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Why does a loving God allow bad things to happen?


Millions of people have asked this question, especially since September 11, 2001. Here are eight points to consider:

  1. Satan-–not God--is evil, and is behind evil deeds. Satan is all about death, but God is all about life.

  2. God allows people to choose between Him and evil. He does not force us to choose Him.

  3. Sin has consequences.

  4. Prayer can avert disaster or protect certain individuals.

  5. God brings good from the bad.

  6. We won’t always understand why God allows bad things to happen. We should rely on the Bible for our understanding of God.

  7. You are better off surrendering your life to God, even though you don’t fully understand His ways, than to follow Satan, who is a murderer and liar (the Bible does not leave a third choice).

  8. If you seek to know God and His ways, He will reveal truth to you.

1. Satan – not God – is evil, and is behind evil deeds. Satan is all about death, but God is all about life. Return to top

1 John 3:12 not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.

Eph 2:2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.

Luke 13:16  "And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?"

John 8:44  "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Eph 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

1 Pet 5:8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Ezek 18:32  "For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies," declares the Lord God.

1 John 3:8 The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.

Acts 10:38  "You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

2. God allows people to choose between Him and evil. He does not force us to choose Him. Return to top

After reading in #1 above that Satan, not God, is behind all evil, perhaps you thought, “But isn’t God powerful enough to stop evil acts?” God is indeed powerful enough to stop anything, but He operates under certain laws, which He Himself established, that give humans the choice either to submit to Him and obey His commandments, or reject Him and do evil. God created us to love Him and have a relationship with Him. The relationship would not mean anything if we were controlled by God like puppets. So God has given people the freedom to make choices—and to reap the rewards or suffer the consequences of those choices.

Prov 1:29-33  Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the LORD. 30  "They would not accept my counsel, They spurned all my reproof. 31  "So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way And be satiated with their own devices. 32  "For the waywardness of the naive will kill them, And the complacency of fools will destroy them. 33  "But he who listens to me shall live securely And will be at ease from the dread of evil."  

2 Thess 2:10 because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.

Jer 2:17 “Have you not done this to yourself By your forsaking the Lord your God When He led you in the way?

Sometimes we suffer, not because of our choices, but because of others’ evil choices. God will not always protect innocent people from evil people, although He does respond to prayer. 

3. Sin has consequences  Return to top

The Old Testament of the Bible has numerous examples of God punishing nations for sin. God blessed the nations when they were humble before Him, seeking to know Him, asking Him to direct their paths, and living according to His commandments. But when they were rebellious against God—trusting in their wealth for security instead of in Him, living in immorality, not seeking Him in prayer, worshipping other gods, disobeying His voice—He allowed them to suffer the consequences of their sin.

Sometimes the consequences would come about naturally, as a result of their deeds.

Prov 1:29-33  Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the LORD. 30  "They would not accept my counsel, They spurned all my reproof. 31  "So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way And be satiated with their own devices. 32  "For the waywardness of the naive will kill them, And the complacency of fools will destroy them. 33  "But he who listens to me shall live securely And will be at ease from the dread of evil."

Deu 5:29  'Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!

At other times God would intervene and punish them, but only out of love, for their own good, so that they would change their ways.

Jer 32:23  'They came in and took possession of it, but they did not obey Your voice or walk in Your law; they have done nothing of all that You commanded them to do; therefore You have made all this calamity come upon them.

Jer 32:41,42  "I will rejoice over them to do them good and will faithfully plant them in this land with all My heart and with all My soul. 42  "For thus says the LORD, 'Just as I brought all this great disaster on this people, so I am going to bring on them all the good that I am promising them.

Hebrews 12:10 He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.

Psa 119:67  Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word.

Psa 119:71  It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.

A severe punishment that turns a nation to God and His ways will reap life for generations to come:

2 Chr 7:14  and [if] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

4. Prayer can avert disaster or protect certain individuals Return to top

Here are examples:

Ps 106:23 Therefore He said that He would destroy them, Had not Moses His chosen one stood in the breach before Him, To turn away His wrath from destroying them.

