Last week, I decided to go to the gym. It was my first trip back to the gym since my summer of being a camp counselor where I was surrounded by endless amounts of sweets and inadequate amounts of foods that supposedly keep your doctor away. To make up for a summer of sugar, I biked for 40 minutes. There you go, doc.
I like to bike at the gym and biking gives me a lot of time to sit and do nothing. So, rather than listen to the ultimate “get swoll” playlist that is pumped throughout the gym, I listen to podcasts. I usually listen to informative, humorous, or investigative podcasts, but recently, I have begun listening to podcasts from my church back home: A Jesus Church. John Mark Comer is the pastor at the Bridgetown church in downtown Portland and this year he is leading the congregation through the whole Bible. Comer broke up the Bible into smaller chunks and one of these mini-series is titled “The Sage” which discusses the problem of evil.
The problem of evil? Evil seems more like a disease infesting the world. An epidemic. A twisted, distorted image of how things were intended to be. Using the word “problem” doesn’t seem to suffice.
This week, while spinning my feet on bike setting number ten, I listened to Comer talk about purpose and meaning. Religions all across the world and for the history of the world have addressed the problem of evil. Hundreds of religions and belief systems acknowledge evil and understand that it is a fact of life. Accordingly, there are numerous philosophies and theories explaining why evil is and how to live with evil or triumph over evil. But Comer suggest that our Western culture may be the first to try and ignore evil.
The American dream is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Evil doesn’t fit into our motto of success. We want life, not disease and death. We want liberty, not bondage or slavery. We want the pursuit of happiness, not mental disorders, pain, or failure. This culture is above evil and attempts to decimate it with our own inventions: pain killers, retweets, and four-door Suburus safe for the whole family. People are too busy to be sick, too pretty to be lonely, and too happy to be sad.
Evil doesn’t care and it isn’t stopped by human invention. It is not to be ignored.
Why, then, is everyone striving for happiness? Is happiness a state of being that we can achieve permanently? No. We don’t even agree on what it means to be happy. And in the pursuit of the eternal state of happiness, no one is really happy. Attempting to eliminate evil on a surface level will not kill it.
So here is my proposition: abandon the pursuit of “happy” (it’s obviously not working anyway).
Let’s learn how to live well in a world of evil. Evil is a part of life. You can’t sweep evil under the rug, but you can address it. Give up whatever control you had of the circumstances to God. God takes the brokeness of this world–disease, misfortune, death, sadness, cruelty, abuse–and uses it for good. God created us to partake in the plan for redemption. Evil is only powerful enough to distort what God created good. God’s power takes brokeness and restores it. The power of God looks like joy in the face of evil because of the undeniable fact of restoration that is happening and will continue to happen.