Where Is God When Evil Comes?

Wisdom's Friend

Where is God when evil comes?

The question has been around almost as long as human beings have been on this planet. Only that relatively short time (two chapters out of hundreds in the Bible) in the Garden of Eden shows a world devoid of evil and its consequent suffering. All the rest of the history of mankind must deal with evil and the question that naturally arises when we are affected by it and suffer from it: Why? Where is God when these things happen?

Those who believe in God and publicly state that faith and their trust in him to protect them and care for them, not only find this question arising within their own hearts when they suffer evil, they also hear it shouted at them from a scoffing and unbelieving world when the righteous suffer along with the unrighteous when evil afflicts this world. They hear them mock them and their faith and their God, and this brings further pain to them and tears to their eyes.

“​​​​​​Let the priests, those who serve the Lord, weep from the vestibule all the way back to the altar. Let them say, ‘Have pity, O Lord, on your people; please do not turn over your inheritance to be mocked, to become a proverb among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples, “Where is their God?”‘” (Joel 2:17 NET).

This mocking of an unbelieving world against the faith and trust of those who believe in God and his love and mercy is also a recurring theme in the history of this world. They even dared to shout it up to Jesus in his agony on the cross.

“Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!’ In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself! Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.’ Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him” (Mk. 15:29-32 NIV).

As they did to Jesus, so do they to those who follow him (Jn. 15:18-21). After the mocking, comes the waiting of the mockers to see if their brazen defiance of those who publicly state their trust in God will go unchallenged or not. Will God, in whom these mockers do not believe, come to the rescue? They wait momentarily to see if something happens, because they believe only what they can see.

“The rest said, ‘Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him'” (Mt. 27:49 NIV).

Why should they mention Elijah in such a situation? For two reasons: One, as a prophet and servant of God, he is God’s representative. And two, Elijah himself escaped out of the evil of this world without having to die, being taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire while still alive (2 Kgs. 2:11). So Elijah is a fitting symbol of God’s rescuing of those who suffer out that suffering. And it is such dramatic and visible deliverances that the unbelieving world looks for.

There are times when such outward deliverances are indeed the way God chooses to make himself known and to take care of his precious children, signs which the outside world can see and point to and say, “This is God’s deliverance of them; this is the finger of God (Ex. 8:19).

But there are also times when he delivers inwardly, in such a fashion that only the one so delivered is aware of that release. Has not that believing sufferer’s Lord said that “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you” (Lk. 17:20-21 NIV)?

Nevertheless, if God’s help and deliverance always remained hidden to this world, there would be little incentive for its inhabitants to put their trust in him. They must see that God does take care of those who take care to trust him.

“For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight” (Ps. 72:12-14 NIV).

The problem, however, is that many fail to see that the way God rescues those in trouble is not always the way they think he should. To them, God says, “‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts'” (Is. 55:9-10 NIV).

What if, for instance, a loved one, especially a child, is gravely ill and prayers are cried out to God to heal this beloved one–yet he or she still dies; what then? Has the promise of God’s help, quoted above from the Psalms, been proven to be false? Are the petitioners to God then proven justified if they become bitter towards God because he did not answer their petitions as they wished? Or is it simply a failure on their part, if they become bitter, to see the greater mercy and compassion of God, when, instead of healing the child and letting him or her remain in this world of evil and suffering, he takes that child, instead, to be with him in heaven, where there is no more evil and sickness and suffering?

“The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death” (Is. 57:1-2 NIV).

Such is the ultimate deliverance of God for those who trust in him, to be taken to heaven to dwell with him forever. Compared to this, all other healings and deliverance from evil are only temporary and expose the one delivered to yet other times when possible suffering may once more come upon him or her. Which is better? We know the answer to that question.

“What has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain” (Phil. 1:19-25 NIV).

These are the words of the apostle Paul, who had the proper perspective regarding such trying circumstances. In this, he is like another who suffered much for the Lord; in fact, one famous for such suffering, Job. If ever anyone had reason to cry out and question why he suffered, it is he. And cry he did, for he suffered not just the ordinary trials which all human beings suffer but was singled out by God and the devil for extraordinary sufferings (Job 1:8-12).

In his misfortune, the two responses to calamity are clearly illustrated in how Job reacted and how his wife reacted. As extraordinary suffering descended upon Job, “His wife said to him, ‘Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!'” (Job 2:9 NIV).

This is the response of despair and hopelessness, very easy to fall victim to when one suffers–a very human response. Give up, curse God for not helping you as he has promised, then die at his hand for cursing him.

