If God, Why Evil?

I saw a meme online recently, with an image of the Savior seated by a young adult on a park bench and the words inscribed, “God, why did you allow that awful stuff to happen today?”

One of the linchpin questions of Christianity and of life is contained in those words posted by that teen, “How can a loving God allow natural disasters, evil, suffering in the world.”

Jesus Christ wearing a crown of thorns and a scripture about grace from 2 Corinthians.The question of evil is a pivotal one for each of us–it affects our view of God, life ourselves, and our ultimate destiny.

We wish for total peace, no middle of the night phone calls, abuse or accidents. We hate to see the pain of orphans or disease. What would it be like with long strings of summer days and green lights, unbroken cars, toast landing butter-side-up, no crime, no pain, no tragedy, no mortal injustice, no suffering?

The truth is: There is purpose to evil and suffering in the world. There are answers as to why a loving God allows turmoil and trauma to exist in mortality side-by-side peace and happiness.

Evil Is Inherent in the Risky Gift of Free Will

In other words, evil must be allowed for a lifetime in order to know growth here and have an eternity of joy. As God’s full gospel reveals, scriptures attest, and JB Phillips well-said,  “Evil is inherent in the risky gift of free will.”

Without seeing life against the backdrop of eternity, we see less than a pixel of the full panorama of God’s purpose and God’s, and we draw earthy conclusions that diminish God and His full plan for our ultimate growth and happiness.

Many unable to contend with this question, change the truth or their conception of God to suit their malaise or unsatisfied hearts or to try to account for evil in world:

Pantheism says there is God but no evil.
Atheism says there is no God but there is evil.
Theism says there is a loving God and there is also evil (Geisler, If God Why Evil, p.6).

So Why Adversity? Pain? Evil? Suffering?

There is a loving God and there is also evil. So why? God is loving, evil is real. We would not be anything but robotic were it not for moral agency; that is, we would not be able to grow without opposition of choice to do good or evil. So God’s plan which must therefore allow for evil also provides a way to overturn its effects and compensate completely for it.

The Origin of Evil

Mortality is a hyphen between our birthplace in heavenly home as spirits and our immortality after this life.

In a pre-mortal life, where you and I lived as spirits, Lucifer also lived under tutelage of two divine parents who literally conceived our spirit bodies. We had full personalities and our same identities there as here and capped in our progression there. It was time to come to earth for a very short time relative to the time we spent there, and will spend back in our heavenly home after this earth-school. We received a physical body covering our spirit body at birth.

But in that existence, God set forth a plan for us to become more and more like Him—plan of happiness. It required moral agency, our right to come to earth and have opposition, to choose good and evil so we could progress and not remain static. Without it, we would be no more than robots, compelled to move and act with remote parental controls.

Lucifer, though, proposed that we do away with agency and suggested he could force everyone back to heaven, which never would have worked.

War in Heaven Over Agency: Satan Is Author of Evil and Deception

Because our Heavenly Father chose Jesus Christ to be our Savior, and you and I supported that plan, Satan became angry and rebelled. There was war in heaven.

In this great rebellion, Satan and all the spirits who followed him were sent away from the presence of God and cast down from heaven. So, Satan’s choices produced evil. Satan and his followers tempt us to do evil. That opposition is necessary for growth, though we are never compelled to sin. Because of our choice “there,” we have our moral agency “here.”

If you miss this point about the fundamental, critical value of moral agency in our human development, the rest of your concept of God, evil, life, will be skewed and hampered and distorted. We’d think God was just AWOL and didn’t care about tragedy OR that He is powerless to help us—as the doctrines of some emergent theology. Those are lies fabricated by the very author of evil, Satan.

The Lord has revealed the truth about the need for these two opposing forces of good and evil, though He did not create evil: Listen closely:

For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so . . . righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility (Another Testament of Jesus Christ: 2 Nephi 2:11).

