I’ve spent a lot of time wrestling with the Problem of Evil. If there is an omnipotent all-benevolent God, then why does evil, tragedy and suffering exist? For theists (or for me, at least) the hardest part of that to understand is why God permits gratuitous natural evil–that is, seemingly pointless suffering that cannot be attributed to any apparent moral evil or sin.
This question has really challenged me, and I understand why it is so effective as an argument for atheism. But after lots of books and articles, and a whole lot of philosophical analysis, I arrived at an answer to the philosophical puzzle that was personally satisfying. In fact, I’ve settled on the only answer that I can accept, even though it took me places I wouldn’t have expected to go before I started the philosophical journey.
But even as I came to an intellectual peace on the subject, I have understood that a satisfactory academic solution to the problem would likely be of little comfort to a human being suffering from the effects of gratuitious natural evil.
Tonight I have heard heartbreaking stories. I heard about an innocent child found covered in ants and dying in a trash pile in Haiti. I heard about a sweet 2 year old boy whose mother rejected him because she considered him “ugly” and who would leave him outside at night in the rain in the hope that he would die. These two children were rescued by Danita’s Children. The abandoned child ultimately died, but not before he came to know and experience love. After being loved and cared for by the children and missionaries there, he died six months later, but in Brenda’s arms, rather than in a trashcan. And the “ugly” 2 year old boy is Jamison, one of the beautiful, healthy, happy boys at the orphanage.
The way Jamison and the other little boy were treated are examples of moral evil. Their mothers have the gift of free will, which sadly includes the freedom to do evil. Of course Danita and Brenda used their gift of free will to surrender their own comforts and rescue those two boys. Love won.
But tonight our hearts are heavy and philosophy doesn’t help much.
Stephen, the youth pastor at our church is an amazing man, whose passion for young people has blessed and saved many troubled kids, who love him like a father. His wife Jennifer is a loving, beautiful, talented woman who ministers to the kids in the church and blesses us all with her angelic singing. They have three adorable little girls, and they were all overjoyed to learn, almost eight months ago, that she was pregnant. It was particularly joyous news when they learned they were going to have a boy. Just a few days ago, on Christmas Eve, Jennifer sang beautifully for our church–gloriously pregnant.
Today she went in for a check up, and ended up being sent for an emergency Ceasarean. Jennifer and Stephen’s son was delivered by C-section, in critical condition. Not long afterwards, he died. A dead baby boy. A devastated mother. A grieving father. Hundreds of friends and family, shocked and heartbroken.
Why do we live in a world where unloved children are thrown away like garbage, while babies wrapped in overflowing love die a few minutes after being born? Why does a heartless woman in Haiti have a healthy baby she hates, while a loving woman in Virginia loses the baby she loves?
I could write out a detailed philosophical explanation, but it wouldn’t comfort or soothe.
My heart aches so much for Jennifer, Stephen and their little girls tonight. There is an ocean of love pouring out on them tonight, just as they poured love out on their son. God is love. The love that is flowing to them, is God himself. It will be a source of comfort and peace to them, and already God is at work redeeming the evil.
And I know that this evil is not of God. It is not “part of his plan.” God does move the hearts of people like Brenda and Danita, to put them in a place where they can save a child’s life. But he does not take the lives of baby boys.
Our world is broken. God’s will is done in heaven. God’s will is not always done on earth. Someday, when heaven meets earth, there will be no more grieving mothers and no more abandoned unloved babies. In the meantime, may the people of love rise. May we bless and help those who rescue the unwanted children of the world. May we love, comfort and pray for those who are grieving and suffering from the effects of the evil that exists in our world. And may we all resolve to do our best to synch up with God, as redemption proceeds.