“Resentment stems from being unable to control the past, anger from being unable to control the present, and fear from being unable to control the future.” (often heard at AA & NA meetings) It’s hard to feel peaceful and concentrate on doing good when terrorists are exalting brutality and people in the news are choosing random acts of destruction over deeds of kindness, isn’t it? If you—like me—have been horrified and grieved by the avalanche of evil that’s been inundating the world lately, may I encourage you with some thoughts that came to me while I was out prayer-walking on our lane early this morning? The lake was really foggy at sunrise, and after all the rain, the ground steamed in the cool air. I was meditating on a passage from my morning devotional study: “Fret not thyself because of evil men…for there shall be no reward to the evil man; the candle of the wicked shall be put out. My son, fear thou the LORD and the king” (Proverbs 24:19-21). For those of us who are children of the King of Kings, it’s not hard to “fear”
(put our reverential trust in) the LORD, but what about those who haven’t experienced the wonderful grace of Jesus and the ineffable love of God? For anybody who’s struggling with the problem of pain and suffering, may I recommend this excellent message that I heard recently by Andy Stanley?
(click on message #3: “Good God?”) The message is about 34 minutes long (if you start at minute 8), but if you don’t have a half an hour outright, you can always download it and listen while you drive, or listen while you exercise (which is what I do), wash dishes, fold laundry, or whatever! I can’t reproduce for you all the wisdom in what he says, but it’s profoundly reassuring. The gist of his message is something like this: Don’t you just wish you had a can of “bad” spray so you could get rid of everything evil in the world? If you could, would you eliminate all evil?…even your mom or dad, or any of your other predecessors who might have done something evil? Or, are you glad you exist? Would you be okay with everybody having a can of “bad” spray, or would you be afraid that someone might think you’re bad and spray you? What if we just let God hold the can?…or, would that mean that you and I would be eliminated for sure, because we’ve also done some things that were wrong during our lives, and God knows everything about us…both good and bad. Do you think we all have a sense of what “ought” to be, and that the world is not what it “ought” to be? This is one of the reasons C.S. Lewis came to believe in God. Where did the “ought” and “ought not” come from? If we don’t live in a moral universe, then who’s to tell anyone else what they “ought” or “ought not” do? If we do live in a moral universe, who made it a moral universe, and how did the sense of “good” versus “evil” get into our hearts? Suffering isn’t evidence for the absence of God. The fact that there’s no emotionally satisfying answer to the problem of pain and suffering is evidence that there is a God, because we as humans have vestiges of his image that make us dissatisfied with evil. God has also created us with the great privilege of free choice. We can choose good or evil. The world “ought” to be a place where people freely choose good, but that’s not always happening now. What can change this? As Christians, we believe that there is a God, but if he removed all evil, he would have to remove us too. Instead of destroying all evil (and therefore all people) at this time, God is patiently giving us the chance to learn that sin hurts. Like the little girl (Andy Stanley’s daughter) who stuck her finger in a cigarette lighter and was never tempted to burn her finger again, God is allowing each of us to either choose to do good by faith…or learn the hard way to choose good because evil brings destruction and death to the person who does evil. The hope of believers is that this world, which is so broken by sin, will one day be renewed by God. We believe that rather than killing people instantly when they sin, God loved us so much that he entered the world through the person of Christ, who died for our sins and rose again to provide forgiveness for our sins, a new nature that desires good more than evil, and the Holy Spirit to guide us along the path of life. Meanwhile, what he calls us to do in this dark world is to walk faithfully in the light, continuing to wrestle against sin and evil, and looking forward to the hope of Christ coming again to make “all things new” (Revelation 21:5).
“Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20). “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
(1 John 1:7)