Why would God let this happen? That’s what Jesus’ followers likely said after the crucifixion. It’s what people say after any tragic death. And it’s what you may be saying now about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jesus taught us, in the Our Father, to pray that God’s will be done. And we know that suffering comes when people use their free will to not follow the will of God. But how can we wrap our minds around suffering that is not caused by evil deeds, but by something natural?
That’s the question that a listener posed to Patrick Madrid recently on The Patrick Madrid Show, and it may be the question you’ve been asking yourself. Why is God allowing this evil to happen?
Patrick began his response by clarifying what we mean by evil, saying, “There are two kinds of evil. You’ve got moral evils that are free will choice based. In other words, the moral evil of somebody committing a murder. Somebody dies, it’s suffering that leads to death, and it’s caused by free will choice. And you’re absolutely right that the COVID-19 disease – like tsunamis or earthquakes, cancer, falling down and breaking your leg – those are called natural evils. They’re not free will based, at least not directly.”
During this Holy Week, we may find ourselves echoing the words of the crowd at the crucifixion. If God loves us, doesn’t he love us enough to stop this suffering? If he is as all-powerful as we say he is, why doesn’t he stop this pandemic?
Patrick acknowledged the difficulties of these questions, saying, “He could stop it. Just snap his fingers and stop it. He could do that. But God typically doesn’t operate that way. So the answer to your question about the problem of evil (which I will freely admit is not emotionally very satisfying, but it’s still true) is that God permits, in His providence, for things to play out.”
“The problem of evil does not exclude that God can work miracles,” Patrick clarified. “But we can say that generally he doesn’t do that. So what does he do? Well, he permits things to happen.”
It can be difficult to wrap your mind around the concept that a loving God would allow these bad things to happen, because in our experience we try to save our loved ones from pain and suffering.
“That’s where we find it so difficult to imagine why would God do this,” Patrick pointed out. “Because I, as a father, wouldn’t allow my kids to go through things like that, if I could help it. But God is not like us in that regard. The Bible says, ‘As high as the sky is above the earth, so are my ways above your ways.’ And so we have to approach this with that sense of humility, and recognize that God is permitting these things to happen in ways that we just don’t understand. Yet anyway. We will understand them in due time.”
If that makes God seem cold and distant, then Holy Week may be the perfect time to be wrestling with this question. Because while we may not understand God’s ways, we have a God who does understand our suffering. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked the Father to let the pain and torment he was to endure pass him by. In the midst of our own suffering this Holy Week, may we echo the words of Jesus, “Not my will, but yours be done.”
Listen to the full conversation below: