Does evil come from God? This is a question nearly as old as Christianity itself. In thinking on this subject, I realized that I had yet to form an opinion of my own. I have always either ignored the question, or leaned upon the beliefs of others. In looking at scripture I have found what I believe to be the answer. I believe that God is the source of all things, good and evil, and that God allows the existence of evil as it will ultimately bring the greatest glory to Himself.
When one considers the supremacy of God, the question of evil and suffering often arises. Specifically, people wonder, “If God is supremely good and supremely powerful, how and why is there evil in the world? For a truly good god would not tolerate the presence of evil, and a truly all-powerful god would be able to overcome the evil that is in the world.”
In Lamentations 3, Jeremiah writes of his suffering, and uses it as a testimony to the faithfulness of God. He also offers what seems to be an answer to the question, “Does evil come from God?”.
For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though He cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love; for He does not afflict from His heart or grieve the children of men. Lamentations 3:31-33
From this passage we can learn much about the nature of God. The first is that distance from God is a reality that we all must face. “…the Lord will not cast off forever”. While this is an encouragement that the distant times will eventually come to an end, it is also a clear acknowledgement that they do exist. Jeremiah is saying that the Lord does indeed cast off.
This acknowledgment also comes with clarification, however, as we see in the rest of the verse. We see that God is the ultimate source of grief, as it says, “…though He cause grief”. Thus, we see here that the supremacy of God as an all-powerful being is not an issue. By Him all things occur, even grief. This is clarified elsewhere in the Bible, saying that God allows suffering for the sake of greater glory in the future, but Jeremiah also addresses it in verse 33: “…for He does not afflict from His heart.” This is to say that though God allows suffering, it is not the ultimate goal or satisfaction of His heart. This truth about God is reinforced throughout the Bible (Ezekiel 33:11; Hebrews 12:10; Luke 12:32; 1 Peter 1:6-7; 1 Peter 5:10). Incidentally, these verses also support the idea that the ultimate end of God’s plan is good, reinforcing the supreme goodness of His character. This being the case, we must acknowledge the fact that God is indeed supremely good and supremely powerful, and that evil is simply a means through which the greatest good will eventually come.
If this were not enough evidence to convince us of the sovereignty of God, Jeremiah continues in verses 37-38: Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?
So what are the practical implications of these truths? First, we can know that any suffering we experience is temporary, for “the Lord will not cast off forever”. We can also see that times of suffering and grief will ultimately yield greater Godliness in us (James 1:3-4). In this we can have hope, knowing that though God sometimes feels distant, He is orchestrating a greater work within us, continually sanctifying us into His image.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm on your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brothers throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:6-11