Why does evil happen?


I know people will say time and time again there’s a “greater purpose”, “God works in mysterious ways” but that doesn’t sit well with me. There has to be something else. When I see starving children in the commercials, my heart breaks time and time again. It is so unfair what people have to go through. I honestly feel horrible at this point. :frowning: :frowning: :frowning:


“Whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us.” (Romans 8:18)

That right there is the answer. All the suffering in the world put together is “less than nothing”. It is preposterous for us to focus on “less than nothing” rather than on Christ.

Book-length philosophical answers have been written on this topic, and I think they are obviated by this one verse. We either take this verse seriously and rejoice in Christ in all times and circumstances, or we disbelieve.


There are whole books devoted to this topic, containing the answers by both historical and contemporary theologians and philosophers. If we discuss this at all here, it will be just rehashing some ideas they already stated. The best response I’ve seen started on evil and the Christian response to it, came from the Journal of Christian Theology and Philosophy. It’s called Eternal Selves and The Problem of Evil. I like to see the author or some other Christian philosopher, expand upon it.


I totally empathize, Zoe! The great suffering throughout the world is appalling—starvation, torture, killing, women suffering in the hands of cruel husbands (and vice versa), etc. etc. etc. God didn’t cause it; God had nothing to do with it.

May our hearts be broken by the things that break the heart of God!
To pass this suffering off as “less than nothing” is horrible. I wonder how those who do so will cope when they face real suffering themselves.

God created man with the ability to choose, and that means the ability to choose good or evil. God has taken the risk that many will choose evil. He didn’t want merely a race of “robots”.

I praise God that He has put it into the hearts of his people to help suffering people wherever and whenever possible. A little relief is better than nothing.

But the day will come when all will come under the authority of God, and then, Praise God, there will be no one left to commit atrocities, or to allow others to go hungry or suffer in other ways. God will restore the earth as it was meant to be!


I know people will say time and time again there’s a “greater purpose”, “God works in mysterious ways” but that doesn’t sit well with me. There has to be something else. When I see starving children in the commercials, my heart breaks time and time again. It is so unfair what people have to go through. I honestly feel horrible at this point.

There are only two possible realistic answers. Sorry but it is in fact for a greater good or the other realistic possibility is that God gives mankind freewill but in granting this it causes many to end up as victims of evil, created by man’s freewill.

My opinion is since Gen 3 says “The man has become like us , knowing good and evil” that this is a prophetic statement about what man needs to go through to ultimately become children of God.


There is another answer that is similar to your view expressed here. Perhaps evil happens so that when we eventually get to a place and time when it no longer happens, we will have a standard of comparison that enables us to rejoice in its absence. Would we ever be able to rejoice eternally in bliss if we never experienced any of the realities of earthly life?



Paidon, St. Paul the Martyr and Apostle wrote that. He suffered more than any of us here discussing this topic. We do not have to wonder how he coped: “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Philippians 4:11).

Further, Paul wrote: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). Please note: Not “rejoice sometimes”, but “rejoice always”. Every single second of every single day we are surrounded by the all-good God, the glad Creator. Anytime we are not rejoicing, we are being insane.

Or consider the martyrs, who joyfully and eagerly grasped their sufferings as a sinful man grasps after treasure.

We are not to be dour and sad, nor to dwell upon human suffering. With what are we to fill our minds? “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

When we help to alleviate others’ sufferings, we must not do so in a grim, sad, “oh, no!” sort of way. Rather, we must pray and strive to be energized by Christ’s joy, to be icons to the sufferers of God’s righteous joy. We need to be glad and active in helping those who suffer. It is a temptation of the Enemy to wallow in sadness. Not only does our sadness not help others, it saps our strength and ability to help others. We must be strong and joyous, not sad and decrepit.

We must recognize any mental state that negates our joy in Christ as a snare and a delusion. It is disobedient (and therefore sinful) to the word of the Apostle to be anything other than joyful. And thank God for that. He commands us to be full of joy. What a gloomy religion it would be to be commanded to be sad, depressed, despondent, melancholy, etc. The Roman Empire converted to the worship of Christ in large part because the pagans saw something they wanted: the joy of the Christians even in the face of torments and martyrdom. The pagans never said, “Oh, look at how weepy those Christians are. I’d like to be just like that.”

