The Dilemma of Evil

"'See, it is I who created the blacksmith
who fans the coals into flame
and forges a weapon fit for its work.
And it is I who have created the destroyer to work havoc;
no weapon forged against you will prevail,
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD,
and this is their vindication from me,'
declares the LORD." Isaiah 54:16-17 (NIV)

There are many moments of grace that I can point to in my life. I have had the profound joy of knowing that God Himself has orchestrated circumstances, friendships, and experiences that can only be explained as divinely ordained. It is after such moments that my faith is strengthened and I realize that I love Him even more.

But there are also moments of my life when nothing else can be pointed to but evil itself. I remember a cold November night when my mother and we three children only escaped with our lives and the clothes on our backs from a raging house fire that took all of our possessions. I remember utter and wretched depression that came with culture shock and storms of tears from a heart that was broken over missing all that had once been familiar to me. I remember heartbreaking decisions of having the desperate need to be with other kids my age which meant that I would have to live away from my parents. And I remember sitting stunned at a memorial service for my beloved friend who had drowned in the Congo River while Michael W. Smith's song, Friends, played over the speakers in my ears.

I have seen the face of poverty--gaunt little bodies with stick-like legs and bloated tummies--right outside my childhood home's door. The sound of a wailing Congolese mother can still haunt me to this day as my mind's eye takes me back to the funeral of a child lost because of no available antibiotics.

This spring, I was reminded again that Satan comes as a thief to steal, kill, and destroy as our family sat under a green canopy on two separate gorgeous days that mocked the bleeding of our hearts as we said good-bye to my niece and nephew. Evil is the only word I can use to describe the agony, fear, and darkness that my siblings have been forced to walk through since the thief came.

Evil is so wicked because it has the ability to make us believe that our God has abandoned us. It has the ability to crush our souls so that we don't even know what to believe anymore. It can cause us to spiral into uncontrollable rage and fear, so consuming that we can't even recognize our former selves before evil made its presence known to us. It makes us a willing party to our families being ravaged by divorce, hatred, and unforgiveness because it hides itself behind our pride.

Why does God allow evil? I would not dare to pretend to know all the answers for a question that has been debated for millenia. But I do know that God has revealed enough of His character through His Word to help me wallow through that age-old dilemma. As I met with Jesus in the pages of His Word yesterday morning, I ran across this verse that struck me like a lightning bolt:

Proverbs 16:4 (Amplified Bible)

The Lord has made everything [to accommodate itself and contribute] to its own end and His own purpose--even the wicked [are fitted for their role] for the day of calamity and evil.

I can't understand all the reasons why Jesus doesn't just shield me from all that is evil in this world. But my comfort comes from knowing that that which is evil is contributing to its own end and my God's purpose, even if it doesn't seem like it. Only He has the power to take the fingerprints of evil in my life and so transform the resultant brokenness that it becomes useful to me. Evil's devastation in His all-knowing and all-powerful hand can give me the right to speak comfort into someone else's wounded soul. Evil's power is broken when I give my bitterness over evil's presence in my life to Him and watch Him turn my would-be tragic circumstances into triumph that glorifies my God.

And for all those unanswered questions, His Word tells me that one day there will be a pay day for evil. One day evil will meet its doom. One day I will see His master plan. In the meantime I have a choice--to believe the lie that He has forgotten about me or to see His salvation as I praise Him for those circumstances I cannot now or maybe never will understand on this side of eternity. I lived many of my first thirty years the first way. All it got me was depression, bitterness, and apathy. In the last ten years, I have decided to praise Him for what I cannot possibly understand. The circumstances have not changed immediately or at all, but my depression and mourning have turned into gladness and true joy.

My life is but a weaving, between my God and me,
I do not choose the colors, He worketh steadily,
Oftimes He weaveth sorrow, and I in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper, and I the underside.
Not till the loom is silent, and shuttles cease to fly,
Will God unroll the canvas and explain the reasons why.
The dark threads are as needful in the skillful Weaver's hand,
As the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned.

There are times, Jesus, when I just do not understand what You have allowed. Without Your Word, I am helpless against the devastation of evil in this life. My mind cannot handle all that I see and experience in this fallen world. Thank You that one day I will be able to say with my whole heart, Jesus, You did all things well.