But Job chooses the higher way, because he has a deeper knowledge of God and life and reality. “He replied, ‘You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?’ In all this, Job did not sin in what he said” (Job 2:10 NIV).

In saying this, Job has a question for all of us, for we all suffer at various times in our lives. That question strikes at the heart of what we believe about reality at its deepest levels and what we believe is the purpose for our own existence. That question is: Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?

How we answer that question reveals much about us and our understanding (or lack thereof) of who God is, who we are, and what our life and existence is all about. And for many the answer is No. No, we should not accept trouble from God, only good. Is he not supposed to be a God of love? If so, then how can he let such horrible evil happen to me?

Yet what does God say about himself in his Word? Is he really this innocuous image conjured up in the mind and imagination of self-centered man? one who can take no forceful measures against man’s own self-destructive ways? That is not what God says of himself. Rather, he says:

“​​​​​​​I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things” (Is. 45:7 ESV).

God creates calamity? When necessary, yes. For sometimes that is the only way he can get the attention of sinful man on his own pathway to destruction because of his sins (Ps. 119:67). Then there is also the requirement for God to mete out justice upon this world for rebellion against his laws and his ways.

“I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless” (Is. 13:11 NIV).

Whatever the reason, there are sound and righteous reasons for why God sometimes allows evil to afflict this world. The problem is not that this happens, but that frail man, so liable in his limited understanding to seek only that which is immediately to his comfort and liking, fails utterly to see the bigger purpose in all that befalls him, whether good or bad. All he can see is that he now suffers from evil and that God has not delivered him from that evil. Therefore, he cries out, “Where is God when evil comes?”

As we have seen, it is a common question when uncommon evil falls upon us, evil beyond that which is ordinarily experienced in our everyday life in a fallen world. We accept that it is the lot of man to experience some evil in this fallen world, evil that is common to everyday life, such as sickness, accidents, and the malice of other men (Job 5:7). But when evil that goes beyond this ordinary type comes upon us, then we really begin to question God and his goodness and life and its meaning.

In times of ordinary suffering in this world, there are enough good things left to keep us going.

“Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy” (Acts 14:17 NIV).

But the times are coming, and are now even here, when this will no longer be the case. Now, as we approach the end, things change–drastically.

“Things shall not remain as they are” (Ezk. 21:26 RSV). “It will not be as it was” (NIV).

Why will things not remain as they are, with plenty of food and pleasures to satisfy those who dwell upon this earth? Because the end has come, the time for the final accounting to take place, when the surface, shallow way of living for one’s self will no longer be tolerated by God, life that focuses on earthly things and the feeding of the body and mind. Rather, the focus must shift to the deeper truth about man’s existence, that he is a creature created by God for God, that his very life depends not only on food for the body but also food for the soul.

” . . . to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Dt. 8:3 NIV).

“They are not just idle words for you–they are your life” (Dt. 32:47 NIV).

Furthermore, all things must be finally be exposed for their true nature, and the world prepared for its new ruler, the Son of Man

“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31 NIV).

“For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Mt. 16:27-28 NIV).

These words of Jesus, the Son of Man (Mk. 14:61-62) and Son of God (Mk. 1:1), came true when he took three of his disciples up the mountain and was there transfigured before them in his glory (Mt. 17:1-9). But there is a further fulfillment of this prophecy still to come, that there are those who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. In the last generation of man upon the earth, Scripture promises that there will be those who will not die but will be caught up into the air to be united with this Son of Man and Son of God (1 Cor. 15:51-52, 1 Th. 4:15-18).

As Jesus thus descends from heaven for the deliverance of those who belong to him, who believe in him, then these same ones will have the answer for those who mocked them and asked them where their God was who could deliver them out of all of the uncommon and terrible evil of the end times upon the earth. They will have had to bear the taunt of the unbelieving mockers, “Where is their God, now?” (Ps. 115:1 NIV), as they suffered some of the same, frightening, dark and evil times of the end of the world, just as Jesus had to suffer their taunts upon the cross. But just as he was ultimately delivered by God who is faithful, so too are they finally vindicated in their clinging to their faith in him. When the unimaginable evil things of the last days descend upon the earth, that is also the time when their deliverance also descends. Then, with the mocking words of their enemies ringing in their ears, those still trusting God in the midst of evil will have their answer:

“Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him” (Ps. 115:2 NIV).

