Before creation, God’s sovereignty was absolute and was only circumscribed by the parameters of his own character. At that stage, everything God created – and I quote – “it was good”. Unhindered by anyone else, and his plans uncontested by anyone’s free will, it took him 6 days to create this world (I am not going to argue here about literal years vs. year-epochs – the point of it is that the whole of creation fits in the first 2 chapters of the book of Genesis).
After God created a human and said “Have dominion on this earth”, now the decisions of humans, both individually and collectively, play into the outcomes of things happening on planet Earth.
Subsequently, humans were tricked into sharing their God-given authority with satan, and now we have 3 active agent forces. God, humankind, and satan. At that point God’s sovereignty is not absolute, since humankind can act on their God-given free will. Now not everything is good, and evil is introduced into the world.
With human agency and their free will and the authority and power of satan in play, it took God over 4,000 years to bring thing together to make possible what Jesus has accomplished on the cross. Now God has to work through people, since people now have authority on planet Earth. The fact that Jesus had to come as a human was no accident. It couldn’t have been any other way. One human gave away what God entrusted him with; another one had to come along to take it all back. Things suddenly got a lot more complicated, and it took much more than 2 chapters to describe how things got to that point; it took 39 books (minus 2 chapters)!
With this said, it suddenly becomes much more clear that the presence of evil in the world isn’t explained by God’s unwillingness to use his omnipotence, or on any perceived lack in his love, or on any hidden agenda to co-opt the evil to bring about greater good, but on the fact that God never revoked the responsibility to rule (exercise leadership over, and manage) the world from humankind. Admittedly, that leadership mandate is impossible to accomplish without complete reliance on God, and we have blown in both individually and collectively from Adam on down. So in general terms, in whatever area evil is present, that’s the area where we haven’t allowed God’s light to expose and cleanse the evil and suffering from our midst via the remedy that he has already provided, through the person of Jesus Christ.
In the beginning of the book, when God’s authority was unshared with anyone and was thus absolute, there was no suffering. At the end of the book, where everything is yet again submitted back to God, there is no evil and no suffering. God isn’t the variable in this equation, we are. How things turn out in the context of our lives, and in the larger socio-historic context, is really up to us. The question that remains is the same one that was in the very beginning: will we put our trust in God?
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