I was recently privileged to participate in a discussion on the topic: Suffering & the Sovereignty of God (i.e. “The Problem of Evil“). The basic question is – – – > How can God be BOTH all-good AND all-powerful while clearly suffering and sin exist – and take their toll – in the world? Many humans believe that since things like tsunamis, murder, and genocide happen – God must be EITHER all-good OR all-powerful, but it would be contradictory to believe that He is both. However, shocking as it might sound to finite and fallen creatures like us, the Bible tells us that God is in fact all-good AND all-powerful. Moreover, in His unimpeachable sovereignty He does not simply allow sin and evil, He decrees it (see Deut. 2:30; Exod. 9:12; Judges 9:23; Job 1-2). The Bible tells us that God ultimately decrees sin and suffering in the world for the good of the elect, and for His own glory (Rom. 8:28); sometimes God reveals to us (at least in part) the reason(s) why He decrees evil (Gen. 50:20), and other times He doesn’t (Job 38-42). For whatever reason God decrees evil, and what is indisputably certain is that God uses sin sinlessly and is in no way the author of evil.
3 Primary Takeaways:
(1) We must always keep in mind the question of intentions. In Genesis 50:20 Joseph accounts for the evil that he experienced (beginning with being sold into slavery by his brothers) saying, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
(2) We must NEVER forget that no matter how much we might suffer, and no matter how much evil we might experience – God is NEVER aloof or indifferent to it, but rather He humbles Himself and joins us in the midst of it! And the most shocking reality is that the only true and living God does not merely join His rebellious and despondent creation, but He insists on stepping away from His throne in order to serve those who have rebelled against Him, and sacrifice Himself for sinners! He chooses to endure evil, pain, heartache, and suffering exceedingly and infinitely beyond anything we can imagine – and this is the hinge of all redemptive history!
(3) If God hates sin then how can He decree it, and use it (albeit sinlessly)? This is the question that really got me thinking. The Bible is clear about the fact that God is adamantly opposed to sin and that He hates evil (Proverbs 6:16-19), and the people of God (likewise) are called to hate sin and evil as well (Romans 12:9). This seems extremely basic. But the reason this got me thinking so much is because it dawned on me that – we assume we know HOW God hates sin, when in fact we are really rather confused and flummoxed by the matter. Simply put, at the end of the day, there are two primary questions: First of all, there is the question – does God really hate sin or not? Secondly, there is the question – HOW exactly does God hate sin? The answer to the first question is an unequivocal yes. The answer to the second question however is more difficult for us to understand (and this, I think, is one of the reasons the whole subject of Suffering & the Sovereignty of God can be so bewildering). When it comes to the question of HOW God hates sin? – our inclination is to project the way “we hate sin” onto God, using ourselves, and our understanding, as the basis for mortification instead of God. It is important (and helpful, I think) to realize that God hates sin in a very different way than we do. For instance, we are selective when it comes to “hating sin” …we typically concentrate our hatred on the sin that most effects and offends us personally. This is not the case with God, He is offended by ALL sin! And it’s not just a matter of breadth, God’s comprehensive hatred also applies to the depth of depravity. We – being sinful creatures – are often far too lenient and tolerant of sin (this is especially the case when it is our own sin, as opposed to someone else’s); God’s hatred of sin, on the other hand, runs infinitely deep. Moreover, we are rather oblivious to the cosmic impact of sin, and thus there are many aspects of sin which we never even think to hate.
…But perhaps, the biggest difference between us and God when it comes to hating sin is the fact that God is never frustrated with sin. This is a VERY important point, because most of the time our hatred for sin is inseparably linked to being frustrated with the fact that we can’t doing anything about it. We must keep in mind that God is never in this position. Sin never frustrates God. There is never a time when God is wringing His hands over what to do about evil and sin. Now, you might be asking, how is this supposed to be helpful? What benefit comes from contrasting the difference between how “we hate sin” verses how God hates it? Here’s how it’s helpful: when you truly begin to contemplate HOW God hates sin you come to realize that His righteous hatred of sin is infinitely beyond any kind of abhorrence you may have felt, and thus the reality is that God is infinitely more committed to seeing sin and evil eradicated from existence than you or I could ever be. And if you don’t think this is true, then simply consider the measures He was willing to take to deliver His people from sin – namely the crucifixion of His only Son! And consider the measures He has promised to take (in His own perfect timing) when His Son returns (see Revelation 14:14-20). Moreover, realize that while God is certainly passionate about eradicating sin and evil, He is NEVER frustrated by it. Thus, God does not experience the finite emotional turmoil that we do, which can so quickly debilitate us and render us ineffective in terms of actually confronting sin and dealing with it. God actually deals with sin, and He deals with it in ways that are consistent with His infinite, eternal, and unchangeable – being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.