“How could a truly good, omnipotent God allow such evil to exist all around us?”

This question, and others like it, has plagued both believers and non-believers alike, since the beginning of time. Some have even walked away from their faith, having been haunted by experiences in their own lives or those they love so evil they have no explanation for it.

The problem of evil is both universal and uniquely personal. Other arguments that have been presented by skeptics down through history have come and gone. This is a question that demands a sensible, reasonable answer. I want to declare to you that there is truth and reason to believe that God’s very nature can be completely good, He can be totally omnipotent, and yet still allow the evils we see in this world, for the intent of accomplishing His ultimate purposes.

“He who wins the debate defines the terms,” so, let’s define what we mean by “evil.” We’ll look at two primary definitions. First there is the problem of moral evil, or, the evil choices made by free moral agents. Examples of moral evil can range from genocide, murder, abuse, and kidnapping, down to a small white lie. No matter the severity, they all still qualify as moral evil. It is often asked why God would not intervene in some of these more nefarious situations.

Then, there is the problem of natural evil. These would range from natural disasters like hurricanes and tsunamis that result in great loss of life, to smaller events like cancer or other disease. It is supposed that this type of evil presents a greater dilemma for the theist to explain. For one, at least in the case of moral evil, the person or persons committing the evil can be at least partly to blame. Yet, in the event of a natural evil, it appears the only Person to be blamed would be God. On top of that, it seems that natural evils are totally indiscriminate in who they affect. Even the most seemingly innocent, like infants and children, can be affected by what is seen as natural evil.

So, we return to the original question: How do we rectify a good, omnipotent God, in the presence of so much evil?

First, we need to admit that we do not have all the necessary data. For example, when we look at the suffering of Joseph in Genesis, from being sold into slavery, to being lied about and thrown into prison, we might easily conclude that he needlessly suffered those abuses. However, with the bird’s-eye view given in Scripture, you can conclude that all those events were necessary for Joseph to arrive as the second-in-command of the greatest nation on earth. At some point in his life, Joseph learned the great principle: “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive (Genesis 50:20).” Somewhere along the line, Joseph had learned to rectify his present suffering with the goodness of his God. It is possible, as was the case with Joseph, to conclude that God views as ultimately good what we view as immediately evil.

Not only must we admit that we can’t see the whole picture, but secondly, we must understand that there is also the limitation of interpreting a fallen world with a fallen, sinful mind. There may be times where, as God powerfully declares in Isaiah 55:9- “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts,” that we simply will not be able to fully comprehend or grasp the ultimate purpose God has for allowing specific negative circumstances into our lives.

Still, in spite of that, sufficient answers do in fact exist which explain the coexistence of God and evil, and which also serve to provide us a realistic hope for the future.

First of these deals with the matter of a moral free will. In order for God to create a universe in which agents of actual moral free will exist (humanity), there had to be a reality of good and evil, and a very real choice between the two must exist. Otherwise mankind would be mechanical and robotic. In essence, God created man so that he could have the liberty to choose or reject his Creator. God desired to have a race that He could be in relationship with, and the only way for true relationship to happen is to give the members of that race the actual opportunity to choose or reject that offer of relationship.

Therefore, though this current world is recognized as not being the best possible world, God knew that a world of man’s free will was the best possible way to achieve the best of all possible worlds (heaven). Thus, God has in fact created a world without evil that He desires every person to dwell alongside Him in. That world, which the Bible calls heaven, contains nothing of the evil, pain and suffering of this current world. However, one finds the Door, Jesus Christ, by experiencing this world, and all the evil that goes along with an existence in it.

Many skeptics have asked why God does not seem to punish evildoers or why He allows evil to seemingly go on unchallenged. The answer is simply that He will. In Galatians 6:7, God’s word promises, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” God has promised that evil will not be permitted to continue in perpetuity. One day, Satan and his forces will be ultimately and eternally vanquished (Rev. 20:10), as well as all those who lived and died without choosing to believe on the name of Christ (Rev 20:15).

Evil will not go on unpunished. Evil will one day be completely destroyed by an all-powerful, all-good God. Such a conclusion allows us to patiently suffer, knowing that one day, “…God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Rev 21:4)” The knowledge that evil must exist as a prerequisite for the choice of good over evil, as well as the assurance that evil will one day be removed gives us hope. However, there is more.

The Bible teaches that we as believers have a high priest, a Saviour, who sympathizes and empathizes with suffering. Isaiah 53 depicts the suffering Jesus Christ Himself went through, and Hebrews 4 teaches that because of that, He is now able to be touched with “the feeling of our infirmities.”

In answering our original question, we must be confronted with the realization that the same God who allowed the presence of evil into the universe, went so much further as taking upon Himself the ultimate evil, for the good of all who would trust in Him. He was the victim of maximum evil when He took the punishment of sin (evil) upon Himself. The Bible says that He not only bore the sins of all humanity, but also their griefs and sorrows (Isa. 53:4). Why then would God allow evil at all, knowing His Son would one day become a victim to its most heinous outcome? Could it be that perhaps this was ordained from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8), as the only way to bring about the maximum amount of good?

Thus we may conclude, that though the existence of evil remains a difficult and complex matter, the answers begin to come more clearly into view. God, who at His very core nature is good, had to allow present evil to legitimize the option to choose His Son, who took on evil in His own body on the cross. He then promises both grace to endure evil in this world, as well as future deliverance to a world where pain and evil are nothing but a distant memory. Only an all-powerful, all-good God could do such a thing!