When Bad Things Happen
And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. Revelation 6:8
Miscarriage, metastatic cancer, overdose death – These are just a few of the terrible things occurring recently in my finite circle of friends. This doesn’t include the school shootings, sex trafficking, murder, and child abuse that I see on the news daily. The world is a harsh place. It’s hard to watch and even harder to understand. I’ve often said that the problem of evil and pain is the best argument against a Christian God who is supposed to be loving and all-powerful. How could God allow such terrible things to happen? Does he not care or is he just powerless?
I believe in God. I can’t not believe. I’ve seen him working too much in my life to not know that he exists. Still, I ask the same questions. Why does God allow evil? Does he cause bad things – like earthquakes and famine – to occur? Or does he just allow pain and suffering because the world is broken?
In the sixth chapter of Revelation, John saw God sitting on this throne, holding a scroll with seven seals upon it. As John observed, Jesus removed the seals one by one, describing future events. With the first, came a conqueror. With the second, came civil war. With the third, came economic collapse. With the fourth, came Death and Hades to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth. Then, with the opening of the fifth seal, John saw and heard the martyrs, those who’d died for their faith. They too, questioned God. How long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth (Revelation 6:10)? They weren’t given an answer, but rather told to be patient. They weren’t provided a reason for their suffering, but neither did they let it cause them to question God’s existence or his love. They understood the lesson of the sixth chapter of Revelation. That God is in control, even if they couldn’t possibly understand his purposes.
Sometimes it’s just easier to say that God couldn’t possibly cause or allow evil. But then what are we left with? A God who’s lost control? The lesson of Revelation chapter six is that whether we say God causes or allows suffering, isn’t necessarily important. God is in control and is, in some way, behind everything that has ever happened. Still, that’s hard to comprehend.
Looking at my own life, I’ve had to ask about my own addiction. Did God cause the events that brought about so much misery for my family? I’ve come to accept that God allowed me to make my self-destructive choices, but that he also created me with a self-destructive nature. This didn’t catch God off-guard. He’s behind everything and it’s been comforting for me to see that he’s in control, eventually using my evil for his good. For me, that’s the lesson of Revelation chapter six – That God is in control, even if I never understand or get an explanation of his purposes.