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What is Evil, and Why Do Bad Things Happen?

Answers | Justin Martz | 9 mins

The Problem with Evil

The problem of evil is one of the biggest objections to belief in God. The question is usually something like, “If God is good and all-powerful, why does evil even exist? And why do bad things happen? How can we say a God is good and all-powerful if He can’t or won’t stop evil from permeating people's lives all around the world?” Whether the question is about evil existing or bad things happening to good people, or about sickness, tragedy, and death, it’s all under the same idea. So, the question really becomes: Is it logically possible to believe in God, as described in the Bible, while evil exists in the world?

Start at the Beginning

To deal with the problem of evil, we must start at the beginning. In Genesis 1 and 2, we see that God is the Creator of the cosmos. We also see that He creates everything good and humans very good. Humans had a close relationship with God and were designed to be a blessing to Creation and to others. However, humans were given a choice, and they chose to disobey God. That choice led to exile, sin, and death. It had a universal effect on all of creation and humanity with real consequences resulting in a broken world and distorted views of good, evil, and reality.

The Choice

A choice is necessary for real love. In the Garden of Eden with God, Adam and Eve were given a choice. They could decide to eat of the tree of good and evil and experience exile, sin, and death, or trust God and experience life. They were deceived and chose what looked good in their own eyes, so they were exiled and cut off from the garden and the relationship with God they once had. That choice impacted nature, health, and all of humanity. They would struggle in relationships and work just to survive, let alone to be a blessing to others.

You see, God did not create evil; He created good. Evil acts in opposition to what God has said is good. Evil is seeing and taking what we want instead of trusting God and His definition of good, which includes love, selflessness, and blessing. God created humans with the capability to rebel against Him or choose to do wrong. This is called moral free will and can be a good thing or a bad thing. In the Bible, this is called tov and ra, which means “good or bad, life or death.” This is the free choice God gave to humanity. When humans act outside of the good that God intended, they do bad, evil, and selfish things. The Bible shows humanity continuously having this choice and continually failing. Instead of blessing others and living in peace as intended, humans became selfish, causing harm to themselves and each other.

This same principle applies to spiritual beings as well. God created both physical beings (humans) and spiritual beings (angels, authorities, powers) and gave them free will. This resulted in a fall for both. Humans are now in a state that leans towards selfishness and evil desire, and some spiritual beings are now a negative influence on humans in this situation (1 Peter 5:8, Ephesians 6:11-20).

The Character of God and His Good Creation

(Exodus 34:6, Genesis 1-2)
Who is God? Is He really good? Genesis 1 and 2 are meant to introduce the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament. Here we learn that God is good, that He creates good, and that He wants a relationship with humanity. He wants humanity to live in peace and be a blessing to all others. However, they chose poorly. Humanity found itself in a cycle of sin and depravity, but God intervened. Since the first choice of evil, God has intervened to restore this broken relationship. That is the story of the Old Testament: God, working within humanity that now constantly chooses bad, to redeem what was lost, restore humanity’s relationship with Him, and bring peace. Through the Old Testament, we learn about the Messiah that will come to fulfill each of those issues.

In Exodus 34:6-7, God proclaims a statement about His own character. He says He is merciful, gracious, slow to anger, and is full of love and faithfulness. He forgives all sin but is also just. Whatever is happening around us, a reminder of God’s character is important.

So why does evil exist then?
There are many reasons that we can give for the existence of evil. Here are just a few:

True freedom: Evil exists because of the morally free choices of beings that God has created. This freedom is necessary for true love and can lead to good and evil extremes. The Bible tells us that humans are now born in sin with the desire to do evil and sin (Genesis 8:21, Romans 3:23).

Selfish desires: Evil also happens because of our own selfish desires (James 1:13-14, 4:1- 4; 1 John 2:15-16) and because of the influence of spiritual forces that are looking to destroy us. Therefore, it is necessary to put on the spiritual armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).

To know what is good: We know what is truly good because we have a good God who has created a standard for good. We can see Evil because we have a standard of good. If there was no standard of good outside of us, then we would not be able to identify true evil.

To refine and test: Through challenges, people are led to real faith and conversion. Experiencing evil and trials can also show the true nature and faith of a person. Consider Job, who through an immense amount of pain and suffering, learned to trust God even more. Another example is Richard Wurmbrand, who was imprisoned and tortured for 14 years. He never gave up his faith and continued to preach to those torturing him. After his release, he founded The Voice of The Martyrs, an organization that continues to work with those who experience persecution in the world today. When we experience trials and hardship, it tests our faith. That can lead to people experiencing God in a new and powerful way.

The Good News About Evil

Here is the good news: God has never given up on His relationship with humans. That is why the second person of the Trinity took human form and bore the weight of our sin. Jesus experienced and defeated all evil and paid a price we could never pay. Now there is still a choice; a choice to choose life or death. We can choose Jesus, who can save us from the power of darkness and deliver us into His kingdom of love and light.

In this world, we will experience all kinds of evil. But no matter how bad this life gets, there is an offer of peace, love, and freedom. God offers every one of us a new and restored relationship with Him - a relationship that will last into eternity where there will be no more evil or pain.

Written By

Justin Martz

Husband and father. “The Professor” and teacher of Sun Valley University, and in my DMIN program. Love to read, listen to podcasts, and watch movies. I am also an associate at Rayhons Financial Solutions.

Published on Apr 5, 2022