Unspeakable Evil and the Goodness of God

The story filled us with horror. How could a father murder his own daughter and her best friend? It happened in Zion, Illinois, a quiet community north of Chicago, not far from the Wisconsin border. It doesn’t really help to ask why because there is no answer that would suffice. I received an email from a young father who wonders how to reconcile this sort of evil with the goodness of God: “This is the single hardest thing for me to reconcile with, in terms of my faith in God’s goodness. I say this having read and listened to some great apologetics. I simply cannot imagine how I would be able to simply ‘cast my cares upon Him’ if something like this were to happen to my son. It just breaks my heart and makes me long for heaven where this kind of evil does not exist.”Here is my response: “I think your last line is one important part of the answer. Evil exists to make us long for heaven. If terrible things did not happen, if evil were only ‘moderate’ instead of ‘horrible’ and sometimes ‘unspeakable,’ we might get used to it. But when we see things like a father killing his own daughter, it reveals to us the depravity of the human heart, and it ought to humble all of us because we’re all in the same boat, and apart from God’s grace, the boat is going down. Strange as it seems, sin must be ‘necessary’ in some sense that we cannot fully grasp in order to force us to long for heaven. I do not think this fully explains what that father did. Nothing can ‘explain’ it. Sin at its heart is irrational, but that does not mean it serves no purpose in God’s ultimate plan.” Sin will always remain sin. It can never be anything else. But sin is the backdrop against which we see the manifold greatness of God’s grace in the salvation of sinners who deserve damnation. And by “sinners who deserve damnation,” I mean all of us. God will be glorified through the salvation of sinners. If you want proof of God’s goodness, think about your own life and how God forgave you. Meanwhile we must never get used to sin lest we take for granted the price Jesus paid to take it away. Jonathan Edwards said that in eternity, we will marvel at how God used evil on the earth to bring forth good to his own glory. For the moment, and most of the time, we see only the evil and the pain. But that’s not the end of the story. God will have the last word and it will be good.

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