“The Reality of Sin” – Revelations – Day 13

A Theodicy of Evil – Lenten Season 2023

“In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job.  This man was blameless and upright, he feared God and shunned evil.  He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants.  He was the greatest man among all the people of the East” (Job 1:1-3 NIV).

One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them.  The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”  Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.”

Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?  There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”  

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied.  “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has?  You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.  But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face” (Job 1:6-11 NIV).

Revelations – Day 13 “The Reality of Sin”

“If God exists and he’s supposed to be so good, why did my baby die?”

You can imagine the pain in the question, and you have to agree on an existential level that it is a very good question.  My daughter just lost her baby after three months of pregnancy and it wasn’t a very pleasant experience, to say the least.  She didn’t actually ask me this question, but I can imagine that she, and a lot of other mothers, were thinking these very thoughts in their innermost hearts. 

Forget about the fact that scraping the dead baby out of the womb without causing undue collateral damage can already be an ordeal, the thought of your baby just dying within your womb when you were supposed to protect it and keep it safe can devastate anyone.  Apparently, the baby’s heart just stopped, and nobody really knows why.  Turning your thoughts to God and his promises of protection and providence is natural. And it is easy to get angry at Him and wonder what in the world he is up to. 

This is the religious problem of evil at its most intimate core as it affects us personally.  It is a fair question and must be answered.  That answer is what is called in philosophical terms a “theodicy” of evil.  A “theodicy” is simply a vindication of the providence or actions (and non-actions) of God in the context of a world full of suffering and pain and death. 

The Book of Job in the Old Testament is a theodicy of evil.  You remember the story.  Job is a righteous man, but God “allows” the Devil to destroy him to prove his faith and loyalty to God.  His children are killed, his riches are stripped away from him, and he is beset with boils and bodily disease.  It doesn’t really get any worse than that.  And Job isn’t alone.  He has three “church” friends who keep him company and try to help him make sense of these tragedies.

But these “friends” aren’t very helpful.  “You must have done something wrong,” they decide.  “You need to confess your sins and repent and God will relent.”  But Job objects.  He has been a “righteous man” in Old Testament terms, and he has been meticulous in his worship of God even to the point of offering sacrifices on behalf of his children who may have sinned in their pursuit of parties and diversion.  In his heart, he honestly believes that if this is God’s punishment for his sinful life, he is at a loss as to what he should repent of.  The prevailing belief that suffering and pain only come on those who have sinned and disobeyed God in some way simply didn’t make sense in his case.

It reminds us of the man born blind that Jesus healed.  The Pharisees asked him whether it was for his own sin or the sin of his parents that he was afflicted with this blindness (John 9:1-12 NIV).  Jesus told them it was neither him nor his parents and that his affliction had nothing to do with God’s punishment at all but rather so that he could be healed by Jesus and thereby show the people the glory and character of God.   The punishment theory simply wasn’t true at least for the people of God. 

Job was in the same boat.  His “friends” claimed that the disasters that had come upon him were a result of the punishment of God for his sinful life.  Job knew that it couldn’t be true, so he turned to God and started to complain that it was all unfair and unjust.

Right there is a good lesson for all of us.  Many people may complain in their hearts but be afraid to deal directly with God.  Not good.  Job demonstrates with his complaints that he has a relationship with God and that he feels “safe” in bringing his issues before the throne of the Almighty.  We need to feel the same way.

In other words, asking the question or struggling with the religious problem of evil isn’t a sin in and of itself so long as you ask the question of God and through his Word allow him to answer you.  It may not be an answer you like, and you will need faith to accept it but once you do, like Job, you will find your way through the storm to the other side.

And Job didn’t have a lot of help from his wife either.  She was fed up with the whole situation and told him to just “curse God and die” (Job 2:9 NIV).  She wasn’t all that convinced that Job was innocent either.  If he wouldn’t repent, then he should just end it all and accept that God was not his Father, and he was not his child.  Not helpful. 

But this was the great test for Job right at that point.  Would he interpret God as unjust since he was righteous?  Would he decide that God’s character was suspect since this was clearly uncalled for?  Would he decide that for all intents and purposes, he would become an “atheist” and live whatever remained of his life as someone who no longer claimed to be a child of God?

Suffering and pain can really screw up your thinking.  As Jesus pointed out to his disciples, you have to build your house (or your relationship with God) before the storms of life come upon you (Matt. 7:24.27 NIV). Because when the storms come there is no time to think and your heart will be revealed and your true values, beliefs, and loyalties will be exposed. 

