With storm after storm pounding the coasts and so much suffering in the world, no wonder people ponder the presence of good and evil.
Just think how many times you’ve heard someone ask, “How could a good God allow … ?”
Some of these questions are easy enough—however painful—to answer: God doesn’t prevent the consequences of people’s own actions. A young man chooses to drink and drive, and a newlywed couple dies on the way home from a movie on Saturday night. A girl starts smoking in her teens, and pack after pack after carton, by the time she’s old enough to warn her granddaughter not to smoke, she dies of emphysema. On a much broader scale, a nation turns a blind eye on corruption, and sinister forces who feed off of it prey on innocent citizens.
Still, people who agonize over such loss continue to rail at God for not sweeping between cause and effect, stilling the results of actions that could bear only rotten fruit. They never consider the logical impact of their desire. Suppose God were to limit the consequences of evil choices. Or imagine God were to prevent those choices altogether. At first, this might sound enticing—no more war, no more drunk drivers, no more abused children. But consider the logical results of such divine limitation. First, where would God draw the line? Would God only limit human action that could result in death? Or would God thwart every deed that causes heartache? And to what degree? If God were to be consistent, then God could not allow any wrong-doing. So, unless you live a perfect life (and no one does), that means God would deny a significant portion of your freedom.
But the Bible—and particularly the creation accounts in Genesis—teaches that God created humanity to reciprocate God’s love. To be authentic, human love for God could not be coerced. To be real, it had to be offered freely. So, Scripture shows us that God gave us freedom—fierce, powerful, frightful freedom. A price of that freedom is its very abuse. In order to be free to love God, we’re free to hate God. In order to obey God, we’re also free to defy God. All the evil human beings are capable of perpetrating upon each other is a shallow yet perverse measure of the capacity of God’s love. Think how great the love of God must be to be worth all we do to each other. And then, more staggering than that, try to imagine the depth of God’s love that he sent his only Son as a sacrifice to atone for all that evil and reconcile our torn relationship with God.
Well, so far, we’ve only considered the evil humans inflict on each other. But what about “natural” evil—like violent storms and inexplicable diseases? We can decide to move away from the coast, avoid fault lines and steer clear of Tornado Alley. And yet we might come down with acute leukemia or get hit by a comet.
I can’t certify this with Scripture, but when I try to make sense of storms and inexplicable disease, I always seek a corollary to what we do know of human evil, which is the price of precious freedom. So, perhaps what we view as random evil in nature may simply reflect the freedom God gave to women and men. Maybe it’s the impulse toward freedom that spins off in meteorological, geological, genetic and even sub-atomic activities that result in both goodness and evil. Maybe those are the roots of freedom in nature that we value for ourselves.
Frankly, I don’t know. When I watch a radar screen reveal a storm the size of the Gulf of Mexico, I truly fear and respect the incomprehensible power—and will—of God.
This much I know through experience: Nothing can separate us from the love of God who made us free. God’s grace is sufficient for us, even in the worst storms. And God will provide the peace that surpasses all understanding.
Marv Knox is editor of the Baptist Standard. Visit his blog at www.baptiststandard.com .