Ps 106:28-30  They joined themselves also to Baal-peor, And ate sacrifices offered to the dead. 29 Thus they provoked Him to anger with their deeds, And the plague broke out among them. 30 Then Phinehas stood up and interposed, And so the plague was stayed.

2 Chron 20:5-9  Then Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord before the new court, 6 and he said, “O Lord, the God of our fathers, are You not God in the heavens? And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You. 7 “Did You not, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel and give it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever?  8 “They have lived in it, and have built You a sanctuary there for Your name, saying,  9 ‘Should evil come upon us, the sword, or judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before You (for Your name is in this house) and cry to You in our distress, and You will hear and deliver us.’

Numbers 14:13-20  But Moses said to the Lord, “Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for by Your strength You brought up this people from their midst, 14 and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, O Lord, are in the midst of this people, for You, O Lord, are seen eye to eye, while Your cloud stands over them; and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. 15 “Now if You slay this people as one man, then the nations who have heard of Your fame will say, 16 ‘Because the Lord could not bring this people into the land which He promised them by oath, therefore He slaughtered them in the wilderness.’ 17 “But now, I pray, let the power of the Lord be great, just as You have declared, 18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations.’ 19 “Pardon, I pray, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of Your lovingkindness, just as You also have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.” 20 So the Lord said, “I have pardoned them according to your word

Isaiah 37:14-22; 34-36  Then Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it, and he went up to the house of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. 15 Hezekiah prayed to the Lord saying, 16 “O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, who is enthroned above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 17 “Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see; and listen to all the words of Sennacherib, who sent them to reproach the living God. 18 “Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have devastated all the countries and their lands, 19 and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. So they have destroyed them. 20 “Now, O Lord our God, deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, Lord, are God.” 21 Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent word to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Because you have prayed to Me about Sennacherib king of Assyria, 22 this is the word that the Lord has spoken against him: ….33 “Therefore, thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, ‘He will not come to this city or shoot an arrow there; and he will not come before it with a shield, or throw up a siege ramp against it. 34 ‘By the way that he came, by the same he will return, and he will not come to this city,’ declares the Lord. 35 ‘For I will defend this city to save it for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.’ ” 36 Then the angel of the Lord went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men arose early in the morning, behold, all of these were dead.

5. God brings good from the bad  Return to top

God promises to bring good out of all things, which would include evil deeds, for those who love Him and entrust their lives to Him:

Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

This does not mean that, if we entrust our lives to God, we will never suffer as a result of evil in the world. In fact, Jesus told His followers that they would certainly suffer, but that He Himself would give them the inner peace to have courage and joy in the midst of the suffering:

John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

The verse that comes right after Romans 8:28 indicates that God uses circumstances to make His children more like Christ (conformed to His image), whose spirit lives within them:

Romans 8:29  For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.

God may allow a few individuals to suffer, or even die, in order to protect and bless greater numbers of people. Remember the story of Joseph, in the first book of the Bible? His brothers, jealous of their father’s love for him, sold Joseph as a slave to the Egyptians. But over the next several years, God gave Joseph favor with the Egyptians and he ended up second in command under Pharoah. By God-given wisdom and insight, Joseph stored grain during seven years of prosperity so that the people of Egypt would have food during seven subsequent years of drought. Through Joseph God saved thousands of lives. People even came from other countries to buy grain during the seven-year drought. When Joseph’s brothers came to buy grain, they did not know that Joseph was second in command in Egypt, because they had not seen him since they sold him into slavery many years prior. When they realized that the one from whom they had to request grain was Joseph, they were gripped with fear, thinking Joseph would have them killed. But Joseph did not have them killed. He even treated them with kindness, because he knew that the evil his brothers did to him was allowed by God in order to save thousands of people from starvation. He told his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Genesis 50:20).