In the case of Job, he was right in going to God with his concerns and asking Him what was going on.  Of course, he also came up with his questions based on the concept that all suffering and pain was a result of punishment from God.  He had yet to learn that he existed for the purpose of bringing glory to God.  Let me explain what I mean.

God responded to Job with two messages.  The first was really a revelation that he existed and that he was the creator and that his very creation demonstrated his glory and his character.  Rather than doubt that God exists or that he is acting more like the Devil than a good and gracious Father, the first step is simply to accept that God is good, and we are evil.  We like to make the claim that we are good, and God is somehow evil since he allowed this suffering and pain to come into our lives.  God is good.  He is just.  He is powerful and yes; he allowed this suffering to happen.  Those are the facts of the case.  Accepting that is the first step towards healing.

But then there is the second step, which is a question of authority.  God is good.  He is just.  He is powerful AND he is in charge.  He makes the decisions.  He is the one who understands the nature of the creation he has made.  He is the one who is behind the march of history.  He is the one who can create good out of evil and has a plan to redeem his people.  We know much more of his plans today than Job did in his day.  For Job, it was really a step of faith.  God’s message is basically, “I know what I am doing.  Trust me.”  And that is hard for all of us. 

Another way of putting it is “Let God be God.”  There is more going on than meets the eye.  The plan of redemption was not yet fully revealed in his time as it has for us in the advent of the coming of Christ into the world and the revelation of the plan of redemption in the Book of Revelations. 

But the issue is still the same.  The temptation to doubt and unbelief is still there.  The question God is asking in the midst of suffering and pain is still current.  Do you accept that I am here and that I am good?  Step One.  Will you trust me that there is a good reason for everything that is happening to you?  Step Two.  Those two questions are just as appropriate today and, in any age, regardless of how much we actually understand of what God is up to.

Perhaps we need to frame the issue in a different way.  The assumption that the Devil had when he approached God was that Job was only faithful to God because of the benefits of his position.  He was a righteous man and under the Old Testament covenant, many creational benefits were promised to those who followed God.  Just like the “rewards” in the Book of Revelations, God loves to lavish his blessings on his people whenever possible.  The Devil assumed that Job only followed God because of the benefits, and he wanted to prove his point by taking those benefits away.

Sadly, in this world of sin and evil and rebellion against God, that is true of many people who claim that they are part of the people of God.  It is also true that it is only when those benefits are taken away when the storms of life come, that you can tell what is really in the hearts of men and women.  God “allows” the Devil to take those benefits away to prove that Job’s relationship with Him was true and fast no matter what happened to him.  And God was proven right. 

I have heard some people say that it was rather sadistic of God to allow Job to suffer just to prove a point to the Devil but that would be to miss the point entirely.  It wasn’t really about the Devil but about Job and his testimony.  If you could ask Job today, some four thousand years or so later, whether he was willing to go through all of that pain and suffering again now that he could see the impact of his testimony on the lives of hundreds of thousands of believers throughout the centuries as they read his story and were encouraged to follow in his footsteps, he would most undoubtedly agree.  He had to have faith in God’s plan and in his character without knowing the results but that is the nature of faith. 

Whether you think that his story is nothing but a bit of fictional wisdom literature and that there was no discussion between God and the Devil or not, it doesn’t matter.  Whether Job was a real person or not doesn’t matter.  There are many, many Jobs out there.  Many people have suffered and have complained to God and received his “theodicy” of evil based on his character and his purpose in history and in the lives of his people. 

Whoever wrote the Book of Job could not have written the story if he had not experienced something of what Job went through or had known others who had a similar experience.  Personally, I think Job is a real person but, for the purposes of understanding God’s answer to the question of evil, it doesn’t matter.

The Book of Revelations is also a “theodicy” of evil since it is God’s revelation of his plan of redemption that “allows” evil especially in the lives of his people not as punishment but rather as an opportunity for effective ministry.  Just like Job.  If you are committed to living a safe and pleasant life pursuing the American Dream, then you probably won’t like his answers to your questions. 

If you are convinced that the suffering and pain that you are experiencing or even just the suffering and pain that others are experiencing demonstrates that God is not good, or fair, or powerful, then you are welcome to “curse God and die.”  The answers are only for those who already have faith, who already have built their lives upon the rock, and who already know that their relationship with God is not about the benefits or rewards but about him.

