How Could This Happen?

Guest Author: Jason Sadler

In recent weeks, we have been exposed to incomprehensible evil. These actions, perpetrated by a few individuals have led many to question, “How Could This Happen?” Although this article can in no way diminish the unspeakable pain that those affected by these acts have experienced, it does seek to answer the question of “how,” and “why.” How can these acts be rectified with a loving God?

Evil people make evil choices.

In our society, people rarely have to face the consequences of their own actions. Violent video games and movies do not make people violent. Evil parents do not make people evil. Poverty does not make people commit crimes. Those decisions rest entirely with the people who make them. But just as good people are allowed to make good choices, bad people are allowed to make bad choices. Free will is an inherent part of being man because we are made in the image of God (Ps 14:1: The fool has said in his heart, there is no God; Josh 24:15: Choose whom you will serve; Gen 3:5-6: you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate.)

If we were not all free to choose evil, then we wouldn’t be free. Free will is only free and real when we are able to choose good and evil. The only way that these tragic events could have been avoided as far as God is concerned is if God made it impossible for those individuals to choose the evil that was in their heart.

The best of humanity comes out in the worst of circumstances.

When lives are lost, homes destroyed, or adversity faced, people invariably show their worth. In James 1.27, James writes, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” Pure and undefiled religion can only be proven in the face of evil and suffering.

To say “the best of humanity comes out in the worst of circumstances” is not trying to find a “silver-lining.” The good that people do in the face of suffering does not make the evil less real. Those events still happened. Even entirely alleviating the effects of evil does not remove the occurrence of evil. But it does demonstrate this one fact: While people are capable of immense evil, they are also capable of immense good, and without evil, the best of mankind could never be seen. Without evil, good would lose its meaning.

The world is no worse now than it ever has been.

A common sentiment in times of tragedy is “the world is so much worse than it was when I was a kid,” but it isn’t. The world has always been the world. Whether it was Nikolas Cruz, Charles Whitman, Saddam Hussein, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, or Lamech, the world has always been worldly. Even as mass shootings increase, let us not be fooled that atrocious acts haven’t always transpired and especially that the world has not always been set against God.

Do not despair! The world has always been and will always be worldly because it cannot be any other way. John writes “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world” in 1 Jn 2:16, and Paul in Gal 5:17 writes “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another.” The world has always been and always will be obedient to the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4).

We are often more aware of evil today than in times past. People are more efficient at killing people now than ever before, but the world today is just as evil as the world two thousand years ago that murdered Jesus!

As much as these actions hurt us, they hurt God even more.

The pain that we feel after events like this often leads us to ask the question, “How could this happen?” or more pertinent, “How could God let this happen?,” but we would be mistaken to believe that we are more greatly affected by these deeds than God is.

God made us in his image. We are all his children. We cannot experience hurt without it hurting God. That’s why he sent his son! (2 Pet 3:9: not wishing for any to perish). Speaking of the sons of Israel in Is 63:9, the prophet says, “In all their affliction He was afflicted.” It is my firm belief that God hurts more than we do when we experience pain in our own lives because he is capable of much more love and compassion than we are and because he loves us as a father!

God experiences greater hurt than we do when these events occur because all sins are ultimately committed against God. When Potiphar’s wife asks Joseph to lie with her, he gives her this response in Gen 39:9 “There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” All sins, adultery, lying, murder, are committed primarily against God. He is the greatest victim. Moreover, when one person takes the life of another, he strikes down one made in the image of God (Gen 9:6: Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man.)

True comfort for this and every evil in the world is God.

By the prophet Isaiah, God says “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you” (Is 43:2). Clearly, he doesn’t speak here of supernatural protection from physical harm. In 2 Tim 3:12, Paul warns “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” yet our assurance is that no matter what we face, the Lord and God will be at our side (38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord: Rom 8:38-39).

Paul experienced a great deal of hardship, and in Phil 4:12-13 wrote of how to overcome that hardship. “In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” People do a disservice to Phil 4:13 by interpreting it to mean “I can achieve anything.” That is not Paul’s message. His message is “I can endure anything.

We endure because nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Rom 8:35). “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph 1:3). The pinnacle of these blessings is the remission of our sins, and no amount of hardship could ever rob us of our salvation. This, the greatest of these assurances, resides in Christ and can only be experienced in him.