The world is a mess. Why doesn’t Jesus do something about it?
It happened again. This time on May 24, 2022, in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Twenty-one shot and killed, 19 of them children. It seems to be occurring with increasing regularity and usually results in gun control and Second Amendment advocates sparring with each other. But after a while, things cool down and the incident is forgotten by almost everyone except those directly involved—that is, until another tragedy strikes.
What happened in Uvalde is the exposed, horrible, jagged ice of what hides beneath. Paul wrote of that reality when he wrote of the “terrible times” of the last days (2 Timothy 3:1-4). People, Paul says, will be “lovers of themselves . . . abusive . . . without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash.” And it won’t be just people rising up against people, but nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom. An Internet search reveals that at the present time there are more than 20 armed conflicts around the world, either civil wars or nation fighting against nation, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
I don’t think I have to convince you that in many ways our world, our nation, is a mess and it’s going from bad to worse. With the prophet Habakkuk, we might be inclined to cry out, “How long, LORD? . . . Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds” (1:2,3).
“How long, Lord? Why don’t you do something, Lord?”
We know that Jesus is going to do something. He is going to return, and with his return this present, sin-saturated world will be replaced by a new heaven and new earth in which there will be no more sin and suffering but only peace and perfection. At that time, as the hymn writer puts it, “from sorrow, toil, and pain, and sin we shall be free and perfect love and friendship reign through all eternity” (Christian Worship 730:5). Therefore, with the apostle John at the close of the final book of the Bible, we too cry out, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).
Four truths about God
But what about in the meantime? Why do we have to experience senseless acts of cruelty? Why doesn’t God put an end to wars and pain and suffering? Four biblical truths help us answer that question.
The first is a negative. God is not the cause of evil. Evil, along with pain and misery, did not exist in the Garden of Eden. It originated with the fall of Satan and entered the world with the fall of Adam and Eve.
Here’s a second truth: God is omnipotent. There is nothing the Creator of the universe cannot do. He who said at the beginning of time, “Let there be,” and there was, also has the power to say, “Let there not be,” and there will not be. Nothing is impossible with God.
And yet, though God doesn’t cause evil, he permits it to happen. This leads to a third truth: God is unfathomable. He is deep. We cannot always understand why God does what he does and permits what he permits. The apostle Paul wrote of God, “How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11:33).
Think of the way God dealt with Job. He permitted the loss, in quick succession, of almost everything Job possessed—his property, his family, his health. This was Job, whom God describes as “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8). Why Job? “Who has known the mind of the Lord?” asks Paul (Romans 11:34). God is unfathomable.
“Our God is in heaven,” the psalmist writes, “he does whatever pleases him” (Psalm 115:3). Does that thought frighten you? Omar Khayam, a Persian poet of long ago, pictured God and his dealings with people in this way:
But helpless pieces of the
game [God] plays
Upon this checkerboard of
nights and days;
Hither and thither moves,
and checks, and slays,
And one by one back in the
According to Khayam, God is the cruel chess player, and we are but helpless pawns in the game of life. But such is not the case.
This leads to the final truth: Not only is God omnipotent, not only is he unfathomable, but above all, God is good. In Romans, Paul speaks of the “depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God” (11:33). In other words, there is something good, something tremendously good, about what God knows and does.
Reasons God allows evil in the world
God is not going to remove all fall-generated evil from our midst. One of the main reasons he permits it to remain is to serve as an ongoing and sobering reminder of the presence and power of sin in the world. It is a call to repentance. But for us, his children by faith in Christ, God does even more. He promises to make all things— yes, all things, even evil—work for our good (cf. Romans 8:28). “ ‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Sometimes God graciously reveals how he has transformed evil into good in our lives. That is vividly illustrated in the familiar Joseph story (Genesis 37–50). His story was written “for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4 English Standard Version [ESV]). Sold as a slave by his brothers, wrongfully accused of sexual sin, unjustly imprisoned, and seemingly forgotten, Joseph endured 13 years of suffering. Yet ultimately he is used by God to keep his family alive in a famine and prevent a break in the line of the promise of the Savior. “You meant evil against me,” Joseph told his brothers, “but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive” (Genesis 50:20 ESV).
Perhaps Joseph-like, in hindsight you have been able to understand why God permitted a particular time of trouble and turmoil in your life. But we will not get all of our whys answered until time ends and eternity begins. God simply invites us to trust that he is always “good” (Psalm 100:5) and that his ways, though sometimes incomprehensible, are always “right” (Hosea 14:9).
How do we know this? We fix our eyes of faith on the cross of Jesus. As we do that, we listen to the voice of God speaking to us through his chosen apostle Paul: “If I didn’t spare my own Son, but gave him up into death for you, you can be sure that I will also give you everything you need for your body and life. Nothing in all creation can separate you from the goodness of my love” (cf. Romans 8:32,39).
Right now we walk by faith, not by sight. But it’s not blind faith. It’s faith that is securely anchored in the finished work of Christ, his cross and his empty tomb. God is good, no matter what he might permit to enter our lives.
Author: David J. Valleskey
Volume 109, Number 11
Issue: November 2022