“Are You not from everlasting,
O Lord, my God, my Holy One?
We will not die.
You, O Lord, have appointed them to judge;
And You, O Rock, have established them to correct.
Your eyes are too pure to approve evil,
And You can not look on wickedness with favor.
Why do You look with favor
On those who deal treacherously?
Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up
Those more righteous than they?” (Habakkuk 1:12–13; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).
The Bible and Judeo-Christian tradition make bold statements about God. We believe that He is always present, all-powerful, all-knowing, eternal, unchanging, holy, righteous, merciful, loving, and good. He is perfect in all of these attributes.
However, we see the world He created and governs, and things do not seem right. Wicked rulers enslave millions of people through violence, fear, and corruption. A global pandemic strikes down good people who are taking necessary precautions to protect themselves and others, while violent rioters burn buildings and loot businesses without catching a sniffle. A head-on automobile collision kills a careful driver and his passengers, while the drunk driver who was speeding the wrong way down a highway staggers away uninjured.
Life is not fair. Injustice exists everywhere. It can be easy to doubt God when bad things happen.
This dilemma is ancient. Even the authors of Scripture struggled with it at times. Abraham, the father of the faith, once asked God, “Shall not the judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Genesis 18:25). The prophet Habakkuk uttered the prayer at the beginning of this post while the Babylonians were ravaging the nation of Judah. He understood that the Jews had sinned against God and deserved some kind of judgment. However, the violence he saw seemed to be much worse than they deserved. Furthermore, they were suffering at the hands of the Babylonians, who were more wicked than the Israelites or Jews had ever been.
“God, do You have any idea what you are doing? Do You think this is right or fair? Where are You in this mess?” Do we not all pray like this at times? Throughout the ages, people have asked the same questions: How can a good, holy, righteous, and loving God allow wickedness and evil to prevail? How can such a God use evil people or events to judge His children or otherwise accomplish His will?
These questions continue to nag us, and people have answered the question in three ways.
First, some people conclude that there is no God. For them, there is no conflict. They believe that the universe is not governed by a supremely intelligent being; rather, impersonal natural laws of physics govern the universe. We are merely the random products of billions of years of chemical reactions that led to organic matter, then to living organisms, which eventually evolved into more complex life forms, including humans. In such a universe, right and wrong are merely human concepts, not objective realities. You cannot say “Bad things happen to good people,” because bad and good are just matters of opinion, not facts.
A second solution to this dilemma suggests that God (or several gods) exists, but He/she/they is/are imperfect. Rabbi Harold S. Kushner shared this view in his 1981 bestselling book When Bad Things Happen to Good People. He proposed that God exists and is good and loving but not all-powerful. He might want to heal your horrible disease but cannot do it. Similar worldviews state that God is less-than-perfect in some other way. Maybe He is not perfectly loving or just. Perhaps there are several gods, all of whom are imperfect. Ancient polytheistic tales like the myths of ancient Greece or the Middle East give this perspective. For example, in the ancient Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, a hero named Utnapishtim builds a large ship to save part of humanity during a global flood (similar to the biblical story of Noah). At the end of the flood, Utnapishtim offers sacrifices to the gods, who gather to ravenously receive the offering. One capricious deity had forgotten that all of the gods need to be fed by sacrifices offered by humans, and the other gods and goddesses were not able to stop him.
The response of faith holds that God is perfect, but His ways are beyond our full understanding. In the words of Isaiah:
“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord.
‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8–9).
God is perfect. He is all-powerful, holy, just, and loving. When things do not seem to be going right, He is still in control. We may not understand what He is doing, but He knows exactly what He is doing or allowing.
If He does not fully judge evil in this world, He will do so at the final judgment. Although evil men may get away with their crimes in this life, God will hold them to account. We may not see it in this world, but God’s justice will come to fruition.
We will continue to see or experience things that tempt us to doubt God’s goodness or perfection. Do not fear. He will make all things right in His time. Life is not fair, but God is good all the time. Let us continue to trust Him even when circumstances tempt us to ask questions.
Life is not fair, but God is good. Have you struggled with this idea in your own life? How has it played out for you? Feel free to share by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.
Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.