The Real Problem of Evil

What is the problem we seem to pay the least attention to? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

He hurt Allie.

That’s all you need to know at the start.

If someone hurts my wife, my kind and pleasant demeanor goes out the window. Instead, the claws come out and I am ready to tear into someone and many times that has happened on Facebook. If people are scared to do something against my wife on there, all the better. I want that. I want it to be known that if you mess with my Princess, I do not sit idly by.

So like I said, he hurt Allie.

Who he is is not important. I don’t want to name names. I will just say someone I trusted did her a great wrong. In the end, I had to talk to many men of God I respected about my own issues. Look at the parable of the unforgiving servant. Look at what John says about hating your brother in your heart. (Yes. This was a Christian who did this to Allie.) Those issues were troubling to me, but what’s a guy to do?

And what does this have to do with the problem of evil?

I resolved my issues a few months ago, but last night’s Bible reading with my wife and I reminded me about it. We were reading in Proverbs about a righteous person will fall, but God will pick them up again seven times. However, if your enemy falls, don’t gloat. God might move His anger from him to you. We ended up having a discussion for awhile about the evil other people do.

What I reminded her of then was when we talk about evil, we many times talk about the things other people do to us. No doubt, those are often very wicked. Like any evil, there is no excuse for them. There is no justification for them. At any evil, there is something that is really unforgivable and that is the sin itself and no excuse can be given. The amazing thing is God does forgive that which we often find unforgivable.

What other people do to us is horrible many times, and the problem is it’s easy to focus on that. It’s incredibly easy. When we do that, we get caught in our own selves and focus on ourselves and have a greater idea of “looking out for number one.” It could be a protectionist thing at that point. “They hurt me, and I will never be hurt by anyone like that again.”

Generally, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to avoid hurt and pain. The problem is when we often do this at the expense of others. If our wanting to avoid hurt is hurting others, then we have a problem. This is because the great evil we should want to deal with is not other people.

The great evil we should want to deal with the most is in the mirror.

Of course, there are times we have to do things about other people. That’s why we have people like police officers out there who do work to protect us from evildoers. There is nothing wrong with protecting a loved one from someone who is doing them evil. If we focus on changing everyone around us, we will have a problem because many times, they will be resistant.

Someone whose evil we can do something about immediately is our own. How others treat us can be horrible, but how do we treat others? Do we put a limit on our love? I’m not saying be reckless around a stranger. Don’t be foolish in the sense of not appropriately handling what God has trusted you with, but most of the problem for us is that we are much more focused on watching ourselves.

When we watch ourselves, it’s not so that we will be good, but so we will receive our good. There is much less thought on the good we can do for others. What are we doing about the evil in our own hearts? Are we living lives of repentance? Are we relying on the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin and change our behavior accordingly?

Do we not realize that the evil that we do will always hurt those around us? There are no private actions. A husband may choose to watch porn in private, but it will affect him when he tries to be intimate with his wife. A person may be having a temper, but what happens when he gets in a car accident for going too fast? How many other people will suffer as a result?

Also, each action we do does something to us. We are becoming a certain kind of person with each action. We are becoming a person with the nature of Heaven or the nature of Hell each time. We are embracing the things of God or embracing our own way.

This is ultimately how I learned to deal with the man who hurt Allie. I chose to not look with anger. Instead, I looked with pity. I feel sorry for him. He had an opportunity to do good to someone and lead them into Christlikeness and he squandered it. Despite myself and Allie’s parents offering several warnings, he never listened. The damage he did to Allie was great, but the damage he did to himself was something he could have prevented. Allie could have taken better steps to resist what he said, sure, but what you do to yourself is something that the immediate effects do not change. It will never be that you had not sinned.

There will be other people who greatly wrong Allie, and I will be there to deal with them. There will be times she wrongs me as well. That happens in marriage. I will need to respond with grace each time. Should I help her to be more righteous and holy? Yes. At the same time, I cannot make changing her my focus. Instead, I need to remember that the tragedy from my perspective in marriage should not be her hurting me, but my hurting her, and vice-versa for her. It is why I am constantly asking myself what I can do to make things right for my wife. That also means that when I screw up, which I often do, I own up to it and ask forgiveness.

Pain and hurt will come into my life. It is inevitable. The greatest person of all, Jesus Christ, knew sorrows and suffering intimately. He was the person who in fact came to suffer. If He could not avoid suffering, it is absurd to think that I should.

While pain and hurt will come into my life, may I make it a focus to not pass pain and hurt on to others. No doubt, I will. Still, life should be a constant seeking to live holy and in repentance wanting to do the best for those around me that is within my power.

That starts immediately in my own household. While I should strive to honor God above all, my wife is the next person on the list. The rest of my family will come after and then my friends closest to me. As I go into the world, everyone who I meet should be someone I strive to be holy before.

That is how I deal with the real problem of evil. Will I deal with the evil within me? Will I turn it over to Christ? There will always be an urge to hold back, but I am cutting myself off from the greatest good when I do that. When we withdraw into ourselves, we say no to all love around us. It is only by opening up and risking hurt, even from the pain of being transformed by God, that we can embrace the greatest good.

