And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 NKJV
Admittedly, I have lived long enough to be set in my ways. After witnessing enough of the unexplainable things in life, it is only natural to ask, Why? I have struggled with exactly how all things work together for good among believers when I see so much tragedy, evil and seemingly unexplainable bad things happening around me to seemingly good people.
Note that in the above verse God does not say that all things are good, but rather that all things work together for good. There are plenty of examples of bad things working out to become good in the overall plan that God has in mind. As a matter of fact this very moment his plan for good to come about is taking place even though there are bad things happening daily.
While it is not good to see bad things happen to good people, it can also be equally horrendous to see good things happen to bad people. We have all heard it numerous of times: Why would a God who is all-good, all knowing, and all powerful allow bad things to happen to good people? The opposite of this question is: Why does an all good, all knowing and all-powerful God allow good things to happen to bad people?
As humans we are extremely inquisitive and have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Not surprisingly we want to know reasons for what makes our world work. Because we are intelligent beings its natural to question God about the things that do not conform to our understanding of how the universe works.
Our paradigm is the lens through which we filter all of our experiences and understanding. God however operates outside of time, space and matter, and he has declared that his ways and thoughts are different from ours. That is almost inconceivable for us to understand and grasp.
We are so indoctrinated into believing that if we are intelligent that God must think on the same intellectual scale that we operate. That is just not true.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9 NKJV
Are all bad things a direct result of personal sin?
Often it has been said that when bad things happen to people, regardless if they are Christian or not that it is a direct result of their personal sins. Jesus actually addresses this question in the New Testament.
First of all, we have to look at this through the lens of a fallen world that has been cursed because of sin. The world at large is cursed, and not just mankind. We underestimate the significance of what happened at the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and the consequences of a cursed creation.
Remember when God created the earth, all was in perfect order before the curse. Ever since the curse, everything has been out of order and spiraling fast into utter chaos, from the sickness and death of humans and all the animals to the natural disasters that wreak havoc across the earth. Even the global flood was judgement that literally changed the climate and land topography that we are experiencing today.
Even the smallest of events that take place have an effect somewhere on the planet. There is a well-known study called the Butterfly Effect, which states that if a butterfly flaps its wings on the other side of the world that a ripple effect will culminate to something happening on the opposite side of the planet. This theory has not only been applied to weather events but also to events that take place in life. Reference Article: Understanding The Butterfly Effect by Jamie L Vernon. (American Scientist)
The bible gives a few examples of such. These events are not necessarily because of individual sin. Jesus cites a specific event that though tragic was not brought about because of their sins.
Jesus recalls this:
There were present at that season some who told him about the Galileans who blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on who the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:1-5 NKJV
With the events of modern times, I would have questioned: Why 9/11, mass shootings, devastating hurricanes and other natural disasters? Jesus does not specifically state that because of the sins of people that bad things happen. It is very true that we do bring upon ourselves consequences because of sin. Our cursed fallen world effects every living creature, and it is heartbreaking to see.
I often look at my little dog, a Yorkie named Albie and I am saddened to know that even though he brings me so much love and joy, he will succumb to the curse of death. It’s painful to know that we all are under a curse that we cannot escape.
However, during natural disasters even babies are subjected to the terror of death and destruction. There are some moral laws and principles that are fixed and operate equally to all mankind. It is just as natural as sowing and reaping.
Sowing and reaping is not just for agriculture but also for mankind. It does not discriminate. The fixed laws of God operate without respect to person. For example, if a pastor and an atheist jump off of a 20-story building, both will be subjected to the fixed law of gravity, and the results will be tragic but equally applied to both. Yes, God can choose to supernaturally intervene, but he is not obligated to change the fixed laws that have been established.
So, it is with our lives in this world. The events that took place in the Garden of Eden and the subsequent curse set in motion things and events that are impacting us at this very hour and will reverberate into the future.
Do we have a misconception of evil and its purpose?
While I was doing some research for this article, I wanted to get to the root of and address some of our misconceptions and our presumptions about the things that go wrong in our world. To get a better understanding of this we need to take a look at the different types of evil that is present in the world.
Natural evil and disasters.
I think we often forget that this planet is a cursed place to live. We are literally born into an environment that is inherently cursed. It was not originally created as such but was subjected to the curse that was brought upon it because of sin. In the book of Genesis, a lot of things happened between the creation of man and the fall of man. Would it surprise you to know that evil was already present at the time of the creation of Adam?
On top of all this we have the natural calamities of devastating weather, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, etc. The earth was severely altered by the judgement of the global flood and we can still see the impact it had on our planet and how it still affects our geological system.
