This is a tough question that many Christians and Atheists alike can find themselves struggling with. Challenging questions like this are not something that I think we should ignore or run away from as they tend to embed themselves into the back of our mind and pop up at the most inconvenient times. This is why I think we should embrace issues like this and work through them together as a community of believers.
Having open conversations about topics like this can open our eyes to new ways of thinking and give us the tools that we need to not only become stronger in our own faith, but to help others that are struggling in their journey as well. I personally have thought about this at many tough moments in my life and I am sure that I am not alone in that regard. I have seen many responses to Christians on social media by people trying to use natural disasters, disease, and the evil acts of mankind as a reason to discount someone’s faith in God. Here are some counter thoughts to that idea.
1.) God Gave Us Free Will
While I don’t think that this is explicitly stated in the Bible it is definitely widely considered to be the case and there are plenty of verses that insinuate it. If we accept that we have free will, then it follows that any intervention from God regarding the way that we think, altering any idea that we may have, would most assuredly make this untrue. If God had intervened and softened Hitler’s heart so that he had loved all kinds of people, then would Hitler have had free will any more? While in Hitler’s mind he may have thought that he freely chose to love all kinds of people, anyone on the outside would have seen that his mind had been altered to produce a desired result. So, if we can agree that this is the case, then it follows that in order for man to be granted free will God would refrain from interfering with our choices and evil deeds could be acted out. This is the price of free will. Some, like Hitler, may not choose to use it for good purposes.
Sometimes, we choose to do good things in a way that creates results that we didn’t intend. An example would be petitioning the government to institute safety guidelines for food. The intent is to prevent people from obtaining food that may be unsafe to consume, which is good. The result of this action is that the government levies taxes against its people in order to pay for the inspection of food sources and to determine what is safe and what is not. This takes money away from the poor and simultaneously makes food more expensive as the manufacturing process of forced to change. This increases the number of people that can not afford food, which is bad. People were trying to solve one problem and unintentionally exacerbated another.
I think that the silver lining for both of these scenarios is that it gives individuals the opportunity to be good and charitable to their neighbors. Whether it is through simple food drives or, in the case of World War 2, by hiding people escaping from a murderous regime.
2.) Faith In God Through Illness and Natural Disaster
So we have determined that the actions of men may be their own and faith in the Lord could lead to a much more peaceful world if a consistent set of ideals were adopted globally. But what about disease? Natural disasters? What would be the reason for these things in the world? As Christians we are faced with this question quite often. And it is tough, how could it be fair to allow some bad people to survive hurricane while at the same time an orphanage is destroyed? Or the common question of why would God miraculously save one person from cancer when so many die every day?
I imagine that in a world without disease, mankind would not have a common danger to inspire unity. Natural disasters and diseases create an environment that we cannot control, gives us scenarios where we can be charitable to one another, and gives us the opportunity to witness miracles. Additionally, these things force mankind to cooperate as a society, to share knowledge and resources that we may otherwise horde to ourselves.
If no one ever died in a tornado, would it be miraculous if someone survived a tornado? If no one ever died from cancer, would it be miraculous to hear of a terminal cancer patient that stopped chemotherapy, prayed, ate healthy, and later found out they were completely healed?
I think that the honest truth is that in order for God to show us his grace, we have to live in an environment that is inherently dangerous to us. Otherwise, what would be the point of faith? Without the bad things in the world, could we truly appreciate the good things?