God’s Intervention

To drive this pivotal truth home, JB Phillips’ words are to the point:

But how exactly could such intervention be arranged without interfering with the gift of personal choice? Are we to imagine the possessor of a cruel tongue to be struck dumb, the writer of irresponsible and harmful newspaper articles visited with writer’s cramp or the cruel and vindictive husband to find himself completely paralyzed? The moment we begin to envisage such interventions, the whole structure of human free will is destroyed (JB Phillips, God Our Contemporary, Chapter 16).

How could final judgment be fair without allowing the full outworking of agency? Can you imagine a murderer who was stopped before the act saying to God, “Well, I really would not have done that. I was planning on it, but I know myself. I’d never have pulled the trigger.” We can’t account for or repent of what we are not able to execute ourselves.

That said, much of the bad, the ugly, the terror and the trials of mortality, comes from misuse of this divine gift of choice. Again, without it, we could not grow. With it, we also have pain and disaster. BUT the Savior’s plan provided a healing, an atonement for all that happens to us.  It works, as Paul said, towards a greater glory for us as we endure. It does not mean that the Savior or the Father is absent or does not care for us. That is a misunderstanding based on a wrong conception of God and the Savior and their plan.

Atonement Is to Pay for, Compensate for, & Heal–Pain, Hurts, Sufferings, Injustices of Mortality

If we look at Gethsemane and the cross, we know that Christ suffered, bled from every pore, while carrying our sins and infirmities and weaknesses and temptations and sorrows and grief of every kind.  He felt each pang we have, every loss, every consequence of our sins and others against us and against our loved ones. He does not cause evil but He allows evil, that those evil may be judged, and that we may be able to grow in love and in knowledge of Him as we overcome evil and the effects of evil sometimes unfairly thrust upon us. In the long run, every injustice will be compensated for because of the Atonement.

When we remove the divine law of agency, we would come to the conclusion that He is missing or AWOL when He could have been there. Instead, He is very much there, as He was on the shores of Galilee during the storms, in the moment for Saul on the Road to Damascus, and eternally for each of us in the garden and on the cross. If we miss the need for agency–however raw the use or abuse of it is–we can then draw wrong conclusions and think He has betrayed our trust in Him or that He has abandoned us.

This is far from true and if we remember Gethsemane, we are reminded that the notion that God doesn’t care or has turned away is not true. The Savior suffered for our every hurt personally, so that distorted view of God absent in suffering or disregarding it cannot hold water. He does work the agonies of life into glories over time (as mentioned by CS Lewis & in the Book of Revelation)–not that the misery and consequences of others’ choices won’t be felt and dealt with by Him, but that our suffering for others’ wrong choices as well as for own foibles will work to ends that are ultimately positive, and only love’s pure joys will remain.

Mercy & Justice of God

A closing point: God is merciful and those without the gospel and those who rejected it here will also be taught in the spirit world prior to the resurrection, all about the plan and have the chance to accept it or reject it. Even the wicked, who reject it now and then, will be resurrected and have a degree of glory in the afterlife and be saved. Only Lucifer and his angels, who never received physical bodies, and those who do not want Christ’s Atonement after knowing Him fully will be cast into outer darkness permanently, by their choice, and with God’s tears. God cannot force a soul to heaven.

Death is a door and journey to our eternal life. This life is but a short visit. The sufferings of our present—though hard to bear—are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be ours if we stay true to God, repent and come unto Christ.

Thanks for being with us. I hope you’ll share your questions and comments with us at [email protected] or via social media.

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Additional Episodes of I Believe Podcast:

When Prayers Seem Unanswered

Finding Peace and Stillness Through Jesus Christ

About karenrose
Living out a great season of my life, thanks to Jesus Christ, and two wonderful daughters, a great life's work. Loving this opportunity to share faith online... I'm a single Mom, convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, second-gen Italian, from the East coast originally. Love the fine arts, dance, frozen yogurt, temples, scriptures, writing, jazz, helping others reach their potential, king salmon, ....and not in that order. God is good. I feel it deeply when people have a misconception of Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ, His Son, that lessens or cheapens Them and blinds one's ability to feel His presence or to trust in an ultimately good eternal end to life's circumstances.

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