If there is a “problem of evil” there is also a “problem of good.” Wherever we look we see not only confusion but beauty. In snowflake, leaf or insect, we discover structured patterns of a delicacy and balance that nothing manufactured by human skill can equal. We are not to sentimentalize these things, but we cannot ignore them. Kallistos Ware
The loss of a child. A devastating disease. A shattering divorce. Protracted unemployment. A terrible accident. A chronic illness. A life-long disability. What believer hasn’t struggled with personal tragedies that seem to mock the existence of an all-loving, all-powerful God? To those, we could add larger-scale calamities such as wars, malnutrition, human trafficking, racism, school shootings, crushing poverty, deadly earthquakes, extreme weather events, and of course, the COVID-19 pandemic. What sense can we make of the suffering that humans undergo with painful regularity?
One place to begin thinking about this thorny subject of whether or not a good and powerful God would allow suffering is in Scripture. Many faithful Bible characters wrestled with this same question. Abraham asked, “Shall not the judge of all the Earth do justice?” The Israelites groaned under the yoke of Egyptian slavery. Moses asked, “Why have you done evil to this people?” David lamented, “Will you forget me forever?” and “Why do the wicked prosper?” Job demanded his “day in court” to plead his just cause with God. The martyrs of Revelation asked, “How long before you will judge and avenge our blood?” Even Jesus quoted the lament of Psalm 22 when he cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
In Scripture, the book of Habakkuk also wrestles with the justice of God in face of the injustices in the world. Unlike most of the minor prophets, which record oracles (or sermons) uttered by the prophets of Israel and Judah, Habakkuk recalls a conversation between the prophet and God. Habakkuk is particularly vexed by the question of how evil-doers “get away with” all manner of injustice. During the next few weeks, we’ll explore and reflect together on Habakkuk’s insights into the issue of theodicy, the philosopher’s word that serves as shorthand for the question, “Is God just?” While we cannot answer every nuance of this question, we will see that people of faith cry out to God both in perplexity and in hope, entrusting themselves to the One who ultimately will set everything right.