" I will work a work in your days Which you would not believe, though it were told you." Habakkuk 1:5

Why Does Evil Exist in the World?

Sunday Scripture

Why is it that the big questions float to the surface unexpectedly?
It’s not when I’m sitting alert with open journal and quiet mind, but rather when I’m pushing a shopping cart or a vacuum cleaner hose; when I’m mixing cookie dough or scrubbing a pot, that a face comes to mind or a news report hooks my ear:

A powerful hurricane flattens a poor village
The simmering soup in Washington D.C. bubbles over onto the stove–again
Another local suicide

Another big name succumbs to a moral crash and burn

What does all this mean, and how are we to make sense of a world where evil seems to be sitting in the driver’s seat most of the time?

If you’ve spent anytime at all turning pages in a Bible, you know we’re not the first to ask these big questions, and we certainly will not be the last. The psalms overflow with tears and bristle with question marks while Job hangs onto his faith by a thin thread. Not many of us look to Habakkuk, the obscure minor prophet, for much of anything, never mind insights on the problem of evil, but I am reading and studying there with the help of Habakkuk: Remembering God’s Faithfulness When He Seems Silent by Dannah Gresh–and I’m surprised at what I’m finding!

Set against a backdrop of moral decline and impending exile, Habakkuk opens with a raging question, flung into the silence of God:

O LORD, how long shall I cry,
And you will not hear?
Even cry out to you, ‘Violence!’
And you will not save.”

Habakkuk 1:2

God speaks into the silence in verse 5 with the kind of verse we love to put on T-shirts and couch pillows:

Look among the nations and watch–
Be utterly astounded!
For I will work a work in your days
Which you would not believe,
though it were told you.”

To Habakkuk’s “Do you see us?” God delivers a decisive, “Yes,” but instead of reassurance, instead of promises of restoration and rescue that echo His words to Moses or Gideon, God promises judgment at the hands of a heathen nation! In fact, it seems pretty clear that God has been at work behind the scenes preparing the Chaldeans (Babylonians) for their big moment in redemptive history.

The ways of God are inscrutable, “past finding out” according to Paul, and yet we get a glimpse of his nature here as he employs an evil empire in the ultimate rescue of his people through the fire of exile and the devastating loss of their homeland.

It’s clear that God wanted Israel’s heart with such a ferocious love that he would go to any length to secure it. Unchanged and unchanging, he pursues you and me today and he will stop at nothing to get our mind’s attention and our heart’s affection. C.S. Lewis, writing from the cruel jaws of grief, concluded that his loss was not likely to make him disbelieve in God, but rather, “to believe such dreadful things about him.” In a world that offers pandemics and racial tension and political vitriol as evidence, we must cling to what we know from scripture about God’s goodness and his sovereignty in order to think biblically about the presence of evil alongside the reality of a holy and loving God.

In a world that offers pandemics, racial tension and political vitriol as evidence, we must cling to truth about God’s goodness and his sovereignty in order to think biblically about the presence of evil alongside the reality of a holy and loving God.

The purpose of evil in my own world (and in yours) may depend entirely upon our response to it:
Do we repent and allow it to turn us toward God and his word as King Josiah did?
Do we embrace evil since it seems certain to win no matter what we do?
Do we try to ignore it, distracting ourselves with mindless entertainment or trivial pursuits?

God’s goodness and his sovereignty are at work even when we are unable to track his methods, and judgment may be running on a parallel track with a rescue plan that truly is “utterly astounding.” He does hear and he longs for us to bring our questions and our confusion to him rather than allowing the big questions to come between us.

Stepping into a new year, what questions are you bringing to God on the regular?
Are you allowing the tension of all we don’t understand about God and his ways to come between you and God–or to bring you to your knees in worship?

Praying for you in 2021,

Look among the nations and watch–
Be utterly astounded!
For I will work a work in your days
Which you would not believe,
though it were told you” (Habakkuk 1:5).

I recommend this book…

Habakkuk: Remembering God’s Faithfulness When He Seems Silent by Dannah Gresh uses the breadth of scripture to interpret the prophet’s message and his times in a six-week study that incorporates a deep reading of the text with prayer prompts that encourage meditation on the message. Gresh defines meditation as “what happens when studying and praying collide,” and shares six habits of living by faith that emerge naturally from Habakkuk’s prophetic writing. For readers who long to remember the faithfulness of God in the past as a confidence booster for dealing with hard times in the present or fears about the future, the little book of Habakkuk will be a surprising source of inspiration and Dannah Gresh a skilled and sympathetic guide. Many thinks to Moody Publishing for providing this book to facilitate my review which is, of course, offered freely and with honesty.