Christ’s commands are not a doctrine of tears, but of rejoicing!



It’s sometimes hard to think these things through when we’re hurting. And we should hurt for those who hurt. I almost hate to say this; it’s said so very much, but a great deal of this suffering has to do with the development of freedom in mankind. We (all of us) MUST learn how to handle freedom. In order for that to happen, we have to be free to perform (or not perform) actions that have genuine consequences/results in the world around us. Much of the suffering in this world is caused by selfishness. When we perform selfish acts, or fail to perform selfless acts, others suffer. We suffer too, but that’s often down the road. Let me posit an example:

A young woman “falls in love” with an unsuitable young man. She can’t see anything but her desire for this guy; she’s in a pink haze. Pretty soon they have children. The young woman suffers, but she’s able to shield her children for a time. Eventually things get so bad that she takes her little ones and flees to a women’s shelter. Once she’s able, she gets an apartment and arranges for daycare and the help of family and friends to care for her children, and goes to work full time at the only job she can find in the present economy; an hour and a half away from home. She’s distraught because her little ones miss her, but she has to work. Even so, she barely makes enough to get by.

We have a lot of wills (I won’t say free yet) at work here. The young man wants sex and probably control and possibly something he calls love. He selfishly uses the young woman. This is what he wills to do. He no doubt has many complex motivations and desires all influenced by the wills of others. The young woman wants the young man, at first she probably wants sex, she wants to be validated by the love of a mate and prove to herself and others that she’s desirable. It never enters her mind to be concerned for the welfare of future children. If it did, she would most likely not have looked at the man objectively. She’s in a pink cloud and thinks he’s perfect. Is it the children’s fault that they will suffer for their parents’ mistakes? Of course not. But if God stepped in and obviated the consequences of the parents’ decisions, they could never learn about those consequences. The children must suffer for the sake of the parents, and the parents (we hope) will be broken-hearted at the suffering of the children and so will learn that their selfish actions have intolerable consequences. Or if the parents choose not to learn these lessons, then they’ll have many years in which to repeat these mistakes and hurt their children and themselves more and more in the process.

Is it the fault of this hapless couple that they grew up in a culture in which males are not needed and in which females appear to have no value unless appended to a male? Of course not. That is the result of many other wills and the cumulative consequences of their poor and selfish decisions. Is it the fault of the couple that they live in a time of economic collapse? No, and ditto the cause.

In regions where famine devastates the population, or stds cripple the medical field, many more things than nature are involved as well. Many wills; wills of dictators, wills of militias, wills of men who believe they will be cured of AIDS by having sex with a virgin girl, men who believe women have no value, women who also believe that–so many wills, and most of them contrary to love. Most of them wrapped up in selfishness. If God obviates the horrors these cumulative wills bring about, we cannot learn the horrors of selfishness. If we can’t learn that, we can never be free of it, even though Christ died to make us free.

We now have the option to move out of ourselves, to be led by the Spirit of God. Many believers still don’t do this to any degree, but we now can do it. “All these who are being led by the Spirit of God, these and none but these are the sons (huios=mature sons) of God.” We’re all God’s children, but not all of us have grown to the state of maturity (and we ALL have a ways to go). Until we do though, the world will continue to groan in the agonies of corruption. This is the birthing process for the sons of God, and I believe that we will ALL eventually attain to that sonship. When a woman is in labor, she suffers and cries out because her time has come, but once the child is born, she forgets the pain for the joy that a human being has been born into the world.

This does not mean that we ought not minister to her in any way we can while she’s in labor and suffering. Of course we ought! It’s not possible to take away all the pain, but it is possible to do something. We ought to do whatever we can. Likewise we ought to minister to one another in whatever ways we’re able. In our choosing to use our own freedom (hard-won on the cross) for unselfish, loving purposes, we begin to alleviate the overwhelming burden of the decisions of selfish wills, and its horrendous cost to the citizens of this world. We not only do not add to the burden; we also take away some of the load by ourselves choosing to help and not to use one another.