Some have asked, “If God is such a good God why doesn’t he stop all the evil and sin?” He can at any time, however, to do so that would mean wiping us all out in a moment. He would have to start with us. It was with Adam and Eve’s free will of disobedience that introduced sin to the human race. The earth was cursed specifically and as a direct result of that act and we have continued on in their transgression and disobedience.,
“The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore, the curse has devoured the earth, and those who dwell in it are desolate. Therefore, the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left.” Isaiah 24:5,6 NKJV
We are immoral sinners living in a fallen world that is under a curse which means that natural evil is everywhere. So, we have a planet full of sinners trying to coexist and survive, colliding with each other in malfunctioning relationships and marriages, friendships and rivalries that escalate into strife and wars, and man made calamities.
However, because of free will, God’s love is demonstrated in allowing his creation to have free will. He allows his creation to have free will knowing that they can choose evil. He allows his creation to do whatever we choose to do including choosing evil, knowing that he can redeem it. The greatest test of someone’s love is to give them a choice of not loving.
Would it shock you to know that God who created evil actually allows evil to work for his purpose? He does not impose or instigate evil but will allow it, so as not to violate the free will of man. Surprisingly God takes full responsibility of the existence of evil. He does not try to hide it. You would think that God would not want to reveal that he has full knowledge of the effects of evil on this planet and his creation, but he does.
I had a hard time with accepting that God created evil. I thought: What possible explanation would he have for doing so? Surprisingly enough evil has its place in carrying out the purposes of God. Only God can make all things work together for his purposes.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 NKJV
One great example of evil working for God’s purpose is in the story of Joseph. As you may recall Joseph’s own brothers, kidnapped him and sold him into slavery. He was eventually enslaved in Egypt and through some fascinating events became a ruler only second to Pharoah. There was a great famine in the land and Joseph was so well liked that he was given the responsibility of storing grain so that all of Egypt and surrounding territories could have food and survive the famine.
His brothers, and the entire family were also impacted by the famine and heard that there was grain in Egypt. The brothers had to go to Egypt and face the very brother that they had sold into slavery. In summary, through Joseph, the entire family was saved and eventually moved to Egypt.
While the brothers thought selling him into slavery was the triumph of evil, God allowed it to happen to bring about a victory of good. Furthermore, the entire tapestry of the family movement into Egypt set up the events that would play out over several hundred years. God was orchestrating the entire event and allowing the evil action to work for his purposes.
God did not stop the evil. He did not restrain the famine. He most certainly could have but chose not to because it was working for his purpose. That is a hard concept for our minds to grasp. But time and time again it shows up throughout history, and the greatest example of this is the redemption of the human race brought about through the torture, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” Genesis 50:20 NKJV
Moral evil is personal, internal spiritual wickedness, sin and transgressions. This dominates the human race and has so saturated us that it literally exists inside of the heart of every human. We cannot escape it because its genetic code is part of our DNA. It replicates every time another human is born. So, I find it interesting that while we do our best to be good and describe ourselves as such, God has a different description of our condition.
As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” Romans 3:10-12 NKJV
The first time I read that verse many years ago, I was surprised that such an indictment of the entire human race and the condition of each one of us was so accurate. None of us are walking around with t-shirts that say “I am evil at heart” but make no mistake about it, the person you wake up next to, the person in line at store and the person who stares back at you in the mirror is inherently evil.
Mankind is driven by lust that produces sin, evil and death. We live in a world, that is full of people who are evil and sinful at our very core. We may not like to hear this assessment of ourselves, but it is true just the same.
I was surprised to know that the heart of man has ongoing thoughts of evil. Even while we are smiling and saying nice things, our dormant thoughts are saturated in evil. I mean this was God’s assessment shortly after we were created.
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Genesis 6:5 NKJV
Even though the judgement of the global flood came, sin still hitched a free ride on the Ark and set sail into the new world. Sin disembarked and has been thriving inside each and every one of us until this day.
We have to keep in mind the things that are working against us in this world, and some of it begins with us. It is literally the sin that resides in us.
We must have a full understanding that there is a demonic spiritual force that intervenes into the affairs of mankind. They were created at the time of creation but were not created with the corrupt evil nature that they chose to become. The Bible tells us that a third of the angels chose to rebel and take on their demonic nature and be led by their leader Satan.
