Can God be real when there's so much pain and evil?
We hear this question all the time --- maybe we’ve asked it ourselves. Atheists frequently point to pain as a reason they can’t believe in a loving God.
When you think about it, the question begs a moral judgment — that allowing or causing pain is immoral. The idea of morality only makes sense if there is a higher law to measure behavior against. It requires that there is some sort of absolute definition of right and wrong that everyone agrees with. The recognition of right and wrong is an admission that a higher law exists, but not only that — it’s a confirmation that it is written inside us from our earliest moment.
Even small kids know that fairness is important and that causing pain to others is wrong. But more importantly, people know that putting oneself at risk to help someone else is right and good. That can’t be explained by evolution or natural selection because it’s the opposite of self-preservation. Yet, it’s a universal human trait.
The Bible explains why it proves God created us, and it’s the most logical explanation that there is. In the creation story, we see that love existed before humanity. Love was already at work in the Godhead before there was human life. That’s why Jesus said that Love is the greatest commandment — it’s the ultimate moral law. It happens to be the essence of what God is, and he wrote it into our human hearts.
So, our recognition of evil is evidence that God created us.
Alright… but if love is written in all human hearts, why is there hate and pain in the world?
To answer the question about pain, we have to understand that pain and evil can’t be separated. The fact that pain exists in the world is evidence that evil exists. If the essence of God is love, then evil must be his opposite — an opposing force that seeks to undo all the good that God does. God isn’t the cause of evil, but he can use even our pain for good; to change us — even to save us.
Our ability to feel pain was given to us for a reason. Pain is a warning of danger, but not all danger is physical. Sometimes the danger is much greater than physical harm — sometimes, it warns of eternal harm. It’s our deepest inner pain that shows us our need for a savior.
If evil is the source of so much pain, why does God allow evil?
The question can be legitimately asked another way:
Why doesn’t God force people to do what He wants them to do?
In other words, why is our free will so important to God?
The answer goes deeper than people hurting others. Most people understand the value of real love. It's a beautiful thing to see two people who are genuinely in love. Yet, what kind of love could that couple have for one another if they didn't also have the freedom to not love each other? Without free will, it wouldn't be love at all — there can't be love without free will.
Love is so valuable that God has deemed it worth all the pain and evil that result from our free will. Jesus was not exempt from that pain. In fact, his whole reason for coming was to suffer and bear the consequences of our sin. He endured the cross, not just for nameless humanity, but for me and for you, personally. His life, death, and resurrection provided a bridge to an eternal life where suffering will only be a memory, but its lessons will shape eternity.
The reason there are no more tears in Heaven is not that God will forbid free will. Rather, it will be because love will be the only law, ruling in every heart. Love is the ultimate fruit of free will, and God’s redeeming love is the ultimate example of it.
The world we live in is broken
"For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now." Romans 8:22
God did not intend for there to be pain and evil in the world, we brought those ourselves. Yet we know from our own experience that He has a remarkable ability to bring good even from our suffering.
The truth of this has been born-out countless times:
"Weeping may endure for a night,
but joy comes in the morning." Psalm 30:5
A Day is Coming
When we stand on the shores of Eternity the suffering of this life will be a fleeting memory, but the result of those painful tools will finally be seen. Then will be revealed the beauty that God was creating in us using them.
On that day we’ll join the Psalmist in rejoicing:
"For You have turned my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, so that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever."