God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
In the early hours of Friday morning, July 20, 2012, in Aurora, Colorado, a lone assailant opened fire on unsuspecting movie goers whose only fault, if you want to call it that, was the desire to watch the very first viewing of Batman: The Dark Knight Rises. After the mayhem subsided and the smoke cleared, 70 people were shot and 12 killed according to the Denver Post. What started out for many as a night out of fun and entertainment ended in tragedy and sorrow.
Almost immediately, the news commentators and pundits filled the airwaves with their speculations as to the motives of the shooter. Even before the arrest of the alleged shooter, James Holmes, a PhD candidate in the University of Colorado’s neuroscience program, the talking heads started prognosticating about whether the insanity plea would be used in Holmes’ defense.
Naturally, the social media was all abuzz with the events of day. Many heartfelt sentiments were offered as were prayers for all those who were hurting. But as always seems to be the case in times of tragedy, someone will always raise the question, “Where was God in all of this?” One Facebook ™ post mocked the futility of praying to a god that allows evil to happen at all or that is impotent to prevent evil. “How can a loving god allow such horrific evil to happen?” he ranted. To sit in judgment of God qualifies the arrogant purveyor of such vitriol as a “fool” as defined in Psalm 53:1.
But even when one claims a belief in God, tragedies like this have a way of shaking one’s foundations. Where is God in all of this? Why does He not intervene to prevent or stop these horrors? God has promised not to leave us or forsake us (1 Kings 8:58; Hebrews 13:5). We are also taught “that all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28).
The simple answer is that evil exists in the world because of the fall of man back in Genesis 3. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). So great was the offense that even creation was effected: “For the earnest expectation of the [creation] waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the [creation] was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the [creation] itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans 8:19-22). That explains why there is evil in the world, but that is about as much comfort as understanding the geodynamics of plate tectonics when you’re right in the middle of an earthquake.
The atheist foolishly dismisses God as impotent to stop or prevent evil. If that were true, the atheist would be correct. A god (lowercase is on purpose) that claims to be omnipotent yet is powerless to stop evil is no god at all. But the Bible is full of examples of God intervening to stop evil. Take for example, the mark that He placed on Cain to protect him from being murdered (Genesis 4:15). Other examples are the Ark of Noah (Genesis 6), the plagues against Egypt to set Israel free from bondage, saving Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the fiery furnace (Daniel 3) or saving Daniel from the lions in the lions’ den (Daniel 6). There are many, many others, but perhaps the greatest evil that was turned to good was the death of Christ on the cross and the victory over death through His resurrection – the greatest example of God intervening to vanquish evil. Beyond that, there is also the testimony of real Christians that are witnesses to God’s intervening to save them from harm in one way or another.
“Yes” one might say, “but evil persists.” Yes it does, but perhaps that is God’s greatest act of mercy. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). However, people do not go out of their way to seek God. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:10-11). And when things are going well, the likelihood that they will seek God exponentially diminishes. God uses evil to draw people to him. Not all will respond as in the sad case of the atheist, but many will. In tragic times, when people have no answers, they cry out to God, and He responds. Christians respond by lifting up the hurting in prayer and by ministering to physical and emotional needs. Either way, people, both unbelievers and Christians, are drawn to God.
There will be an ultimate end to evil, but until then, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into divers [trials]; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh [endurance]” (James 1:2-3). One day (and it’s closer today than ever) Christ, the Prince of Peace, will return and reclaim this broken and fallen world for Himself, and evil will no more find a place in this world. Until then we endure the trials and minister to those that are hurting and hopefully win some to Christ.