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52 thoughts on “Why Does Evil Exist in the World?”

  1. Habakkuk is a favorite book of mine as it offers such hope in the midst of difficult days. This is food for thought today >>> “In a world that offers pandemics and racial tension and political vitriol as evidence, we must cling to what we know from scripture about God’s goodness and his sovereignty in order to think biblically about the presence of evil alongside the reality of a holy and loving God.”

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  2. This book sounds like an absolute must-read, Michele, especially in this day and age. So comforting to know that God is never changing, and can speak to each and every generation, no matter what we are going through.
    Blessings!

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  3. Michele,
    God’s Word provides all we need to take the next step in our journey with God. Thank you for your gift in pointing the way God is leading you.
    You are an encouragement to me.
    Blessings to you and yours in 2021!

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  4. That verse certainly does speak to the last year we’ve all experienced and the coming days ahead. We have been amazed at how horrific a pandemic can be, greatly altering our lives. We’ve been amazed how thin the line between civilized behavior and anarchy, and how politics can breed vitriol and even violence. The birth pangs are growing closer together; surely Jesus is coming back soon. And THAT will be the ultimate reality that will be hard to believe, even if we had been told exactly how it will unfold!

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  5. “It’s clear that God wanted Israel’s heart with such a ferocious love that he would go to any length to secure it. Unchanged and unchanging, he pursues you and me today and he will stop at nothing to get our mind’s attention and our heart’s affection.” I believe this, But you said it so perfectly.

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  6. Michele, I often wonder why God chose the Babylonians to inflict his judgment on Isreal, then ultimately promise the destruction of the evil empire. Sometimes (always?) God’s ways are inscrutable. That is one of the best blessings from reading the Bible. We don’t always go there for answers. We go hear God’s story.

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      1. GREAT post, Michele! This past year and even the most recent events have definitely brought me to my knees in prayer more times than I can count, but The Lord is still faithful no matter what’s happening around us and I’m very grateful for that.

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  7. “Unchanged and unchanging, he pursues you and me today and he will stop at nothing to get our mind’s attention and our heart’s affection.” I find such comfort and strength in this truth, Michele!

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  8. I’m intrigued about the 6 habits, Michele. I’ll check out this gem, like so many others you’ve brought to my attention. And yes, I think all of us are hanging by a thin thread of faith. But that may be the best place to learn to surrender it all to our all-powerful God! Happy New Year, my friend!

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  9. Yes, the big question–why do bad things happen to good people. I wrote about Biblical podcasts this week and one of them is reading Job right now.

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  10. Habakkuk is not a book of the Bible I know very well. What you wrote today fascinates me to want to read more. I am discovering more and more how relevant God’s word is in our current world situation. Saying that “god’s word is alive and active” is not just a Christianese saying but the truth.

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  11. I’ve always liked Habakkuk. I love his honest questions, and how it shows that God is still in charge in the midst of the chaos, even though his plans for working things out might not be what we expect.

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  12. Michele, this is such a great post. In this crazy world, in the uncertainties of life, I cling to the truth that God is sovereign and He is loving. And yes, He’s always at work. There’s comfort in these truths, even when circumstances try to appear otherwise. Thanks for the reminders!

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  13. Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too! Please stay safe and healthy. Come party with us at Over The Moon! Catapult your content Over The Moon! @marilyn_lesniak @EclecticRedBarn

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  14. Interesting that yesterday I saw the ‘trust God’s timing’ theme several times! I think it was not a coincidence 🙂

    A lovely addition to ‘My Corner of the World’ this week! Thanks for linking!

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  15. For me, troubles and evil exist to show the light. In the same way that we do not appreciate our health until we are ill. we cannot appreciate the joys of life until we have experienced the darkness of their absence. Thanks for linking up with #MischiefAndMemories

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  16. Great post, Michele! The evil in the world right now is downright suffocating. It is so hard to keep one’s positivity alive and light aglow when the evil in the world is trying so very hard to inject negativity and darkness all around. I will not be defeated, but my goodness, it is exhausting! We have become much too intolerant of one another lately and it is so heart breaking. Please keep sharing your beautiful messages of hope with us! Thanks for linking.

    Shelbee
    http://www.shelbeeontheedge.com

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