God, Drugs, and the Problem of Evil
And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. Revelation 20:2-3
In my addiction, I often felt trapped by fate, that I simply didn’t have a choice. In one sense, I was trapped. That’s the definition of addiction – I don’t want to do these self-destructive things, yet I do them anyway. I’d repeated the toxic behavior so many times that it became compulsory. I couldn’t not behave that way. In another sense, I made the conscious choice to use drugs in the first place. I’d made bad decisions that got me stuck in my addiction. Still, I blamed God for my appetite for drugs. He, after all, is in control of all things, right? So, in my addiction, I struggled with trying to understand God and evil. If you all-loving and all-powerful, why do you allow drugs and addiction to exist?
Today’s passage gives us some glimpse into the answer. In it, John wrote about a vision of an angel from heaven who bound Satan, incapacitating him for 1,000 years. John wrote that Satan thus, would not be able to deceive the nations any longer. Since the beginning, Satan has been that devil on our shoulder, trying to convince us that evil is good. The passage, however, teaches that even though Satan is a source of great evil, God is still in control and that evil exists, only because God allows it. Why? Why would God allow Satan and evil to exist?
Christians believe that Satan was once Lucifer, one of the angels. God allowed his angels to exercise free will and, using his free will, Lucifer sought to be worshipped above God. He had a choice to follow himself or God and he chose himself. In his sin, he became Satan, rebelling against God for all time. Again, if God is in control, why would he allow this?
The only answer, paradoxically, is love. God made us. God loves us. And God desires that we love him back. This is our greatest purpose in life – to love God (Matthew 22:37). For love to be real though, there must be a choice. Otherwise, we’d simply be robots, programmed to follow God. For there to be an authentic choice – follow God or follow ourselves – there must be an attractive alternative. Enter Satan who followed himself above God and tries to convince us to do likewise.
Even in the terrible disease of my addiction, I always had a choice to get help. There’s always a choice. Daily, I can be deceived, believing that I’ll find happiness in following my own way. Or daily, I can accept that true joy, life, and peace can be found only in abandoning my way for God’s. He allows choice and evil because he loves me and desires that I daily choose to love and follow him.