Audio version read by the authorss-7.19.20-why.mp3
Why is there evil? Mankind’s age old question. David complains repeatedly in the Psalms, the prophets ache with lament and longing, Job is confounded with life’s twists and turns. We ourselves reel in shock when life deals a losing hand. We turn for answers to culture – always a disappointment – or to government, which has never in any framework been able to erase malevolence. We expect from social restructuring a result that is only possible in the kingdom of God – utopia. One good, one aim, one will – God’s – a coming reality, but not yet. As the architect of humanity and the creator of the unimaginably vast universe, He is the only one who knows what’s under the hood – how to keep all those parts in sync so the car works. His laws are designed to enhance, not diminish, our participation in community. God prohibits one person violating another by insisting on his own will, forcing upon others his own version of goodness. God prescribes cooperation, which requires – above all – humility. Yet history is littered with the inevitable devastation of conflicting wills – domination, and intimidation, an ugly picture – man’s kingdom.
Eventually we may turn to God in desperation, usually when conflict becomes unbearable, begging for His intervention. Often it is too late – evil has been set in motion by misuse of the gift of freedom. Now we demand a miracle, expecting God to reverse the consequences of ours or others’ bad choices. We insist that God conform to our infinitesimally narrow perspective of time and ethics, often blaming Him for the situation which breaking His laws has created. And sometimes He does intervene. If not, we are offended, and with impunity, like a tantruming child, we walk away from the only good in the universe. How could we possibly believe, let alone obey, a deity who does not conform to our standards of good and evil? Hmm, that sounds familiar. Genesis 3 maybe? Walking away has become a popular trend of the ‘enlightened’ these days. Jesus words still ring true: “And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” Mt 11:6
This scenario has been repeated for centuries, as long as man has traversed this earth, noble yet fatally flawed, tender yet savage, tormented by the duality around and within him. Good and evil coexist – for now. We groan at the oppression one of another, we ache for peace and justice, we starve for significant existence. Living in the already/not yet of the cosmic timeline, our souls are tormented that justice is perverted, that injustice prevails, that wickedness is not punished. Here is our test of character, and of faith – our willingness to let God be God. Is now the time we reject the Maker and Sustainer of all things? Is it now that we despise the sovereignty of God, since we are playing a tune and He doesn’t dance? Is our perspective more righteous than His? We may not shake our fist and walk away like so many are doing in solidarity with this passing culture, but there might be subtle rebellion in our attitude. We walk away from Him by neglecting His Word, by discarding His prophets, by dismissing His people because of our own “superior” morality. This is a dangerous game. This is an unwise strategy for living in eternity. Our time here is but the blink of an eye. The future will be the harvest of the present.
The isolation and suffering all around me is unacceptable to my sensibilities of goodness and fair play. The racial unrest is a heavy weight on my soul. Friends and neighbors are suffering and searching for meaning. We are but dust, grains of sand on the seashore. Yet eternity lives in our hearts! How can we hope to be comforters, helpers, bringers of hope? I am personally near the end of my ‘blink of an eye’ time here, but I long to tear off a little corner of the darkness. Thankfully there is a record of someone else in the same situation to give me perspective. Habakkuk was a prophet who lived in a grossly immoral society, although they were God’s own people. He desperately sought God for an answer that would bring solutions to the soul sucking wickedness and moral indifference surrounding him. God’s response was that it would take time and judgment. Suffering would precede peace – probably not the answer he was hoping for. “For the vision points ahead to a time I have appointed; it testifies regarding the end, and it will not lie. Even if there is a delay, wait for it. It is coming and will come without delay. Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him. But the righteous one will live by his faith (or faithfulness).” Habakkuk 2:2-4 emphasis mine
Uncommon character – living with confidence in what was revealed but not yet realized, convinced that the future promise was at least as certain as the current reality. God said trust and wait – two very challenging decisions to make while staring into the face of evil. He chose to live by faith in the promised future, which meant faithfulness to God’s ways during his earthly stay. He proclaimed the unpopular message of repentance and reconciliation to God and neighbor. If we bear the name of Jesus, this is our call as well. Living within but not submerged by evil. Grieved but not embittered. Touched by collateral adversity. Affected by judgment on a God-resisting culture yet without self pity. In this tumultuous place the call is to remain faithful – first to maintain trust, then to invite others to do the same. Faith put steel in Habakkuk’s soul, armored his judgment with eternal context, and forged his mind with truth. Let’s follow his example and live out God’s kingdom in our ‘blink of an eye’ time here.
Here is a delightful musical bonus: Paul Zach Be Still My Soul
Addendum: Psalm 28 is an excellent study on this topic, and Paul Tripp does a masterful job of introducing it in his book New Morning Mercies – July 18. I could not link to the July 18 reading, but you can browse the site and see if you are interested in his perspective. Here is a link to his website Paul Tripp