What Every Christian Needs to Know about Evil and Suffering
by Michael Horton
It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. (Psalm 119:71)
God does use trials to draw us closer to him and sometimes uses them as disciplines, to correct us as a good Father does the children he loves. But we can’t know in a given trial what exactly God is up to. Romans 8:28 reminds us that “God works all things together for good” for his people. It doesn’t say that all things are good or that trials are always disciplinary. It just says that whatever befalls us, God has a plan and has already figured out how he will weave the darker threads into a beautiful tapestry.
Many things that happen to us—like sickness, disease, prolonged battles of various kinds—are just the result of living in a fallen world. But these aren’t just random accidents. God never allows any trial that he hasn’t already figured out how to turn to our profit. Our ultimate good that Romans 8:28 is talking about is our salvation.
In my own trials, I can say that there was no way I could have figured out what God was doing. I would have been wrong to conclude that God sent them to punish me or because I didn’t have enough faith. But I also would have been wrong to have thought that they were just accidents. Looking back, I can see at least in some cases how God used them to make me cling to him more. But not always.
There is no promise in Scripture that believers will be protected from the common evils that go with living in a fallen, sinful world. The promise that we have again and again in Scripture is that “God works all things together for good” for his people (Rom 8:28). That’s our ultimate salvation, not our health and happiness here and now. We might contract a lethal disease, just like anyone else. But the difference is that we have a greater hope: not of prolonging our life as children of the flesh, but of the resurrection of the dead at Christ’s bodily return…