And isn’t that true in marriage as well?  We claim that we are committed to the other for richer or for poorer, in sickness or in health, until death do us part.  In other words, it isn’t about the benefits but about the person.  Why would God want anything different?  Do you know how many men leave their wives once they get cancer, or just get fat after pregnancy?  Do you know how many women make the lives of their men miserable because they expect to be taken care of properly and can’t abide poverty?  Do you know how many marriages fall apart because these words are simply not true and that in the midst of the storm of disease or poverty, their true relationship is revealed?  And the numbers are not that different in the church as outside the church as you well know. 

Why would it be any different for God?

He is looking for a heart that loves him for who he is, a heart that trusts him and follows him even into the gates of hell.  He is looking for people who want to be with him no matter what path needs to be taken.  And, yes, it is true, he also wants people who will accept his priorities and his plans to save as many as possible from a fate worse than death, which he calls the second death. 

So, when someone comes to me with questions about God in the context of an evil world, I let them blast me with all of their arguments.  If God is good, how can he allow children to suffer?  If God is all-powerful, why did he just allow so many people to die in an earthquake?  If God is all-knowing, how can he be ignorant of what is going on in the back rooms of the sweatshops and sex slavery rings?  They are all good questions but there is only one answer.  God allows it because he loves you. 

That is not an answer that most people can accept.  In fact, it makes them downright angry sometimes.  What in the world do you mean when you say that God allows evil because he loves me?  Leaving aside the fact that only those with faith in God already can survive the storms of life, still there is a “story” that needs to be told to give context to the answers that God gives us for the existence of sin and evil. 

It starts at the beginning, of course.  The world was created good.  Mankind was created good but with free will (as love must always have).  I personally believe that earthquakes and volcanoes are a natural part of a good creation (as many other natural processes are).  There is nothing particularly evil about them in and of themselves.  In a good creation that includes mankind, God would have normally provided protection from these natural processes.  No problem.  But in a world where mankind has rebelled against the rule of God and has decided that they can function well enough on their own, all bets are off.  There is no more protection. 

In fact, there are curses that God inflicts on the earth in response to this rebellion of man. And these curses tell us a lot about God’s intentions moving forward.  Rather than just abandoning mankind to their own ends, which was impossible in any event, God would stay involved and create a sort of “uneasy truce” that allowed mankind to live temporarily on his earth in the hopes of bringing them back into a relationship with him.  God had a plan, and the Bible is a chronicle of that plan from the Book of Genesis through the Book of Revelation. 

But a couple of truths must be acknowledged before we even start to try to understand the plan of redemption that God put in place.  The first is that mankind was created in such a way that he was utterly dependent on God for his life.  This dependence was relational in nature.  When God created the fish of the sea, he did so out of the sea itself.  When he created the animals of the land, he spoke to the land, but when he created mankind, he spoke to himself and said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness” (Genesis 1:26 NIV).  The fish cannot survive outside of their relationship with the sea.  Animals can only exist on land and mankind can only find their existence, identity, purpose, meaning, and significance in a relationship with their Creator.

That is a truth in the Christian worldview that is unavoidable.

The problem is that we humans all live in a fantasy world of our own making. 

We truly believe that we are independent of God (and of each other).  It has already been proven that humans cannot exist independently of each other and certainly cannot survive without the help of others in our community.  The same is true, and even more, with God.  Leaving aside the fact that all of creation could not live or breathe or have any existence without God “allowing” it to be so, goes without question.  But even more, the moral, psychological, and physical makeup of the human psyche could not function properly without an intimate relationship with God. 

In the Book of Revelation, in the New Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven, there is a spring of water that is called the “water of life” that flows from the throne of God.  In other words, not only is life sustained directly from God but that our quality of life is a direct result of the throne or “authority” of God in our lives.  And on both sides of this stream of life grows the tree of life whose “leaves are for the healing of the nations” (Rev. 22:2 NIV).  Yes, we need to be healed. 

Right now, without God, mankind is deathly sick.

But we live in this fantasy world where we get away with evil, where we enjoy the benefits of creation, and where we are “allowed” to rebel against God without consequence.  What we don’t realize is that this world is strange and abnormal from the Christian point of view.  It is what I call the absurdity of an abnormal existence.  That is the starting point. 

We need to recognize that what we think is normal is in fact very strange indeed.  There is nothing normal about death.  There is nothing normal about suffering and pain.  These are all things that should not exist.  And we aren’t even talking about the myriad ways of hurting one another that exist in the world, in our communities, and even in our families. 