The crucifixion of Jesus is the ultimate example. God allowed Satan to work through evil people to crucify Jesus. Jesus didn’t deserve it; He was perfectly righteous and totally innocent. But God the Father allowed Jesus (God the Son) to suffer and die in order to bring life to those who call upon Him. Jesus Himself could have used His deity to crush those who persecuted and killed Him, but He allowed the evil to be done to Him for our sakes:

Luke 22:52,53  Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders who had come against Him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as you would against a robber? 53 “While I was with you daily in the temple, you did not lay hands on Me; but this hour and the power of darkness are yours.”

John 10:17,18 “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. 18 “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”

John 3:16  "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

2 Cor 5:21  He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

1 Pet 3:18  For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God.

Those who seek God and ask Him to take control of their lives can be assured that He will watch over them. Although they will suffer to some extent because of evil in the world, they can be sure that God is ultimately in control and will bring good from all circumstances, even evil deeds.  

6. We won’t always understand why God allows bad things to happen. We should rely on the Bible for our understanding of God.  Return to top

Although the points made above may help us understand tragic events, we will still face situations—either in our personal lives or as a nation—that cause us to question our understanding of God and His ways. It is at these times that it is especially crucial to view the circumstances based on what the Bible says about God, instead of trying to figure out God based on the circumstances. The Bible confirms that God is perfectly righteous, holy, faithful, and just, yet full of compassion, kindness, mercy, grace, and love:

 

Deu 32:4  The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He.

 

Psa 71:19 For Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the heavens, You who have done great things; O God, who is like You?

 

Psa 89:14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Lovingkindness and truth go before You.

 

Psa 145:8,9 The LORD is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. 9 The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works.

 

Psa 145:17 The LORD is righteous in all His ways And kind in all His deeds.

 

Lam 3:22,23 The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

 

Psa 103:13 Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.

Isa 30:18 Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him.

God is not human. Some aspects of God and His ways are impossible for humans to fully comprehend. For example, humans cannot fully understand how God can exist in three persons (the trinity). If you insist on fully understanding everything about the god you worship, then your god will be nothing greater than a human:

Isaiah 55:8,9  “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

7. You are better off surrendering your life to God, even though you don’t fully understand His ways, than to follow Satan, who is a murderer and liar (the Bible does not leave a third choice). Return to top

Watch out! Satan does not want you to experience the great joy, power, and life that you can have by following Christ. He wants to deceive you into rejecting Christ:

2 Cor 4:3,4  And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4  in whose case the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

One of Satan's tactics is to deceive us into thinking God is unfair. Satan did it to Eve—deceived her into believing that God was unfair for prohibiting them from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Was God unfair about the tree? No! He made the rule for their good. But Satan was able to convince Eve, so she and Adam rebelled against God, seeking to be independent of Him, instead of submitting to Him:

2 Cor 11:3  But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

After we die, whether we’re in heaven or hell, each of us will see that what the Bible says about God is true—that He really is perfectly righteous, holy, faithful, and just; yet full of compassion, kindness, mercy, grace, and love. People who reject God because they think He is unfair or unloving will eventually find out that they were wrong:

Lam 3:39,40  Why should any living mortal, or any man, Offer complaint in view of his sins? 40  Let us examine and probe our ways, And let us return to the LORD.

Ezek 33:17  "Yet your fellow citizens say, 'The way of the Lord is not right,' when it is their own way that is not right.

What most people do not realize is that, in rejecting God, they are choosing Satan, who hates them and wants to hurt them:

Acts 26:18  to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.'

John 8:44  "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

The person who does not receive Christ is rejecting Christ:

Mat 12:30  "He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.

John 12:48  "He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.

Acts 17:30,31  "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead."

2 Th 2:10  …because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.

8. If you seek to know God and His ways, He will reveal truth to you.  Return to top

It's okay to question why bad things happen in the world--or to us. But instead of rebelling against God when we don't understand His ways, we should humbly ask Him to show us the truth. He promises to reveal Himself to those who seek Him:

1 Chr 28:9  "As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.

Psa 145:18  The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth.

Jer 29:13  'You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

Jer 33:3  'Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.'

James 4:8  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

May you turn your life over to Christ and receive all the blessings of salvation, and may you praise God for His perfect justice, mercy, and love, even though you don't understand all His ways, and may He fill you will all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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