Part 2 dealt with God’s eternal perspective in creating and governing the universe and the people in it. One of the points made there was that from a modern, scientific perspective, there is no such thing as good and evil in nature. Diseases, accidents, and natural disasters are just part of the way nature works.
And yet, when disease, accident, and natural disaster strike us humans, it feels evil. It can drive us to radically question our faith. It can cause us to question the existence, or at least the benevolence, of a God who created such a violent universe, and who watches while we supposedly beloved humans endure so much tragedy.
I hope Part 2 helped you to understand, or at least approach the idea, that natural causes of pain and suffering such as diseases, accidents, and natural disasters are linked to the existence of human evil, even if they are not evil in themselves. As I said earlier, evil is a moral and spiritual phenomenon. It exists only in the human heart, mind, and spirit.
And yet, there is a certain relationship or correspondence between spiritual evil and the almost casual cruelty of nature. That cruelty and violence affects human beings just as it does every other animal in nature.
In order to deal with it, we must look more closely at the nature of evil, and why it strikes even the innocent with crippling and fatal diseases and disasters. Evil is not merely a blind force. It has definite purposes and goals. That’s because it is a human force—even if it comes from a twisted, inhuman version of humanity.
3. Evil is real, and its greatest desire is to tear down, destroy, and enslave the innocent
I hope I don’t have to argue the question of whether evil is real. Just open your eyes and look around. There is so much greed, grasping for power, war, oppression, theft, rape, murder, and all manner of other injustice, pain, and sorrow in this world! It’s a no-brainer that evil is very real.
But why can’t evil strike only humans who are themselves evil, greedy, and grasping for power—power that they use to dominate and oppress others? Why does evil also strike the innocent?
It’s obvious that evil is real. And those who engage in evil will eventually suffer its painful consequences—if not in this world, then in the next.
What may not be so obvious is that evil’s greatest desire is to tear down, destroy, and enslave the innocent.
Is that really true?
Let’s look at an example of evil operating in human interactions.
Consider a drug pusher who makes money selling highly addictive drugs such as meth, crack, and heroin. Who does the pusher most want to sell drugs to? Existing customers are great! But they’re already part of the profit pool. Plus, they’re on their way down.
What the pusher really wants is new addicts. Why do drug dealers sometimes give out free samples? It’s to get new people addicted so that they’ll come back and buy more drugs . . . and more . . . and more.
A pusher’s prime target is non-addicts. And the younger, the better.
This is another way of saying that what pushers want most is to get people who are now innocent addicted to their drugs. It’s nothing personal. It’s all about profits.
Now expand that to everyone who is motivated primarily by profits, power, and personal pleasure. You can draw the conclusion for yourself. Everyone who is out for their own gain at others’ expense wants to rope as many new people as possible into their schemes.
Expand this to the spiritual level, and this is the general rule: Evil hates innocence, and wants to destroy it, because innocence is the opposite of evil.
- Evil means harming others, and wishing harm to others.
- Innocence means doing no harm to others, and wishing no harm others.
That’s why spiritual evil is continually breathing out hatred and rage toward innocence, and toward all people who are innocent of wrongdoing.
Why do bad things happen to good people? Because good and innocent people are the ones evil most wants to hurt and destroy. Innocent people are continually being targeted by evil.
Even if we can’t find any causes here on earth for tragedies that strike innocent people, such as someone else’s negligence or sin, there is also a spiritual power of evil called hell, the Devil, and Satan that is always active. Hell is the gathering place of all people who have chosen evil over good through their life on earth. (See “Is There Really a Hell? What is it Like?”)
When we see apparently random bad things happen to good people, it is not God’s doing. It is the destructive power of hell that brings it about. That evil influence is always looking for openings where it can hurt and destroy innocent people.
What’s truly amazing is how much evil God stops from happening. If hell had its way, this earth would be a blasted, barren wasteland. The fact that most of us are still living and breathing is a testament to God’s continual work to stop the forces of evil from unleashing the full destructive power of their fury.
I realize that the idea of demonic influences is out of favor in today’s rational, scientific world. Unfortunately, closing our eyes to the existence and influence of real, spiritual evil in our world will not make it go away. We cannot fight an enemy that we refuse to see.