It may be our common experience, but it is not “normal” by any stretch of the imagination if it is true that God created the world good and mankind “very good” (Genesis 1:31 NIV).  Something happened in between.  That something changed everything.  We need to get to the bottom of it.  For those of you who are a bit more philosophically inclined, this is called a theodicy of evil based on the concept of “free will.” 

The argument goes something like this.  God created the world good, including mankind but, since mankind was made in his image, and his goal was to have a personal relationship with each one of us, we were created with the ability to have free will.  After all, without free will. how could there be something called “love.”  Fair enough.

But didn’t God know that mankind would abuse this gift of free will?  Yes, of course.  But creating beings that would freely love him was no easy task.  Since love cannot be coerced, all of the power of God could not create it.  It could only be “enticed” as a lover demonstrates his value to his beloved and “entices” a response.  God was willing to take some bold actions to make this incredible creation of his. 

The freely given love of another is considered by us to be the most valuable thing in our lives, why should it be any different for God?  It wasn’t just a question of creating this loving child but also creating a situation where they could discover for themselves that they loved God more than they loved themselves.  That is the nature of love after all.  I feel the same way about my wife and children. 

And so, there was a question mark built into the very fabric of creation. 

It was called the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  They were told to eat freely from the Tree of Life but to leave the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil alone on pain of death.  There were no surprises here.  No mistakes were made.  It wasn’t a question of not understanding the rules of the game.  God was clear.  And it wasn’t just about the Knowledge of Good and Evil (although that matters a lot as well) but rather that they had to decide whether or not they would accept their role as followers of God and allow God to have authority over their lives. 

God is God and we are his children.  It’s as simple as that. 

As a father, myself, I can relate.  I also want to know whether my children will accept my authority as a loving parent and obey me when I deny them something.  Or will they demonstrate that they only tolerate me so long as it benefits them?  Or do they insist on knowing exactly why I forbid them something or why something is good or bad for them?  They do not always have the awareness that they do not have the capacity at their young age to make every decision about what is good or bad for them in every situation.  Recognizing, in humility, who they are and what they are capable of and accepting the authority of God in their lives is key to the relationship with their father (or mother).

There is no point in saying that they don’t need their parents.  It is simply true that our relationship with appropriate “loving authority” is essential to our development as humans.  And don’t think that that is only a question of putting up with it during our childhood because that is simply not true.  It is a lifelong recognition that we need each other and that having appropriate “loving authority” in our lives is a necessary part of our human development.  The same is true and more for our relationship with God. 

After all, do we really think that we are any good at determining what is good or bad for us?  Oh, yes, I know.  That is our most cherished “right” to decide for ourselves what is good or bad even if we are wrong, even if it doesn’t work out like we thought, even if we hurt others in the process.  Our “self-authority” is protected, expected, and not even in question for almost everyone on the planet.  We are super sensitive about other inappropriate, not-so-loving “authorities” that try to encroach on that fundamental human right.  Even so, these other authorities, in the name of protecting other people from getting hurt by our “self-authority,” will still make demands on us. 

We call it “morality” which is a limit to our will in order to protect others from our selfishness.  We limit what we “want” in order to protect others (either voluntarily or obliged by the community) from our decisions.  So, the question remains whether or not we are any good at this “authority” that we have taken from God and given to ourselves.  What does it take for us to be good at this “ability” to determine what is good or bad for ourselves (much less for others like our families or communities).

First of all, you would have to know the future.  After all, in order to know whether or not something is good or evil you would have to have some idea of its future results and consequences.  I don’t suppose anyone asked God whether or not creating the aerosol can was a good idea.  It looked like a great way to disperse aerosols and there were many uses we could make of it much less create a lot of wealth in the process.  It looked like a great idea but, alas, much to our surprise, after it was too late, we discovered that it had a negative effect on the ozone layer.  Too bad.  So sad.  Now multiply that by thousands and thousands of times and you understand why we have an environmental problem today.

Last time I checked we didn’t have the ability to see the future.  We can make some predictions based on our past experiences but that’s about it.  Perhaps we should ask God first?

Second, you would have to know all things, be omniscient so to speak.  After all, it isn’t just the future that you need to know about but also how things work and how to combine things in the proper ways so as not to create unintended results where other people are hurt by our creations.  Again, there are a lot of examples one could give but the atomic bomb comes to mind, much less the advent of customized viruses, and numerous products that have been given the green light and still end up needing to be recalled because they were defective.  Omniscience would have been helpful in many of those situations. 

