Why does God allow evil?

Many people ask why God allows evil.  The inability to answer this question often drives people away from God and the Bible.  I attempt to answer that question in the following response, which was written as a reply to a letter from a young man.  I also answer a few more of his questions within.  His situation is common enough and his questions natural enough that this could easily apply to many young men you know (and young women, in a slightly more general sense). 

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Dear Xxxx,
 
Thank you for your letter and your questions.  I, too, have experienced the pain of relationships torn apart; even a marriage of nearly ten years.  I have seen my three young children suffer as that whole process unfolds.  Broken relationships can be devastating, and it’s easy during those difficult times to feel upset and angry with God.  I hope I can help you understand some of the questions and concerns you have about God and the Bible.
 
One of your main questions centers around why God has not given you what you’ve asked for, because you correctly see in Matthew 7:7 that Jesus tells us, “Ask, and it will be given to you.”  Probably the most important thing to remember in interpreting Scripture (the Bible) is to let Scripture interpret Scripture.  That is, are there any other passages in the Bible that speak on that same issue or a similar topic?  In this case, we see that there are, and these other passages are helpful. 
 
For example, in Chapters 14, 15, and 16 of the gospel of John, we see Jesus several times saying things like, “Whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give it to you.”  It’s important to learn about phrases like “in My name” before we decide on how to apply them.  Praying in the name of Jesus isn’t just adding a phrase to our prayers like some kind of magic chant.  It means asking within the character of who Jesus is.  We see this also by noticing passages in John’s first letter (or epistle), often called First John, or abbreviated as 1 John or I John.  In First John 5:14-15, we read:
 
“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (italics added). 
 
This is especially helpful since John wrote both that letter and the gospel in which he recorded Jesus speaking about asking in His name.  So we clearly and logically see the intent of Jesus’ words:  we are to ask according to the will of the Lord.  Everything that we ask according to His will we will receive.
 
It’s also logical and helpful to look for parallel passages to clarify points here and there.  There are four gospels (the gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).  The gospels according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, called the synoptic gospels, often record similar events, but they aren’t copied word-for-word from each other; each author had a different audience in mind:  for instance, Matthew was writing primarily to Jews and Luke was writing primarily to Gentiles (non-Jews).  We find in Luke a parallel passage to the section you quote from Matthew 7; it’s Luke 11:9-13.
 
The end of the Matthew section (Matthew 7:11) says, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” 
 
How do we define the “good things” Jesus speaks about?  Well, Luke 11:13 tells us:
 
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (italics added).
 
Now it becomes crystal clear that Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit, God Himself (we often say the third person of the Trinity), as being the ultimate good thing.  Jesus is telling people that they can have salvation, they can have God, if they willingly ask. 
 
So, in regards to asking to have your girlfriend back, we have to ask if that either involves your receiving the Holy Spirit (it doesn’t, you need only ask God to receive the Holy Spirit), or we need to ask if that’s according to His will (as in First John 5:14-15). 
 
So let’s examine the topic of wills, as in God’s will, our will, free will, etc.; again you ask some important questions.  You argue for people having a free will, and you say it’s not logical that Hitler and Osama bin Laden did not have free will if God isn’t then responsible for their actions.  First, let’s think about free will for a second.  If you have a free will, and your ex-girlfriend also has a free will, and by her free will she chooses not to remain with you, who’s free will should win, since your free will and hers are in conflict?  Doesn’t it make logical sense, then, that not everyone can have a free will, if free will means we each get to decide how everything goes?
 
When we speak about the will of God in the context of the will of man, we’re often talking about some different things:
1.  God’s sovereign will (which only He knows, and sometimes He has chosen to reveal certain aspects of it), and
2.  God’s moral will (clear commands in Scripture we are to obey).
 
Everyone is responsible to God for his own actions; we often say this means each person is a free moral agent.  Hitler, bin Laden, and you and I are each responsible before God for our own moral choices.  In that sense, we each do have a free will.  But the crucial part to understand is that without God changing our hearts from deceptive, wicked hearts (Jeremiah 17:9), that is, hearts of stone, and turning them into hearts of flesh that will know and love God (Ezekiel 11:19 and Ezekiel 36:26; 2 Corinthians 5:17), none of us would ever make moral choices that would please God, because we are all corrupt, having all descended from the first couple, Adam and Eve, who sinned by rejecting God’s clear command in the garden of Eden. 
 
Why does God allow all this?  Why does He allow such brutality in the world?  Why does He allow evil?  Why did He allow Adam and Eve to sin in the first place?  The answer lies in the fact that, although God is just and holy, He is not only just and holy.  If He were only just and holy, He would likely not have given Adam and Eve the ability to choose against His will. 

But, God is not only just and holy, He is also merciful and gracious.  He does not give us all what we all deserve:  eternal damnation for rejecting an infinite, eternal God.  On some He has chosen to have mercy, not condemning us, but giving us eternal life, what we don’t deserve, by His grace. 
 
At this point, you might ask, how is this just?  How can God not give us what we deserve, but instead give us what we don’t deserve?
 
Here’s the answer:  Jesus, God Himself (the second person of the Trinity), willingly chose to take upon Himself the punishment that we deserve, the penalty for our sins, our rejection of God.  Jesus, who Himself was sinless, was put to death in the most gruesome fashion, a death He didn’t deserve, to satisfy the justice of God (Romans 6:23 – “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”). 
 
So God freely gives eternal life to all who put their faith in Jesus’ sacrifice for them.  Nothing we could do could satisfy God’s justice.  But in our case, at this point in history, Jesus has already satisfied it; we need only humble ourselves to accept His gift of grace. 
 
You speak of the Bible as brutal.  The pinnacle of brutality in history was Jesus, the sinless Son of God, dying on the Cross for people who didn’t deserve His sacrifice.  So this horrendous brutality was also the pinnacle of God’s love:  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
 
So after all this, we come back to you and your ex-girlfriend.  I don’t know whether or not she follows Christ.  But if she does, then she is commanded in Scripture not to be “unequally yoked” with those who don’t follow Christ (2 Corinthians 6:14).  If you do not follow Christ, it would not be according to the will of God to bring the two of you back together.  That’s pretty logical, right?
 
However, it is according to the will of God that we repent of our sinfulness and humbly follow Christ.  Now, if you do that, will you get your girlfriend back?  I can’t answer that.  In fact, I can’t say whether you do or don’t have someone “planned for you” by God.  Some people are called to be single.  I thought I was called to be married, and now I find myself single again.  But I am content to allow God to use this time in my life so that I may delight myself in Him more and more. 
 
Maybe you will have a satisfying relationship with a girl down the road.  Maybe not.  But one thing is sure:  God calls out to you to repent and follow Him.  Cultivate a satisfying relationship with Christ.  That is the fullest meaning of Psalm 37:4 –  “Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”
 
May God’s grace be with you.

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For more resources on defending the plain reading of Scripture in Genesis 1-11 that we are all descended from two real people (Adam and Eve), that the days of creation are days as we understand them today (six 24-hour days), that the global flood of Noah’s day was real and covered the entire earth, and the impact of all these truths on the gospel message itself, please visit the FAQ page at Creation Ministries International.

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