Why does God allow evil?
Question: The world is filled with evil and suffering—so, how can God be good? Is He too weak to stop evil things, or just unaware that they happen? If so, He isn’t really “God.” But if God is all-powerful and all-knowing and still does nothing, is He truly good?
Answer: History certainly records many horrific evils, such as the Holocaust inflicted on the Jewish people, the Soviet Union’s starvation of Ukrainians, and the chattel slavery in the pre-Civil War American South, to name just a few. And for the many who have been robbed, assaulted, or abused, the presence of evil hits home in a personal way.
We are mistaken, however, if we blame God for mankind’s evil. Frankly, that is exactly what the devil, as the ultimate source and instigator of evil, wants us to do. After Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God and eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they tried to pass the blame. In fact, Adam blamed God, saying, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate” (Genesis 3:12–13).
To this day, people continue to blame God for mankind’s evil. But throughout history, no example of man’s inhumanity to man has ever been an “act of God”—human atrocities are inflicted by human beings, and the blame for them should lie with those human beings.
Still, the question remains: Why does God allow human beings to commit evil? Part of the answer involves the need for humans to have free will, which must include the ability to choose wrong. God’s purpose for us requires us to grow in character by choosing right over wrong, so we must also be able to choose evil instead of good.
As the Apostle Paul explained, when we understand God’s purpose we see that the eternal good that comes when human beings develop God’s righteous character far outweighs all the evil mankind has ever done or suffered:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Romans 8:18–21).
Indeed, our sufferings aren’t even worthy to be compared to the coming glory. Even creation itself is suffering, yet it too will be delivered. When Adam and Eve sinned, they took God’s place as caretaker of creation, as if they and their descendants could do it without Him. Without God in charge, even the natural world would become a challenge to deal with and a force to contend with (Genesis 3:17–19).
Mankind needs to learn fully that we need God and that trying to build a world without Him leads only to suffering, leaving us vulnerable to the afflictions of nature, our own evils, and the devil’s perversions and persecutions. How many times must parents let children feel the results of their own bad choices before they know the lessons will sink in? In God’s case, He is teaching all of humanity by letting us suffer the consequences of our own sinful choices—and the resulting lessons must make an eternal impact.
God promises that the glory revealed in His children will so greatly outshine any evil ever committed and any suffering ever experienced that a time will come when they never again come to mind (Isaiah 65:17). We should pray that time comes soon. Evil in our world is a consequence of our free will—yet God is mercifully allowing even our bad choices to achieve an eternal good that will far outweigh any suffering anyone has ever felt.