God has bound us all up in inequity so that He may have mercy on all. We’ve chosen selfishness, lovelessness; He will make sure that we experience the consequences of these things to the full. It’s the only way to cure us and bring us into that freedom He so desires that we should have. That is to say, the freedom to achieve the goals we’d have if we were healthy and free: to be the happy residents of a true utopia in which every one of us loves and gives ourselves to one another to the joy and fulfillment of all. It’s a difficult goal with a terrible price to pay for its achievement, yet I do believe it’s worth it. When this child is birthed into the world, EVERYONE will rejoice and forget about the pain it took to give it birth.

So, be comforted, Zoe, dear sister. This is a tough time for us all, and from our point of view, a very long time. We won’t always feel this way, though. Soon there will be rejoicing, and those who’ve suffered most will also rejoice most.


I don’t think so, Geoffrey. It was Mr. Philips who wrote it in his “translation”.

Almost all translations are similar to the RSV:

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

There is quite a difference between considering the suffering of Christians in the present time not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed into us (Yes, it’s “into” us in the Greek and not merely “to us”) and saying that it is “less than nothing.”

Also Paul was referring to the suffering of Christians (and that was much suffering—being thrown to the lions, burnt at stake, etc.). But what about the suffering of non-Christians (through no fault of their own) caused by evil people? What they sometimes go through is beyond imagination! Surely such suffering is not “less than nothing”!!!




steve7150 wrote:
My opinion is since Gen 3 says “The man has become like us , knowing good and evil” that this is a prophetic statement about what man needs to go through to ultimately become children of God.

There is another answer that is similar to your view expressed here. Perhaps evil happens so that when we eventually get to a place and time when it no longer happens, we will have a standard of comparison that enables us to rejoice in its absence. Would we ever be able to rejoice eternally in bliss if we never experienced any of the realities of earthly life?

Yes i think this is the crux of the answer to this incredibly difficult question. We are created to learn by contrasting things and by actual experience.


Paidion, thank you for the instruction on the Greek of Romans 8:18. We can always count on you to help get us to the actual Greek text. :slight_smile:

I do believe that human suffering is less than nothing. I further believe that any other view is a counsel of despair. Consider James 1:2-3: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” Not only, then, should we not be sad in the face of suffering, but we should actually be joyful in the face of suffering. This of course ties in with Paul’s command that we “rejoice always”.

If we are supposed to feel sad in the face of suffering, then when could we ever not feel sad? Every single second of every single day human beings somewhere in this world are experiencing horrible pains. If I remember rightly, a human being dies on average every 5 or 10 seconds. If we are supposed to feel sad in the face of human death and suffering, then we would have to feel sad every second of every day. This of course is not consistent with “rejoicing always”.

Am I counselling us to be flippant and to put our heads in the sand and pretend that nothing bad ever happens? God forbid. We of course must recognize that human death and suffering is sad, but we must not let that sadness inside of us. THAT’s where we must draw the line. Being sad doesn’t help anyone anyway. Consider:

You’re in the hospital, very sick. Some loved ones come in and weep loudly and uncontrollably, hugging you are saying stuff like, “Oh, my God! How horrible! How can you bear it? We want you to know that we are eaten up inside with worry and sadness. We just feel awful.” Etc. That sort of thing would make me as the patient feel worse rather than better. As a sufferer, I don’t want my pain infecting other people with sadness. No!

Now imagine instead that you are in the hospital and very sick. Some loved ones come and visit, and they radiant joy and peace. They hug you and tell you they love you. They smile and laugh with right good gladness. They don’t have the half-shy, half-mousy appearance of someone uncomfortable and uncertain what to say. They talk to you the same as they’ve talked to you for their entire lives. Now THAT would make me feel better. The joy they radiate would “infect” me, making my pain easier to bear.

Consider the heroes in George MacDonald’s novels. I don’t remember any of them moping about. They are all glad and active workers.

At any given point in time, we should ask ourselves: “Is there a duty that I need to do right now?” If yes, then we should immediately do it. If no, then we should do as we will (though of course without sin). I cannot for the life of me ever imagine that it is a duty under any circumstance to feel sad because of pain or death. Nor can I imagine how feeling sad can help you or anyone else. God does not call us to feel sad. He calls us to work. And we work best and longest when we are filled with the Lord’s own gladness.