Third, you would have to be all-powerful in order to manage all of the secondary, collateral effects of any decision you make.  I am a fan of “planets and robots” as my wife would say and some of my favorite shows are Star Trek, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager.  I, especially like any shows that involve time travel and the like.  Personally, I don’t think that God will ever allow mankind to develop the ability to travel through time.  We would make a mess of things pretty quickly. 

Some people call it the “butterfly effect” meaning that a butterfly might flap its wings in Brazil and cause a typhoon in Asia.  That may be a bit much until you factor in the effect of time travel.  The slightest change in the past could have far-reaching impact on the future.  What we don’t seem to realize is that we already exist in a time machine.  The decisions we make today will have an effect on the future of our children, our communities, and even our world. 

Even if we personalize it and talk about our “future selves” and the fact that the decisions we make today will have an impact on our own lives in the future.  The point is that we already have power.  We are not all-powerful like God is, but our decisions matter.  The problem is that so many of our decisions are NOT good for our future or the futures of those we love.  The world is full of situations that reflect the truth of this reality.  If we were all-powerful perhaps it would make a difference, but our power is limited to our decisions and the collateral damage is simply a fact of life that we don’t take responsibility for. 

But that leads us to the real issue of taking on this “self-authority” to decide what is good or bad for us and our loved ones.  The real issue is that we would need to be “truly good” like God is.  We would need to be willing to make decisions that were truly in the best interests of our future selves, and the futures of the people we love and influence with our decisions. 

And here is the rub.  We do make good decisions on occasion, but we also make bad decisions.  And not just as a consequence of lacking future vision, omniscience, or sufficient power to control the collateral damage but because we are simply not good people.  We often make decisions that we know are bad and we make them anyway.

We want what we want when we want it whether or not it is good for us or for the ones who are under our care.  That is the sad truth of human nature as we find it in this reality we live in.  That is why we have addictions, obesity, sickness, and even premature death.  That is why people steal, deceive, and kill for their own perceived benefit whether shortsighted and superficial or not.  We are not good.  The “authority of God” based on his abilities and status as God and Father and Creator taken unceremoniously away from him and usurped by mankind resulted in a corruption of this authority focused now on the “self” rather than on the “other.”

In fact, this is the most basic definition of evil available to us, even if we don’t take God into account.  We all know and have experienced the power of love over and against the force of obligation.  Selfishness is the opposite of love.  A focus on what you want over and against the needs and desires of the other is the foundation of all evil.  Call it pride if you like.  Call it sin if you like but, in the end, it is simply the most basic definition of evil.  Was Hitler an evil man?  I would say so, but he thought that he was doing what was good for Germany.  When the end justifies the means, people with good intentions can commit the most heinous evils on mankind.  That’s the truth and we all know it. 

So, to get back to our story at the beginning of time, Adam and Eve decided (under the influence of the deception of Satan) to take over the appropriate “loving authority” of God in their lives, not trust him to do the right things for their best interest, and simply do it themselves.  Of course, that broke the relationship they had with God.  It violated the whole purpose of creation which was originally put in service to them and their development as stewards of creation. 

And now God had to make a choice. 

On the one hand, his justice demanded that he set things right by destroying creation and mankind right at that point and perhaps start over.  On the other hand, his love for his children would not allow him to abandon them without another attempt, a more difficult path, that would cost him everything to win them back to his side.  God chose to delay his final and perfect justice for a time to allow his plan of redemption to save as many as he could. 

There were consequences to this decision of course.  Many would be lost, probably most.  Suffering and evil would have to be allowed.  He would need to control man to some extent but also allow them their freedom to do both good and evil.  He would need to manipulate the march of history to counteract the worst decisions of his children and push things towards a consummation that supported his plan of redemption. 

It would not be easy, and many people would get hurt but it was either that or bring things to a conclusion right away and lose any and all potential children that would have otherwise been saved.  God chose the way of love even though it was also the way of suffering, and he would suffer the most in the process.  Isn’t that always the way of love?

So, it was God who created this “uneasy truce” which resulted in an abnormal existence that we have gotten used to and now expect to be the new “normal” for human existence.  But it isn’t so.  There is nothing normal about it. 

God, himself, had to curse creation so that we would not co-exist so peacefully with it or harness it to our own destruction (although that seems to be happening in our day). 

God, himself, had to ban us from the garden and the Tree of Life so that we could not live forever, and our days would be limited.  But the worst of it we did to ourselves by cutting ourselves off from the source of life and the only relationship that could heal us from this primeval selfish act. 

