekers and new believers need us to be REAL about the fact that the knowledge and relationship does not eliminate the ache.
Ignoring their questions and glossing over their deeply unfair life circumstances doesn’t seem wise to me.
Let me tread carefully when I state that one underlying issue that many tend to avoid is that – God allows and perhaps ordains some bad stuff. (See Does It Make God Evil to Ordain Evil? below.)
No one wants to tell the unbeliever that yes, God allowed this horrible thing that happened to you. It seems that our honesty would go farther than acting as though God is big in one area, but absent in another…
If we believe the God of the Holy Bible, He is the Creator, the I Am, our Redeemer. This is not Someone who leaves anything to “chance”. I do not know where our free will and His divine plan intersect. I do not know to what extent our prayers move the divine plan, if at all. (Read Philip Yancey: Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?)
There are those who sincerely accept that Jesus died for their sins. And that’s where it ends. They proceed with life as they always had, just adding church on Sundays and that works for them. But this does not work for all people. Others can’t help but bury themselves in His Word, reading the story, desperate for as many answers as they can get on this side of heaven.
Everyone is built differently, some with very deep thought processes about all that has happened to them and to others throughout history. When we joyfully respond to a seekers pain with “trust in the Lord” that leaves them thinking, “trust a God who had his Son killed?! Even if the reason was to save me, this is the plan? The good news? If He designed all, couldn’t He have designed a different way?”
They go to a deep level of thinking that back tracks into the beginning that never was for God and ask out loud, “If He created everything, then He created Satan and designed man with the knowledge that he would fall. He knew before creation that we would fall, that He would send Jesus!”
Pastors and mature believers start getting anxious in the room. “Yes, Satan was a fallen angel, so yes, God created him. There was no other way, this was God’s perfect way, by sending Christ.”
“So in creating Satan, God created evil.”
Clergy is definitely growing uncomfortable. “Well, He didn’t create evil, but more the “option” of choosing evil. Presented with a free will choice, He wants us to choose Him, not evil or sin.”
Smart, insightful, desperate-for-answers-newer believer is not satisfied. “I understand that God will judge my free will decisions and actions and I can choose to live for Him or not. I understand that there are moral choices and personal accountability.”
Someone speaks up, “God can use evil to accomplish His purposes.”
But that was not the question on the table, so it is again restated. “Genesis says there was nothing. God created everything. He’s also all-knowing. So He knew before the beginning of time that Satan would fall, take a bunch of angels with him, and embark on a seemingly endless dominance over humanity. Sex slavery, famine, diseases, child abuse…all evil, all sin, all offered by Satan. If he is created by God, God created him with sickening depravity.”
Lifelong believers in the room are silent. Newer Christian is careful but will not be dismissed with soft answers.
“Well? Is God not the author of ALL – good and bad?”
“God allows bad” someone says.
“So He is the author of evil?”
“NO!” many chime in.
The new believer’s eyes narrow, wondering what they did wrong to receive the scolding. Then, the eyes soften, wet, wanting to understand… “I believe God created everything and it was all good. But if we had the ability, the intention to choose bad, then He created us with the ability to be bad.” Pause. “God is sovereign, therefore He has the final say in what does and does not happen. When bad stuff happens, it only happens because He let it happen.”
What would you have said to this struggle? I appreciate their desperation to define their God and His ability, His creation, His sovereignty. It demonstrates that they genuinely care more than many people mindlessly sitting in pews each week, empty and void of any deep thought toward or about God.
These questions demonstrate concern and compassion for the atrocities piling up the evening news. These questions demonstrate a person who wants to put their trust in God, but fears He is dangerous to trust…
There exists a struggle between fearing irreverence before a Holy God (and judgmental Christians) and stating what appears to be obvious: God is the author – of all.
If we say to the newer believer: yes, He authors all of it, can they then move forward in their trust-relationship, their walk with Christ?
Worthwhile article from Grace to You,
authored by John MacArthur: Is God Responsible for Evil?
A brief 6-minute audio by John Piper (Desiring God) titled:
Does It Make God Evil to Ordain Evil?
Philip Yancey’s book: The Question That Never Goes Away
Selections from pages 88 and 89 from One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp:
“Isaiah 14:24, “Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand” (NASB). As God plans…so it stands.”
“Does disaster come to a city unless the LORD has planned it?” (Amos 3:6). A good God plans everything. Everything. So a good God can only…make plans for good? He only gives good gifts? A thing of evil cannot be created by a good God?”
“All God makes is good. Can it be that, that which seems to oppose the will of God actually is used of Him to accomplish the will of God? That which seems evil only seems so because of perspective, the way the eyes see the shadows.”
“But what perspective sees good in dead farm boys, good in a little girl crushed under tires of a truck right in front of her mother’s eyes, good in a brother-in-law who buries his first two sons in the space of nineteen months-and all the heinous crimes and all the weeping agony and all the scalding burn of this world? The sun rolls across wheat warm. I lean against the windowsill and watch it. I hear the echo, truth words whispering down time’s cavern, words that Julian of Norwich heard:
See that I am God. See that I am in everything. See that I do everything. See that I have never stopped ordering my works, nor ever shall, eternally. See that I lead everything on to the conclusion I ordained for it before time began, by the same power, wisdom and love with which I made it. How can anything be amiss?
“…and I won’t shield God from my anguish by claiming He’s not involved in the ache of this world and Satan prowls but he’s a lion on a leash and the God who governs all can be shouted at when I bruise, and I can cry and I can howl and He embraces the David-hearts who pound hard on His heart with their grief and I can moan deep that He did this – and He did.”