I love how this psalm boils down the whole problem to these two statements in two verses. First is the mocking charge of the heathen world, “Where is their God?” (Ps. 115:1). Then there follows immediately, in the next verse, the reply of God’s faithful: “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him” (Ps. 115:2 NIV).

This is to be our reply when we suffer in this matter at the hands of evil. It was the reply of the psalmist, and it was the reply of the three godly men in the fiery furnace:

“Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up'” (Dan. 3:16-18 NIV).

Can we not learn from their attitude and response? We must. For the time of the end draws near, and if we do not learn to put our suffering in proper perspective, it may be too late, and we will see no purpose for our being left upon this earth during its final, darkest hours.

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Mt. 24:32-35 NIV).

The words of our God have said that we do not live by bread alone (the things of this world). His words here also tell us to learn a lesson from the signs we see happening in the world, signs that tell us that this time of deliverance from evil is near, even right at the door. We are seeing more and more of those signs happen all around us, signs in the heavens with uncommon storms and wildfires, earthquakes and record-breaking heat and drought in summer, along with equally record-breaking cold in winter, such as in Europe, Siberia and elsewhere. This will continue and increase in the realm of nature.

But there are similar signs of uncommon calamity in the realm of men. Their wickedness and evil is clearly increasing as well, as senseless school shootings all over the world increase, along with all kinds of other bizarre and uncommon incidents, such as brazenly kidnapping whole schools of girls for sinful purposes while hiding behind hypocritical religious teachings to justify such blatantly wicked behavior. Then there are the horrible laws of whole nations that legalize wicked behavior, allowing for the killing of innocent children through abortions, all the while spouting clever words to justify such evil. Imagine: It is now legal in many countries to kill children.

Neither should we be surprised at the new outbreak of wars among nations. This too has been prophesied and we are to pay heed to God’s warnings about this (Mt. 24:7-13).

Whatever the particular type of evil it is that suddenly looms over us, we need to become aware of how the type of evil to which we are accustomed is changing. Towards the end, we have been warned that things will get worse–much worse.

“For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now–and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened” (Mt. 24:21-22 NIV).

“By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Pet. 3:7 NIV).

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” (2 Pet. 3:10 NIV).

This is the uncommon type of catastrophe carried to its extreme end: the end of the physical universe as we know it. But before this ultimate, extraordinary event, comes the increase of evil in this world. For it must reach its maximum wickedness before the end.

“Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy” (Rev. 22:11 RSV).

Maximum wickedness and evil in the world. Maximum holiness and goodness in God’s people in the world. That is the end to which all things point. Then comes the end, for there is no further wickedness left to be done that has not already then been done.

“Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Th. 2:3-4 RSV).

This is the ultimate evil, to seek to replace God with one’s self. When this happens within an individual, that individual will suffer the consequences. When it happens to a whole world, the whole world likewise will perish under the righteous and just punishment of God. Therefore, at this climactic point in the history of this world and its inhabitants, the question still remains the same, “Where is God when this ultimate evil takes place?” And the answer also remains the same, “”Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.”

But he will not always remain in heaven. He has promised that he will descend from there to mete out just punishment upon this world for its evil.

“The earth is broken up, the earth is split asunder, the earth is thoroughly shaken. The earth reels like a drunkard, it sways like a hut in the wind; so heavy upon it is the guilt of its rebellion that it falls–never to rise again. In that day the Lord will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below” (Is. 24:19-21 NIV).

As all of these things begin to take place, it is only natural that we who are alive on this earth that suffers such uncommon shaking should be frightened, even though we know that the Lord will protect us. That is one reason the Lord allows suffering in our lives now, before that last great and terrible day and times, so that we can build ourselves up in our most holy faith (Jude 1:20). Our God is putting us through lesser trying experiences so that we can be trained for more pressing ones, to his glory.

“If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?” (Jer. 12:5 NIV).

Therefore, it is wise to become acquainted with those passages from Scripture that will help us rise above our fear through our faith in God. A few such passages are below.

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5 NIV).

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging” (Ps. 46:1-3 NIV).

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights” (Hab. 3:17-19 NIV).

Where is God when evil comes? Right where he has always been, both in heaven and in the midst of his people when they suffer.

“For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite'” (Is. 57:15 RSV).

When this high and lofty One deigns to lower himself from highest heaven to dwell among us in our suffering, what else can we do but bow down to him in love and adoration, even in our hard times of pain and suffering?

“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15).

“They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Rev. 12:10 NIV).

May God grant us all the faith and love to give him glory as he takes us through these last, evil days of earth.

“You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance” (Ps. 66:12 NIV).

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