Freud seemed to have gotten a taste of this truth when he claimed that we all “kill” our fathers (who represent authority in our lives) and we want to “make love” to our mothers (who represent pleasure and desire in our lives).  That is a simplistic explanation of Freud of course but you get the idea.  This is a fundamental human trait that still bears witness to the original story at the beginning of time. 

There is only one way to solve the dilemma of evil and that is to accept the reality of sin.  Sin is here defined as our rebellion against God not only at the beginning of time but also today, every day, as we decide to make our own decisions and to protect our “self-authority” from any and all encroachments from outside whether from God or our systems of law or the social expectations of our communities.  We like to use “creational” terms such as pain, suffering, and death but God wants to use “relational” terms like sin, rebellion, and evil (as defined by our own “self-authority” rooted in selfish pride).

We will play the morality game but only to a point and only because we want to.  At any moment we may decide to prioritize ourselves, our own survival, our own desires, and our own ability to thrive and be successful above the needs or wants of others.  That is the true source of evil in the world today whether you believe in God or not. 

One of my favorite TV shows is called “Criminal Minds” and the writers like to quote someone famous at the beginning of each episode to describe the human condition that is capable of such evil that they deal with on a day-to-day basis.  But I always remember what Aaron Hotchner, the leader of the team, used to say.  “Under the right circumstances, we are all capable of great evil.”  Perhaps that is a bit of an overstatement, but the truth is that the “evil” is within, and when you acknowledge that, you are halfway home.

That is why I tell people that the reason that God allows evil to exist is because he loves you.  Jesus came to save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21 NIV) not from the Romans.  He wants to save you from your sins and in order to do so he has to keep this world going and continue to allow suffering and pain and death to provide a brief window in time for you to be healed. 

You can claim, all you want, that evil proves that God is not good.  That the suffering of children, especially your children, shows that God is evil and not good.  That God can’t be trusted to protect you and your loved ones.  That God lacks compassion and gentleness.  You can claim that any other human would intervene and stop evil in its tracks if they had the power to do so and you would be right. 

But God must think of eternity.  If the second death is real and is the unavoidable destiny of every human being who has cut themselves off from their only source of life and safety, then there is only one conclusion.  God allows evil because he loves you and does not want you to end up in that second death, in hell, sharing eternity with the great dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. 

You may not believe it but that isn’t the point.  If you accept that God exists, that he created the world, and that the Bible is his account of his plan of redemption, then you must start by giving him back his “loving authority” over your life (even if it includes pain and suffering) and trust that he has a very good reason for all of it. 

In fact, I often tell my friends that if their description of God as a cruel tyrant or uncaring creator or as an evil force in our existence were true, then God, himself, would be an atheist.  If that is a correct assessment of the situation, which it is most definitely not, then atheism is justified, and God would join you in being a practical atheist.  That is not the biblical description of God.  In fact, it is a description of the Devil.  And nobody wants to follow him.

We cannot come to God with the claim that we are good, and he is evil because he will counter with all of the evidence of history that we are the ones who are in fact evil, and he is good because he is willing to sacrifice even himself in an attempt to save us from our own sin and rebellion.  After all, the source of most evil in the world today is the decisions of humans as they inflict harm on other humans.  There are other things as well such as plagues, famine, and disease that cannot be laid at the feet of mankind, but most of the evil perpetuated in the world is between people.

If you don’t believe in the Christian worldview, that is your right, but you still have to contend with the secular problem of evil.  Evil doesn’t just go away because you deny the existence of God.  We must live with it all the same and come to terms with the meaninglessness of life in a world that does not respect our individual intrinsic value which we are so obsessed with. 

The secular problem of evil will actually prove the existence of God and bring us inexorably to the conclusion that we must deal with that fundamental relationship with our Creator that we so vehemently deny even exists.  There is no avoiding it.  Evil will not allow you to simply co-exist without any consequences.  The only way to be saved or healed or restored is through a new relationship with God.  But before that can happen you must admit that the evil is within and that without God there is no hope, no solution, no meaning to it all. 

And that is why I like Nietzsche as a modern philosopher.  He is honest and he is logical.  He does not believe in God and therefore he accepts that he is a nihilist with no meaning to his life other than what he can create for himself. 

The problem with most people is that they want to play in the middle.  They want to pretend that there is meaning to life and significance to their decisions and actions, but they deny the existence of God or call him cruel and uncaring.  You can’t have it both ways.  Either be honest and embrace your nihilism and the existential angst that it produces or be quiet and listen to God explain his plan to save you by sacrificing himself on the cross because of your sins.  You might be surprised by what you hear.

The Desert Warrior