If you think about it, cancers, concentration camps, and all the rest are not a big deal in and of themselves. It is only when we “let them inside”, so to speak, that they become big deals. For example: Imagine a man with inoperable cancer and 3 months to live. Further imagine that he doesn’t give a fig about any pain he might suffer or for the fact that he will be dead in a few months. He laughs and lives life and rejoices in the Lord. When anyone hesitantly asks him about his pain and impending death, he laughs infectiously, snaps his fingers, and says, “I don’t give that for pain or death! Christ is with me, and Paradise is ahead! What is there to be sad about?” Would you feel sorry for such a man? Or would you admire him and strive to be even as he is?

As long as we have Christ’s joy in our hearts, cancer, concentration camps, torments, etc. are less than nothing. The martyrs illustrated that with their own lives. They sang as they were tortured. They sang as their children were tortured. They blessed those who killed them and blessed those who killed their children. They were full of joy.

That’s how we must be as Christians. We must “rejoice always”. Always. We must recognize the objective sadness of sin, pain, and death. We must NOT allow those things to steal away our joy. We are COMMANDED to not let them steal away our joy. We must be good-natured, hearty, joyous men and women of God, working and fighting alongside Christ against evil. We must sing as we work (or in prison as Paul and Silas). We must be content in all states.

So what must we do when confronted by an innocent child in agony? We do our duty. If we can assuage his pain, we do so. Any help we can render him, we do so. We certainly pray for him. If we can do nothing else, we give him glad encouragement. Under no circumstances should we allow his pain to steal the joy out of our hearts. That does not help the child, not at all. It would probably make the child feel worse. Nor does it help us. (In fact it hurts us and renders us less able to do our duties.) And it is disobedience to God. We must “rejoice always”, and we must remember that “perfect love casts out all fear”. Who is the one who loves God? The one who obeys His commandments.

If I had to put it all on a bumper sticker it would come down to “Do your duty and be glad.” :slight_smile:


Thanks, Paidion :slight_smile:


Geoffrey, no one is advocating moping about, being sad. No one is advocating, saying, “Oh, my God! How horrible! How can you bear it? We want you to know that we are eaten up inside with worry and sadness. We just feel awful.”

All we are saying, is that one should have a deep concern for suffering people, and not pass it off as “less than nothing.” When we have a deep concern, we will do what we can to help them—get them to a doctor if they need it, give them money if they need it, get them to a shelter, if necessary, to protect them from their husband, etc., etc. How is it going to help them if we “smile and laugh with right good gladness”? They may think we are mocking them in their pain. How is it going to help them if we “radiate joy and peace” but don’t give them what they need? Giving them what they need will probably necessitate self-sacrifice.

God gave his only-begotten Son in order to provide us with what WE need! Jesus sacrificed Himself to the death in order to provide a solution to our sin-sick souls! He didn’t radiate joy and peace. He sweat as it were, great drops of blood! In his concern for Jerusalem, He didn’t rejoice; He wept. Surely we need to have deep concern for the needy, the hungry, the hurting. In a similar way, we need to sacrifice our own self-interests to provide help for suffering people!


Paidion, I think we have at least an almost complete agreement on substance. Perhaps at times we are using words and phrases differently, all the while agreeing on what must be done.

We agree that we must always do our duty. I thoroughly agree that this often involves self-sacrifice.

Without ever ceasing to do our duty, I think we should strive to radiate joy and peace–the joy Paul commanded us to have and the “peace that passeth all understanding” that Christ proclaimed. A personal reflection, if I may:

When I was a child, I was a big baby about being sick. I would cry and fret. My mother was always calm and helpful. She always did her duty to her sick child, all the while radiating joy and peace. If she had looked worried or sad, it would have made me feel worse: “Oh, no! Even my mom is looking concerned! There must really be something wrong with me! Aaarrrgh!” Precisely because of her motherly calm, she would make me feel better.

This illustrates why I think those who suffer need our joy and peace rather than our tears.


People are frequently fooled by appearances like the bible says. Rich people aren’t made happy by their money or material goods. Comfortable yes, happy no.

Look at how everyone is fooled by psychology.

Christianity versus Modern Psychology, a comparison of what God says in the bible with what psychology says.

Psychology used to give people lobotomies and shock therapy…was that right?

the-gospel.org/stdy_psych/ch … hp?pass=hh