So I’m fighting evil. I’m fighting the evil in me mainly so I can do the most about the evil outside of me. Will you do the same?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Listening and Evil

Sometimes there’s nothing you can say, and that’s a good thing. Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and talk about it.

Yesterday I had a situation happen that was very disturbing to me and very hurtful. I won’t go into it, but I will tell you I experienced angst because of it. I did not sleep as well as I could have. I remember messaging a friend about it because I wanted someone to talk to. At one point, my friend told me that they wished they had some platitude that they could tell me, but they were coming up empty.

But you know what?

I’m glad they didn’t.

Now don’t get me wrong. I know we mean well when we say things, but I think we often think our lives are like some TV show where the perfect thing to be said is said right then and there. Well sorry. Your lives are not written out on a cue card in situations determined¬†in advance by you. It’s easy to know what the perfect thing to say is when the situation is pre-scripted.

In fact, how many of us have heard something like some sort of platitude that suddenly caused the heavens to open up and we felt the sunshine of God’s love falling on us? Hardly ever. I am sure sometimes someone can say just the right thing, but I am sure it is the rarity.

My friend last night was not able to provide a platitude, but you know what they were able to do? They were able to listen, and that’s what I really needed. They were able to hear me vent. I needed to vent. I had a lot of pent-up emotion and I had to share it with someone who would be able to hear it and bear it.

Now if you’re a man like me, this is something we really struggle with. Women don’t struggle as much as we do because they are so much better at empathy. When we men hear about a problem or suffering, it is our goal to fix the problem. If the women in our lives are hurting, if we fix the problem, then we can fix the suffering. That makes sense doesn’t it?

It makes sense, but it’s wrong. You can fix the problem and the emotional aftershock of it is still there. Imagine a scenario where a woman was raped in her own home. What is done? Well a security system that is state-of-the-art is put into the house so the woman and local police can be alerted of any intruders. The woman is safe, but she will still feel the hurt and pain of the horrible victimization she has received even in her own house.

Your lady will want her problem fixed eventually, but for awhile, she just wants to be heard, and frankly, sometimes that’s all any of us want. We just want to be heard. We just want to know that our pain is something real and to acknowledge it instead of having it tossed aside. We can too often treat the pain as an annoyance. Sometimes other people’s pain will mess with your schedule. So what? Their suffering is more important than your schedule.

Too often we treat people as the interruptions to what we want to do instead of treating people as the reason why we do what we do. After all, if you are in ministry, who are you here to minister to? It’s not to God. God doesn’t need you. It’s not to angels. They don’t need you either. It’s people.

By the way, for those wondering, no. This is not a lesson I have mastered. This is not something I have perfected. I am still regularly screwing up at this one. Add in my being an Aspie and you can see how much I struggle at being the person that I need to be. Like you, I am growing in sanctification.

This is directly relevant to the problem of evil. When evil first strikes, the best thing you can do is listen. If you have someone who will not listen at all but only speak, you are dealing with someone who is a fool.

As someone who has helped others on the path of apologetics, I have the same rule for people. I often tell them that if you are the pastor of a church someday, and a woman comes to you and is crying asking why God allowed her teenage son to die in a car accident, if you turn into an apologist or philosopher or theologian at that moment, I will come over and smack you.

Is there a place for such answers? Yes. Eventually. Give some time and you can discuss the problem of evil with such a person, but for the time being, they do not need that. They need more than anything else a listening ear. They need someone who will come alongside them and hear what they have to say so that they will not feel like they are all alone, because most suffering convinces us that we are all alone.

Are people often being rational then? Well, no. Not really. That’s also to be expected. It would be a mistake to think people will always be rational. We all have pockets of areas where our emotions take us over. We are emotional beings as well and grief is something to work through.

The Bible tells us to mourn with those who mourn. That’s good wisdom. We should take their sorrow as well and help them carry it. That involves listening. When we meet someone who is suffering from the problem of evil, sometimes the best thing that we can say is absolutely nothing. We can just listen. Perhaps we can offer a hug or something like that.

Oh, by the way, with that last one guys, and this is something else we struggle with, this is not a time to be trying to get romantic. If you have a wife struggling, sex might be a great way of comfort for you, but not necessarily for her. (Though you sure won’t complain if it is!) This is a time to put your own desires aside and just listen. (You can also be sure that she will appreciate it later on.)

We live in a fallen world. As Christians, we are called to be Jesus for one another. The question is how good are we going to do? We must remember that thoroughly profound truth in the Gospel of John. Jesus wept. Yes. Yes He did and there is no shame in people weeping today (Yes men. It’s okay to cry) and to come alongside and weep with those who weep. After all, Jesus was the manliest man that ever was, and he did not hesitate to weep.

Sometime soon, you will be called to say something about the problem of evil when you encounter suffering in someone else’s life. Perhaps you won’t know what to say. That could be a good thing. Don’t say anything. Just be there.

In Christ,

Nick Peters