Of course, not everything that we think of as evil actually is evil. Some of it is simply the natural workings of the material world as they affect human beings. And from a spiritual perspective, some of the things we think of as evil are actually a part of God’s plan for our eternal life.
However, some of the things that affect us actually do come from evil, and work for our destruction. Why doesn’t God just wipe out all that evil? Let’s look at one answer to that question.
4. God could not destroy all evil without destroying us in the process
Wouldn’t it be nice if God used all that omnipotent divine power and wiped out all the evil in our world? Why doesn’t God step in and fix the world so that we can all live long, happy, healthy lives in loving harmony with one another?
As annoying as it is, the basic answer is that we don’t want God to do that.
Oh, we may say that we want it. But think about your own favorite bad habits. How would you feel if God just stepped in and said, “Sorry, you can’t do that anymore. I won’t let you.”
Be honest now!
The reality is that we humans identify with our own wrong attitudes and bad habits. The reason they’re a part of us is that we think of them as a part of us. This is the definition of “ego.” Our ego is the person that we think we are.
And for all practical purposes, the person we think we are is the person we actually are. Or at least, it’s the person we try to be, even if it doesn’t work very well.
Unfortunately, some of the things we identify with and think of as our own personality and character are not good, but evil. Just a few examples:
- Cocky men who think it’s hyper-masculine to have sex with as many women as possible
- Vain women who think their amazing beauty should make them the center of attention
- Thieves who see nothing wrong with stealing other people’s money and belongings
- Paid killers who make their living ending other people’s lives
This list could be extended endlessly. Some of our bad character traits may seem innocent enough to us. But that’s because we enjoy them. We get pleasure from them, and we may make money from them. If we were able to objectively examine ourselves, and consider where those bad traits—those evils in us—would lead if there were no restraints, we would see just how destructive they are.
But the fact is, we identify with them, and consider them to be an integral part of the real us.
If God were to immediately step in and wipe out all the evil in the world, it would mean damaging or destroying all of the people in the world in the process. It would mean ripping out of every one of us major parts of what we think of as our self. It would mean ripping out the arms, legs, stomachs, hearts, and lungs of our minds and spirits. We would not survive the operation.
God will not do that to us. God wants us to live, not die (see Ezekiel 18:31–32). So instead of violently ripping all of the evil out of our world, and killing us all in the process, God works in countless ways to bring each one of us to the point where we are able to see and identify the evils within ourselves, and willingly give them up. That’s what our life here on earth is all about. (See “Heaven, Regeneration, and the Meaning of Life on Earth.”)
In short, God will not destroy all evil because evil is part of the human heart and mind. Destroying it would mean destroying us. And God loves us and respects us too much to destroy us.
The same is true when it comes to diseases, accidents, and natural disasters. Though some of these things are beyond our control, others result from our own negligence and bad choices. For example, if we smoke, drink, and eat a bad diet, sooner or later we’re going to get sick. And if we insist on building our houses on flood plains next to rivers, and on low-lying areas next to oceans, sooner or later we’re going to get wiped out by floods and tsunamis. God cannot eliminate all of the diseases and accidents that happen to us because we, too, have made these a part of our experience by the way we have chosen to live our lives.
Perhaps God could sort out and eliminate all of the tragedies that have no direct connection with human negligence or bad choices, and make life easy for everyone who is good and nice. But God’s goal is not to make our life here on earth comfortable. God’s goal is to turn us into angels so that we can have a joyful and fulfilling life to eternity.
That’s why God allows evil in the first place.
5. God allows evil only when it is necessary for our freedom and our salvation
Have you had something painful and tragic happen in your life, only to realize months, years, or decades later that if it hadn’t happened, your life would have been much worse?
Speaking for myself, it wasn’t all that many years ago that my whole life fell apart. While it was happening, I was not a happy camper! But as I look back on that painful and disastrous time, I realize that it had to happen if I was ever going to move on with my life.
Now I’ll be honest: If it had been my choice, I would never have let go of my old life. But God had other plans. God saw that as painful as those events were, if they didn’t happen, my life would have become increasingly painful and meaningless. When my old life fell apart all around me, it freed me to move on to a new and better phase of my life.
