Post Author: Bill Pratt
One of the most common complaints against God is that he allows evil to occur in the world. Christians respond that God has good purposes for allowing evil, but can we back this up with Scripture?
Actually, there are many good examples from Scripture, but one of the best is the story of Lazarus in John 11.
Lazarus, a man likely in the prime of his life and a good friend of Jesus, becomes ill and dies. Yale scholar Greg Ganssle imagines the friends of Lazarus witnessing the evil that has occurred, the evil of Lazarus’ death, “and after three days of mourning [coming] to the conclusion that there is no reason for this. Therefore, God doesn’t exist.”
Jesus arrives at Bethany after Lazarus has been in the tomb for 4 days. Upon his arrival, Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, bemoan the fact that he did not come sooner to heal Lazarus; now it is too late. Jesus’ purpose for not coming to heal Lazarus is a mystery to these women.
Now we all know what happened next. Jesus commanded Lazarus to rise from the dead, and so he did! What possible reason could Jesus have had for delaying his arrival, allowing Lazarus to die, and then resuscitating him?
He explains first, ““Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” The resuscitation of Lazarus was done so that those who witnessed it could see the glory of God.
But there was a second reason. In verse 42, Jesus prays to the Father and explains that his actions are meant to convince those who witness the resuscitation that Jesus was sent by God.
The effect was so dramatic that many who witnessed Jesus raise Lazarus placed their faith in him.
Now, it certainly seemed at first that there was no good purpose for allowing the death of Lazarus. But subsequent events placed his death in a completely different context. According to Ganssle, “In light of this context, Lazarus’s death is seen to be part of a much greater good than anyone in Bethany could imagine.”
Just because we cannot see a good purpose for some evils does not mean that there aren’t good purposes. Since God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnisapient, he can bring good out of all sorts of evil. We may not be able to immediately see the good reasons for every evil, but we can be confident that the reasons exist. The story of Lazarus beautifully illustrates this principle.