Of all the questions I’m asked as a pastor, “Why?” is one of the most common. And certainly the most difficult to answer. The magnitude of the terrorist attacks in places such as Nice, France are impossible for any of us to take in. Faced with terrorism, senseless shootings in our cities, violence, tragedies, and disappointments which change our lives suddenly and sometimes irreversibly, we are left shocked, stunned, angry, and confused: unable to make sense of not only what we saw and heard, but also how we feel.
Why? Why did this happen? Why did God allow it? What kind of God sits back and does nothing in the face of such enormous tragedy? If God is all-powerful why doesn’t He stop the acts of terrorism? Why did He allow this child to be killed? This father to be shot? How can a good God allow all these horrific events? Dealing with tragedy, suffering, and evil are extremely difficult for all of us. There are no simple answers.
In spite of so many dramatic advances in fields such as medicine, technology, and science, evil in our world does not seem to be disappearing. Niall Ferguson in his book The War of the World writes, “The hundred years after 1900 were without question the bloodiest century in modern history, far more violent in relative as well as absolute terms than any previous era!” And the twenty-first century doesn’t seem to be improving: the violence, the atrocities, the terrorism, the murders, the abuse, the mindless killing fields continue. The existence of evil in our world is undeniable.
Evil is an alien intruder in our good world which our loving God created. People abuse the freedom which God gives us. God did not make us as robots, but as human beings made in His image with the privilege of choice. God could have made beings who would always choose the good, but then they would not be human beings as we know them. God has given us the capacity to make moral choices. When we choose evil rather than good, the consequences are disastrous for ourselves and others. C.S. Lewis writes: “It is men, not God, who have produced racks, whips, prisons, slavery, guns, bayonets, and bombs.” Human evil casts its long shadows on many innocent people.
As a follower of Jesus I believe that when life seems out of control, God is working out His perfect purposes in the lives of those who love Him. If you are the victim of an evil act, you may not feel that God is caring for you. But He does care. He abounds in steadfast love. While we certainly do not understand everything going on around us we do know that God is good. He cares for us and He can be trusted.
God is a God who knows about suffering. When Jesus came into the world He was known as “the Man of Sorrows,” suffering for us on the cross as He dies for our sin. He entered into our world of evil, of tears, rejection, pain, and death. When our Lord Jesus rose from the dead He demonstrated that He is greater than evil, suffering, and death itself. And on a future day the Prince of Peace will bring perfect justice, righteousness, and peace. He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Meantime in our darkness, pain, and confusion, we must trust God, and live lives displaying the love and compassion of our great God to the hurting and needy.