I was shocked upon reading about the origins of Satan, that he was created perfect and was residing in heaven with all the other angels. God had created him with free will, just as he did all of us. Satan freely decided to not be in subjection to God or obey his ordinances. Moreover, he convinced a third of the angels in heaven to join him in the rebellion. (Does this sound similar to the created perfection of Adam and Eve, who then chose to disobey God?)
They now have access to the spiritual realm and direct access to the world and planet we live on. They are sometimes allowed to influence our lives by God’s oversight, as in the life of Job, Peter, Paul and a few others. They have a temporary delegated sovereignty to this planet.
Satan has the right to rule over the world system, because it was surrendered to him in the Garden of Eden when sin was allowed to invade the hearts of mankind, through the disobedience of Adam and Eve.
The life of Job, a righteous man, is a fantastic story of what God allowed Satan to do in an effort to mock God. Satan asked God for permission to ruin his life, yet not kill him. Job suffered such losses personally that it would be humanly understandable if he were to be angry and blame God. His family was killed, he loss all of his wealth, and his physical health was damaged, yet he did not blame God, but instead yielded and acknowledged the right for God to give and for God to take away.
Satan has access to this earth and its inhabitants, but he is only permitted to do so much and is under the restraints of God. As such, evil will befall people without just cause. It may be Satanic in nature or initiated by him, but most certainly even that is under the direct supervision and control of God.
“in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,” Ephesians 2:2 NKJV
“Now the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” John 12:31 NKJV
The expression of “the devil made me do it” does not absolve mankind of our guilt or our sins. However, it is true that our fight is not so much with each other in the physical world as much as it is with the spirit world that is behind the person or persons that we encounter daily.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 NKJV
God calls the shots over everything both evil and good.
“Now see that I, even I, am He, and there is no God besides Me; I kill, and I make alive; I wound and I heal; Nor is there any who can deliver from My hand.” Deuteronomy 32:39 NKJV
These are tough words to hear from a God we think of as only dealing in love. But if he was not totally in charge and in control over every detail of creation, we would have a problem. Time and time again God takes full responsibility for the evil that happens in the lives of mankind on the earth, because he causes it to serve his purposes.
He permitted no one to do them wrong; Yes, He rebuked kings for their sakes, saying, “Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm.” Moreover, He called for a famine in the land; He destroyed all the provision of bread. Psalm 105:14-16 NKJV
God does not run or hide from bad press that has been associated with him. He has been blamed for all the bad things in the world, and he unequivocally knows that it is all under his control, carrying out his will and purposes.
God is holy, and good but he is content to leave the responsibility for evil’s existence and its action with himself. Evil is no disruption to the purposes of God. Astonishing is the fact that God wills evil to exist, and he actually tells us this point.
“I form the light and create darkness: I make peace and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” Isaiah 45:7 KJV
The first time I read the above verse I had to go back and read it a few more times, slowly to make sure that I was reading correctly. Even multiple translations say essentially the same thing. The total unwavering sovereignty of God demands that he be in total control of and have full knowledge of the existence of evil.
Is there a reason for all the bad things that happen to us?
Our limited ability to understand God and his ways leads us to ponder and to try to make sense of the things we cannot adequately explain. We can only vaguely glimpse into the reasons that things happen. Because so much is beyond our expectations of normal, we are baffled and sound hopeless with excuses that do not satisfy our intellect, or our moral understanding of good and evil, right and wrong.
However, knowing that the condition of mankind is sinful, evil and the earth is cursed, along with a relentless demonic spiritual force, it should be no surprise that bad things will affect us all at some point in our lives.
We will have to be content to know that whatever evil God has allowed to happen in our lives, that he has the ability to let it run its course for our good, his purpose and ultimately for his glory. Evil will not be forever except in hell itself, where it will be unmitigated, and poured out on unrepentant sinners, the devil and his angels.
For the same God that has allowed the free will of Adam and Eve to bring evil, sin and death onto mankind has declared a day when all things shall be renewed to its original state in keeping with his original purpose for creation.
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4 NKJV
In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world. John 16:33 NKJV
Eugene Coghill is a contributing writer at Faith Filled Family Magazine, and the creator of Kingdom Living, www.eugenecoghill.com a Christian based inspirational blog. His achievements have included two published novels, Love Is A Fishnet (2008) and A Loving Deception (2020). He is in pursuit of a freelance copywriting career with American Writers and Artists, Inc. and is a member of the Professional Writers Alliance.
Some past careers have included the United States Marine Corps, law enforcement, corporate investigator, and is currently a professional driver (tractor trailer) for Walmart. Inspirational speaking, especially to troubled youths has become his growing passion to share his own story of overcoming a very abusive and challenging childhood.