The internet, specifically social media, has opened up a wide window into the thinking and philosophy of a large and fairly diverse demographic of people. All one needs to do is to go to the Facebook page of a global media corporation, like CNN, and read the comment sections on various news stories to obtain a sampling of the public’s opinion. I like to read lots of comment sections just to see what my fellow humans believe and think. It is interesting, and telling. Whether it is a national news story or a local one, a common remark in the wake of a tragedy is “if God is so good, then why did He let this happen?”
For today’s essay I’d like to examine this question, the motivations behind asking it, and whether or not it is even the correct question, all from a biblical perspective.
When someone asks this question (and I am presupposing that they are not Christians), I believe there are at least two motivations. The first is a sassy attempt to refute the existence of God. This is nothing more than a haughty, rebellious, school-yard retort that can be best summed up in a “so,there!” attitude. A person in this frame of mind doesn’t want the truth. It also seems to me they are lashing out in their pain and anger, taking offense at the idea of a God who allows evil to touch their lives. The problem with this perspective is the erroneous assumption that God owes people something. Specifically, that God owes you a worry-free, pain-free existence.
And two, it is a genuine question, borne from the subliminal knowledge that the world was created perfectly, but has been marred by sin. Unbelievers wouldn’t be able to articulate this truth that they are subconsciously aware of, but they recognize it all the same. They know that if God exists, He must be good, and yet they cannot reconcile an all-good God with the fallen world they live in. That is because they are trying to explain it without acknowledging the truth; they are trying to resolve the issue without even factoring God into the equation. This is the sad reality of spiritual blindness. Being aware of the truth, but never being able to grasp it.
We know that in the beginning, God created the heavens and earth and God declared that His creation was very good (Genesis 1:31). But sin entered the world when Eve and Adam rebelled against God by eating of the forbidden fruit. Since that time, all of humanity has lived in a sin-affected world. Part of that existence is dealing with the effects (consequences) of sin and evil. Bad things happen, people get sick and die. Every person ever born is born with a sin nature, and therefore will sin. Without the direct intervention of God, all are headed toward an eternity in hell, which we all deserve. This is reality.
God is good. 1 John 1:5 says “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” But the reality of God’s goodness does not equal every person having a perfect life. God does not need to prove His goodness to anyone. He owes no one any explanation. Similarly, God’s goodness is not proved by everything being splendid in a sinners life, as if God owes you something. The hubris! We are sinners by nature, who are deservedly under God’s wrath. We are not entitled to a trouble-free life. We are entitled to eternal suffering in hell, and that is all we are entitled to.
This truth is what makes the gospel good news! If there was no bad news, how could the gospel be good news? If every person ever born wasn’t headed toward eternal wrath, then why would they need a Savior? Asking why a bad thing happened if God is good is the wrong question. I cringe at the haughty ignorance of the unbeliever who boldly retorts with such. If they only realized what they were saying…
The fact of the matter is, that because God is good, he bestows His common graces on every inhabitant of earth, even though they deserve nothing. Psalm 145:9 says “The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.” Matthew 5:45 says “so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.“ God reveals His goodness to humankind all of the time: every breath you take, the warmth of the sun, the beauty of a sunset, the beauty of flowers, the usefulness and companionship of animals, the miracle of birth, the gift of family. We don’t deserve any of these displays of common grace but God delights in revealing His attributes, for His glory.
For those of us who know Him, and who have fallen on His Son Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, we recognize the many ways in which God shows His goodness and kindness to us. Because we know that we deserve hell, we rejoice all the more in His amazing grace that He would send His Son to die for us so that we can enjoy Him forever! The saying that “our time on earth is as close as an unbeliever will ever get to heaven, and as close as a believer will ever get to hell” is true. Let that be a sobering thought, brethren. When you hear or see a lost soul lashing out in fury, haughtily asking why did God allow this if He is good, pray for them. Ask God to have mercy on their unbelieving souls, granting them repentance, belief and faith. If not for His unimaginable grace, we would be asking the same thing.
Soli Deo Gloria!