Because of the choice made by Lucifer to rebel against God, there is evil. A lot of our suffering is simply because evil exists. And when evil action is taken, the consequences are usually felt by innocent people. Lives lost from school shootings, terrorist bombings, the Holocaust, genocide in Somalia, and chemical warfare in Syria are all because there is evil in this world. The consequences of the actions made by those evil people were at the expense of millions of innocent lives. Does that mean that God caused those people to die or suffer?
In Genesis 1, we learn that in the beginning God created the Heavens and the earth. And all his creation was declared “good.” But only two chapters later we see the fall of Adam and Eve. They chose sin over obedience to God and suddenly creation isn’t so good. The ground was cursed; the animals were cursed; and man and woman were cursed. At first you think that all they did was eat of the forbidden fruit. They did something that God told them not to. Doesn’t that seem like such a small “mistake”? Yet through that one action death and sin entered the world. In that moment, evil entered the world. And only one generation later we see that grow into murder.
Genesis 4 tells the account of Cain and Abel. At some point prior to his incident, God had established the rules for the sacrifice. It didn’t involve just bringing whatever was easiest for you to obtain. It involved sacrificing with innocent blood. The sacrifice wasn’t about whatever we wanted to bring. The sacrifice was about what God commanded us to bring. But Cain decided to just bring what was easiest for him, and that was fruit since he was a farmer. Instead of learning his lesson and doing better next time, he grew angry and sin was in his heart. God even warned him that his sin would grow if he couldn’t control it.
What was God’s will in this situation? Did God desire for Cain to be angry about the rejection of his sacrifice? God’s desire was for Cain to bring an appropriate sacrifice. God even said that if he had been obedient to the rules of sacrifice, then it would have been accepted. Cain chose not to do that and then chose to become angry when God didn’t accept it. He grew hostile toward God, whom he could not kill, and jealous of his brother, whom he could kill.
“Now Cain talked with Abel his brother, and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.”
Did Abel do anything wrong? Was Abel being judged for some sin in his life? Abel’s death was because Cain let his jealousy and anger overtake him. Cain murdered because there is sin in this world. Yet because Cain had free will, he could act out that anger and hatred towards Abel by taking his life. In that moment, Abel, Adam, and Eve all suffered the consequences of the presence of evil. Think about the grief that Adam and Eve faced. They had lost their son Abel at the hands of their son Cain. They had to grieve both the death of Abel and the fact that they had a child who committed murder. God’s punishment for Cain was to banish him to be a wanderer and a fugitive. So now Adam and Eve have lost the presence of Cain as well.
Another victim at the hands of evil was Joseph. Joseph may have been an annoying little brother, tattling on his brothers out working in the fields and telling them of these dreams he had about being worshiped as a king. And he may have been a little brat because he was favored by his father, demonstrated by his special coat of colors. But Joseph did not “deserve” the fate that laid before him. His brothers were jealous; they let hatred and bitterness grow in their hearts towards Joseph. And they plotted to kill him. And these eleven brothers were the other heads of the tribes of Israel! Yet they are so consumed by the evil in their hearts that they conspired to murder their brother. Instead, they decide to sell him into slavery to the Ishmaelites. Joseph wasn’t being judged for sin. But because of the evil within his brothers’ hearts, he sold into slavery.
Of course we know how that story ends. Because of Joseph’s time as a slave, he has the God-given opportunity to rise to power under Pharaoh in Egypt, which is how his entire family is saved from the famine. As Joseph says in Genesis 45:4: “But now do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.
Joseph even explains to his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” What those brothers meant for evil, God meant for good. Therefore, sometimes we suffer simply because evil exists in this sinful world. We may bemoan what can be done about “so much evil.” But where we really need to start is assessing the evil within our own hearts.
Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?”