I have often times wondered why it is that whenever something evil happens in the world, Christians automatically resort to the free will defense. In fact, many refuse to accept anything other than the free will defense as an acceptable theodicy. The most general answer that people give is that most people would not be able to bear the pain in times of trial if they thought that God had purposed and intended what had happened.
I find that absolutely fascinating. The real problem here is that "free will" does not help people to bear the pain at all. If God gives people "free will," then wouldn't that mean that the evil events that happen in the world are pointless? Wouldn't that mean that the only thing God can do is come along and put a band aide on the event afterwards? I don't know how much comfort my past struggles would have been if I actually believed that my struggles were the result of purposeless events that men just happened to do because of their "free will."
I saw a blog recently of a friend of mine who I haven't seen or heard from in a long time. She just recently lost her infant only a month after she found out she was pregnant. Now, when I wrote here to send her my condolences, do you really think that I was going to tell her that the loss of her baby was pointless? No, because the only comfort that can come in times like these is the knowledge that an all good, all sovereign God is in control of the universe, and that the loss of this child was not in vain. I told her that what happened to her was a painful, terrible thing, but that God had a purpose so grand and so glorious in this that when we see it the things she is going through right now will seem like a minor inconvenience.
That is why it is essential to trust in God and his sovereignty during these hard times instead of running away from it either by retreating to free will, or by becoming an unbeliever. The Bible records many instances of evil events. Yet it does not shy back from a belief that God is totally sovereign over even the evil of this world:
Genesis 50:20 "And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.
Psalm 115:3 But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.
Psalm 135:6 Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.
Daniel 4:35 "And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, 'What hast Thou done?'
Acts 4:27-28 "For truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy servant Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur.
Ephesians 1:11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,
Worse than not believing what the Bible says, if we don't acknowledge it, then we run in to all kinds of contradictions. For instance, why is it we value human freedom above the non-existence of evil? In fact, if we truly believe in "free will" it may very well be that the whole world could be totally engulfed in evil. If you believe in the free will defense, then you must believe that having evil actions as the only events that occur in this world is preferable to not having free will and having only good. It also does not escape the problem of God's foreknowledge. If God knew when he created the world the way he did that these evil things were going to happen, then why did he create it that way? If God knew that Hitler was going to murder thousands of Jews, then why did God create Hitler? Why couldn't God have created the world in such a way that creatures had free will and yet always chose to do good?
So, then, how should we deal with evil that happens to us? John Piper said he knew of a woman who had a serious illness that bound her to a wheelchair. This woman could not deal with what happened to her until she was saved under the teaching of John 11: John 11:4 But when Jesus heard this, He said, "This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it."
How many of use believe that today about our problems? How many of us truly believe that even the most heinous and horrible disease will ultimately end in the glory of God? Yet, we are called to believe it. As Paul says in Romans 8:
Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
We need to trust him that this good to which he is working is so great that "eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him" [1 Cor 2:9]. How great a promise it is that our struggles in this world are not in vain, but we have a good sovereign heavenly father working out his purposes in this world, and those purposes are so great that all of our tears will be wiped away! That, should send us on our knees to worship our God, even for the evil things which come our way, because of the beautiful plan he is working out. This is how we can give thanks to God, even in times of evil and testing.