Your experience in life may have been different. If you’re struggling with recent tragedies, it may be too soon to make any sense of them. And in some cases, we may never understand why things happened the way they did.
But whether or not we ever understand some of the painful events of life, the general rule is that God allows evil things to happen only when, from God’s eternal perspective, it is necessary to allow them for the sake of our eternal salvation and happiness.
God is not limited by our small, time-bound perspective. God sees the eternal consequences of all the events of our lives, from the tiniest moments in our day to the big, life-changing events and life-altering tragedies.
For many reasons, including the ones explained earlier, God cannot prevent all of the painful and evil things that happen to innocent people. Still, it may be some comfort to know that if God does allow some evil thing to happen, then God must have seen that for the eternal good of the souls involved, it would have been worse if God had prevented it.
It may take us a lifetime to understand why God allowed particular tragedies to happen in our own lives and in the lives of people we love. Or we may understand it only after we, too, have died and moved on to the greater light and deeper insight of the spiritual world. Meanwhile, the search for answers about the painful tragedies of life can push us forward on our spiritual journey. There will be more on this in Part 4.
6. From a spiritual perspective, physical death is good, not evil
Okay, it has to be said.
To us humans here on earth, death looks like the ultimate catastrophe. That’s especially so when the person who dies is a child, a teenager, a young adult, or an adult in the prime of life. Only when a person is very old and frail can we even begin to think that death might not be such a bad thing after all.
To angels and to God, death looks very different.
Consider this: Every time someone here on earth dies, angels welcome someone new into their communities.
Yes, angels do understand that death can be a painful tragedy for those who loved and depended on that person. Angels are not hard-hearted.
But the fact remains that for the angels themselves, the arrival of new people into the spiritual world is a happy occasion. And it happens only when people die physically.
God is also fully present with us, and infinitely compassionate in our pain and sorrow over losing those we love.
But think of it from God’s perspective.
God didn’t create us to live on this earth. Our life in the material world is a temporary situation. God created us to live in heaven after a boot camp here on earth. From God’s perspective, death is simply the process by which we humans pass from our temporary home on earth to our permanent home in the spiritual world. From this perspective, death is really a birth from the narrow and confining womb of this world to the wide open fields of the spiritual world.
In short, from the perspective of God and the angels, death is a good, natural, and spiritual event. (For more on this, see “When Death is a Celebration.”)
This is not to say that it’s wrong to be sad when someone we love dies. It is natural and healthy for us to grieve our lost loved ones. We will miss them. They were part of our life, and now they are gone. All too often they leave behind family and friends who loved them and depended on them, and whose lives will now be much harder.
From our perspective death can be a harsh and painful thing.
But even when it leaves behind sorrow and grief here on earth, death is still only a brief passage in a much larger life. It is a transition from this world to a better world. And for those whose life has been wracked with suffering and pain, it comes as a welcome release.
Consider, for example, the millions of children who die every year due to poverty, disease, and malnutrition. It is only those of us who are left behind who experience their innocent deaths as pain and sorrow. The children who die no longer have to suffer poverty, hunger, pain, and disease. For the rest of their childhood years they will be brought up by angel parents in an atmosphere of love, light, and joy. Their sorrows are over. Their life of joy has already begun. (See “Where are my Children who have Died? Will I Ever See Them Again?”)
For those who have passed through the door of physical death, it is a transition from the darkness of this world into the light of the spiritual world.
This does not mean we shouldn’t work to overcome poverty, malnutrition, and disease. No one should have to live under those conditions. But it does mean that when we fail to do our job of caring for our fellow human beings, God will receive those whom we have failed into a loving, caring world where their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs will be fully met by loving and capable angels.
If the one who died was the primary support of a family, doesn’t that mean that those of us who remain here are meant to love, help, and support the ones who were left behind? Why should the loss of one man or woman mean poverty and neglect for those who depended upon him or her? Doesn’t this say more about the narrow and self-centered nature of our society than it does about the supposed evils of death?
If death, which is just a natural part of life, causes so much trouble for our society, perhaps it is time to re-think how we care for one another in our communities here on earth.
In the final part of this article, we’ll take up points 7–8 of the eight points listed in Part 1. This is where the rubber hits the road. This will be our call to action.
This four-part article is a response to three spiritual conundrums submitted by readers.