In reading through the book of Job, I came across this verse that so clearly captures a time transcending question about why bad things happen.
"WHY is light given to one burdened with grief,
and life to those whose existence is bitter,
who wait for death,
but it does not come,
and search for it more than for hidden treasure,
who are filled with much joy
and are glad when they reach the grave?"
This question sounds all too familiar from my own thoughts as well as the thoughts of those around me. Why would God allow a child to be born with a birth defect that will make their life miserable all their days? Why would God allow torment after torment to fall on hundreds of humans in captivity all around the world? Why would He allow natural disasters to separate loved ones from each other? Why would He allow the death of those who do not know Him?
Obviously, we could go through a big philosophical discussion on the problem of pain and evil in the world. We could talk about "gratuitous evil" and hash out the particulars of divine sovereignty and human free will. While the discussion would be interesting, I think something else could be more "helpful."
I heard a speaker at a conference I recently attended rightly explain that in the book of Job, God had the perfect opportunity to explain the problem of evil. The theme of the book would have flowed perfectly -- but he doesn't. Instead, He responds with chapters and chapters telling us about His character. This seems to tell us that He knows what we need the most in difficult, questioning times is not necessarily an explanation, but revelation. We need not answers, but presence.
Another interesting thought to consider is God's absolute sovereignty over Satan. Satan does not simply act within divine permission, but he actually is acting to fulfill God's good purposes! What he means for evil, God means for good. His knowledge and wisdom of each minute detail of every one million situations of every second far surpass our knowledge OR Satan's! Satan will attempt to hinder God's people but his attempts will only fulfill God's secure purposes to make His name great. Throughout scripture and history, Satan's attempt to crush the Church have only served to further it -- often more rapidly! His attempt to crush individuals who are clothed in Christ's righteousness only serves to give them patience and hope.
Sometimes I wonder even if we had the explanation of the problem of evil if we would still struggle. Often I think how amazing it would have been to have seen Jesus, witnessed his ministry first hand, eaten with him as the disciples did. Then I remember that though the disciples spend every hour of every day with him during his ministry, they too doubted. Judas was so filled with unbelief he was willing to betray him. Thirty pieces of silver are obviously of more worth when you don't believe Jesus is who He says He is. Thomas doubted. Peter betrayed Him THREE times! I don't think having the answers given directly to us or even empirically "knowing" what our eyes don't see will help us deal when family members tragically die, marriages fall apart, finances don't add up, and the future is an abyss of uncertainty. It is important for us to wrestle with these ideas rationally since, by definition, our faith is not "blind." However, during my time living in a new culture, I have learned that the things that sound good intellectually during sunny days often seem futile and shallow during the stormy ones. Both are important.
Thankfully, God has blessed us with His word by which we can know HIM. We can have revelation and presence while we wait for His return to restore all things and make our faith sight. The truths we know are that God is sovereign. His power is beyond comprehension yet his care is intimate. He is the creator and sustainer. His purposes will be accomplished.
I love this quote from Tozer:
“With the goodness of God to desire our highest welfare, the wisdom of God to plan it, and the power of God to achieve it, what do we lack? Surely we are the most favored of all creatures.”