The problem of evil has long been a stumbling block. We know that God is good and that He is all-powerful. Yet we also know that evil exists. A good and loving God would not want evil to exist. An all-powerful God would be able to eradicate evil. So we sense that we are left with a contradiction; God must not be all-good, or He must not be all-powerful. What we fail to realize is that we are also part of the equation.
We may be able to envision a world without evil, but we would not be in it. Humans are sinful. We have a fallen and depraved nature (Job 15:14; Isaiah 64:6; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 5:12-13; 3:10-11, 23; Titus 3:3; 1 John 1:8). This is why there is evil in the world. Why did God not simply make us so that we could not be sinful? This is the question of free will. Without free will, we would be God’s puppets. We could not truly love God. Because He desired to have a real relationship with us – one that involves choice – He had to allow for evil to exist.
We may say that God could still give us free will while at the same time preventing the consequences of evil. This becomes a question of degrees. We may want God to intervene in the case of murder or rape. But do we want God to intervene in the case of our own idolatry? Sin is not graded on a sliding scale. All sin is an offense to God, and it all separates us from Him equally. An unsaved person whose worst sin is that of gossip is just as unsaved as a nonbeliever who is a serial killer. If God were to intervene and prevent evil, He would have to remove us. Plus, if God were to prevent all the negative consequences of our actions, would we really have free will?
In essence, God allows evil because He desires relationship with us. We are sinful. With sinful people come evil things. But praise God He has redeemed us! We need not live in slavery to our sinful inclinations (Romans 6:16-18), though we still battle against our sinful desires (Romans 7:14-25). Yes, we live in a sinful world over which Satan has been given dominion (1 John 5:19). Believers are not immune to the consequences of evil. But Jesus has overcome (John 16:33)! God is faithful to redeem the evil that happens in our lives.
The story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers and then turning into a prominent player in the Egyptian government who later saved the nation is one of great redemption. Joseph told his brothers, “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” (Genesis 50:20). Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
God allows evil, yes. But He also restrains it. Because God is good, He does not allow there to be excess evil. Only that which can be redeemed and which can lead to good is allowed. Often this is more than we think we can bear. But we know God’s character. He is a God of justice and of love. Evil will not go unpunished. Nor will God’s people who suffer at the hands of others go without help. In fact, much of the biblical mandates are commands against evil. Not only are we told to refrain from sin and live in righteousness, we are told to help the needy. We are called to be advocates for victims of evil. Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Too, we must remember that one day God will eradicate evil. Now He is patiently waiting so that more will turn to Him and be saved (2 Peter 3:9). But one day, Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire for eternity (Revelation 20:10). One day this will be our reality: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new'” (Revelation 21:3-5a).