By Brian Lowther
Ralph Winter once said, “There are very many people, even Bible-believing Christians not just non-Christians, who are profoundly puzzled, perplexed, and certainly confused by the extensive presence of outrageous evil in the created world of an all-powerful, benevolent God.” In other words, if God is all-powerful and all loving, then why is there so much evil, disease, and suffering in the world?
In part two of this three-part blog post, I will explore a second Biblical view addressing this question. [Click here for Part 1] As before, I won’t venture to interpret any scripture passages. I’ll simply list the passages that at a surface level, seem to support the view I’m exploring.
View #2: A mysterious, loving, sovereign, divine plan lies behind all evil, disease, and suffering in our world.
This conviction shows up every time someone suffers a tragedy and interprets it with a version of one of the following statements:
- “Everything happens for a reason.”
- “God’s ways are mysterious.”
- “There are no accidents in God’s providence.”
- “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.”
- “You have to trust that God always does what is best.”
- “It is the will of God...hard to understand…providence writes a long sentence, we have to wait to get to heaven to read the answer.”
This understanding is taken from the Bible, where you can read of numerous examples of God saying or doing very mysterious things, such as:
- “The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts.” (Samuel 2:6-7)
- “It is I who puts to death and gives life. I have wounded, and it is I who heals.” (Deuteronomy 32:39)
- “The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil.” (Proverbs 16:4)
- “I am the Lord, and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well being and creating calamity [Lit.,"ra", evil]. I am the Lord who does all these.” (Isaiah 45:6,7)
- “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both good and evil go forth?” (Lamentations 3:38)
- “Not one bird falls to the ground apart from the will of your Father.” (Matthew 10:29)
- “For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it in hope...” (Romans 8:20)
The explanation that a divine reason lies behind every occurrence in history—including evil—has brought comfort to countless people down through the ages.
But, should we take this view to be the universal explanation for all evil and suffering? If so, some very troubling questions arise. Below I’ll illustrate these questions by paraphrasing a story from Greg Boyd’s book, Is God to Blame? 
For as long as she could remember, Melanie had wanted to be a mother. Once she got married, she and her husband began trying for a baby. A few years went by with no success. They found out that a medical condition would prevent her from conceiving a child. Melanie was devastated.
But, her disappointment was short-lived, as unexpectedly she conceived. The pregnancy moved forward without incident. Finally the day came and she and her husband went to the hospital to deliver the baby. However, during the birth the umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s neck, choking the child to death.
Melanie was understandably inconsolable and in deep despair, tormented by questions like, “Why would God miraculously give us a child, only to take the baby away while coming into the world? Why did this happen to us? And why is God preventing us from conceiving again?”
After years of depression and confusion, Melanie and her husband sought answers from a Bible teacher they respected. The answers they received were consistent with the theology she had been taught all her life: “God is still on his throne. There’s a silver lining in every cloud. All things work together for the good. Maybe God is trying to teach you some kind of lesson. Or maybe it’s just not God’s will for you to have children.”
Melanie accepted this advice, but felt extreme guilt because she was starting to lose her trust in God’s “mysterious” plan, not to mention the fact that her marriage was slowly deteriorating as well.
What was so confusing about the situation was that God had seemingly given Melanie a strong desire to mother a child and then miraculously set her up to believe he was going to fulfill that desire, only to kill the baby just before it was born. One can’t help but ask, does that seem like something a loving God would do? Can you picture Jesus doing that to someone?
In addition to these questions, this belief that a mysterious plan underlies all evil reduces the problem of evil to an intellectual puzzle to solve, needing books and devotionals to parse out its meaning. Also, if all evil is believed to serve a higher divine purpose, what is the point in fighting against it?
If the explanation that people suffer because of a mysterious, loving, sovereign, divine plan was the only Biblical answer to the problem of evil, I think we would all be forever “profoundly puzzled, perplexed, and confused.” Thankfully, there is at least one other predominant answer in scripture. Tomorrow I’ll explore the third view.
 Greg Boyd, Is God to Blame? Moving Beyond Pat Answers to the Problem of Evil, (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2003) 11-13
Brian Lowther is the director of the Roberta Winter Institute.