This past Sunday marked the ten-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks on our nation. This was the biggest national tragedy to happen in my lifetime, and for the past few years, every time the anniversary rolls around I’ve found myself thinking about one of the most troubling arguments against Christianity I’ve ever heard. I’m sure you’ve heard it, too. It goes like this:
1) God is all-powerful.
2) God is good.
3) There is evil in the world.
Only two of these three can be true.
It’s a hard thing to argue against. The first two items on that list are core pieces of my faith, and the third is impossible to deny after typing “September 11” into Google Images. Granted, Christians have tried admirably to come up with defenses against this argument, but ultimately, urging people to look at the bigger picture or saying that times of trouble bring people closer to God aren’t all that satisfying to me.
If God is so great, why does he need evil to create beauty? Why do I need to suffer to see him more clearly? I’m not denying that these things are true; I just have trouble seeing why God needed to order the world this way.
Ultimately, I’ve only really heard one response to this argument that doesn’t leave me cold. It’s not really a defense or an explanation for the existence of evil, but I think that’s why I like it. When we try to come up with a defense or an explanation, that doesn’t take away the pain of people who have suffered great loss. If I tell someone that their child died so that they would grow closer to God, that trivializes their child and reduces him or her to a pawn in God’s great scheme.
No, this response to evil doesn’t try to explain why God allows evil in the world. It just points to John 11. Jesus is told that his friend Lazarus has died. Even though he uses this tragedy to ultimately bring glory to himself and to his Father, his first response isn’t “Oh, great. I can resurrect this guy and everyone will see how great I am.”
He first responds by crying.
As long as I’m alive, I may not ever understand why God chose to allow evil in this world. In fact, I’m almost positive that’s a question I won’t ever be able to answer in a truly satisfying manner. But it’s comforting to know that God isn’t sitting up on his throne, looking down on the all the pain this world is feeling and saying, “If only these folks would stop complaining. In the long run, this is going to be something beautiful and they’ll be so much closer to me when it’s all said and done.”
God sees our pain. He suffers with us. We may not ever understand why God allows so much crap in the world. However, we can know he is not deaf to our cries, and he is not unmoved by our tears.
Question of the Week
How do you respond to evil in the world? Have you ever found an explanation for pain that satisfies you?