God Is Patient

John Martin, The Last Judgment, 1853

The goodness of God raises a classic problem about the existence of evil. If God is good, then why does He permit evil and suffering in the world? This highlights one of the popular criticisms of Christianity throughout history—God’s permissiveness toward evil appears to violate God’s goodness.

It’s important to understand that suffering and evil are byproducts of sin—rebellion against God’s attributes, character and intentions for the world. We have already seen that when God created the world, it was all very good. But that changed when humankind rebelled against God. Genesis 3 describes how the first man and woman, named Adam and Eve, whom God created rejected His instructions and lived their own way. When they made that choice, acting as representatives of the entire human race, they chose lives of hardship and death as the consequences for violating God’s created order.

Suffering and evil exist in the world because humankind rejected God’s created order; but suffering and evil do not have the final word in either the physical or spiritual world. God turned our failure into an opportunity to demonstrate His goodness by showing His patience toward us. As the Bible explains in 2 Peter 3:9,

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

God’s patience shows us His goodness by giving us many opportunities to choose Him. He doesn’t give up on us or write us off the first, seventh, or fiftieth time we reject Him. Like a master chess player meticulously planning every move, God sovereignly oversees and arranges events to bring about His good purposes, including opportunities for us to trust in Him.

But because God is good, He also will not allow suffering, evil and sin to continue forever. The Bible promises that one day God will judge the whole world with righteousness and justice. As Psalm 72:3-4 says,

The mountains will bring peace to the people,
And the little hills, by righteousness.
He will bring justice to the poor of the people;
He will save the children of the needy,
And will break in pieces the oppressor.

God is especially concerned with justice for the poor and oppressed, including orphans and widows (see James 1:27). He also promises special blessings of comfort the afflicted, such as healing every pain and comforting every sorrow. As Revelation 21:4 says,

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.

So, for the Christian faith, the problem of evil is not a problem of if, but a promise of when. And waiting for the fulfillment of the promise requires faith—faith to wait on God’s perfect timing and faith to live as a witness to these promises in the waiting (see James 5:7-8).

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