When evil strikes fear in to the hearts of people, Christians play a vital role in how far that evil progresses. Evil can scare us, emotionally paralyze us, and sometimes even depress us. So many questions run through our minds when evil strikes, like it did in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017. Questions inevitably come up about God: is He loving? Is He powerful? How could He let this happen? This evil happened while Americans were still recovering from the pain and damage caused by hurricanes Harvey and Irma. To help people process God, evil, and our role in the process, this blog post will seek to address those questions. Before we process, let’s acknowledge that no amount of words will take away the pain of those who were affected by the shooting in Las Vegas. Only God in his sovereignty can ease the heart and breathe hope back into the broken and hopeless.
Evil is often misunderstood and because of that, God is often misunderstood as well. First and foremost, evil is not a power that lives outside of God’s control. Rather, evil exists within the control of God’s power. Picture it like this:
In the first example, we see the proper alignment of evil existing within God’s sovereign control. In the second illustration, evil is equal to God and not controlled by God. Evil acts as a type of deity that God cannot control, and thus creates a false teaching called dualism. Evil is also not a being or a person. To define evil in that sense makes God the author of evil. Here is a summary statement of the problem: “If evil were a being, the problem of evil would be insoluble, for then either God made it—and thus he is not all-good—or else God did not make it—and thus he is not the all-powerful creator of all things.”[i] We are simplifying things here to show how to properly frame the reasoning.
To keep this article concise, we will focus on moral evil and not natural evil. Therefore, a basic definition of evil is “any act or event that is contrary to the good and holy purposes of God.” [ii] Moral evil comes from the moral freedom that exists in created beings. (I say created beings because Satan is a created being and not human, yet he is evil). As long as there is sin in the world, there will always be mass displays of evil from the depravity of man’s heart. Genesis 6:5 tells us that every intention of man’s heart is evil continually. Isaiah 64:6 tells us that our good deeds are like polluted garments, and Ephesians 2 tells us that man is dead in sin. Knowing these passages, we should not be shocked that humans commit unimaginably evil acts.
Knowing that evil is within God’s control causes some people to feel safe, while others may be horrified. But why would people want a more loving God who has no control? It’s like having a loving parent who cannot help you – it doesn’t make sense.
Having a God that allows sinful man to commit sinful acts, including evil acts, can be a hard pill to swallow. Romans 8:28 tells us that “God works all things for good for those who are called according to his purpose.” For that to be true, that must mean God can take and use evil for our good. Evil must be within his control. Look no further than the story of Job to see Satan asking God for permission to attack Job. It is not a stretch to say that we need to trust a sovereign God when it comes to what he allows and does not allow. God is always good, always just, and always sovereign.
When it comes to God, it is better and more Biblical for us to acknowledge that we have no clue why he allowed an act of evil to occur. But that doesn’t change the fact that we can trust his power, character, and nature. God is sovereign and evil is within his control, but he himself is not evil. That might be hard to understand, but it is consistent with scripture and having a relationship with an all-powerful Holy Father. God knows the story from the beginning to the end, and he therefore is in a place to know how all things work together. Humans do not know the story as he does, so we trust him in the things we cannot understand.
Finally, what is our role in all the evil and chaos? First, we can’t ignore the fact that we are scared, angry, or hurt. It’s okay to grieve and to not be okay. However, it is not okay to stay that way. Tell God your fears and struggles and ask him to help you process your feelings and guide your heart. Ask him to help you trust his character. Seek first to submit to God’s sovereignty and then be willing to change your heart and mind. Just because we don’t understand something doesn’t mean that God cannot have a reason beyond our comprehension. As God helps your heart, trust that through the power of the Holy Spirit, and by being rooted in His Word, you will gain more clarity.
Second, understand that you are not alone. Since creation, Christians have struggled to understand the evil acts of people. Know that there are other Christians having the same doubts as you. It’s okay to wrestle with God if it leads to submission to God.
Lastly, be an agent of hope. Hope is unwavering belief that God has something better for us when Jesus comes back for us. People often cannot fathom hope in the midst of despair. If we can be the voice that points to Jesus despite evil acts, we are doing our job as children of God. A Christian knows that there is more to life than this world and a Christian knows this life is but a vapor. It passes quickly. 1 Peter 2:9 tells us that we are to proclaim the excellencies of he who called us. What a powerful thing to do in the midst of evil! Romans 5:5 tells us that hope does not put us to shame because we have the love of God in our hearts and we have the help of the Holy Spirit.
Our role is to endure and not lose hope in Jesus’ return. Our role is to not change God or his word when we hurt. Our role is to point people to Jesus amid pain and suffering. Our role is to pray for people to find Jesus in the chaos. Remember, God is always good and worthy to be praised. Even when we don’t feel it to be true, it is still true. We need to pray diligently that God would change our hearts.