I have seen a lot of death in my life. Three years in an emergency room setting followed by five years in a cardiac unit, it is safe to say I have been in the midst of death and in some cases, all I could do was hold the hand of the person who was dying.
In some instances, the people were young and you would overhear the family saying “Why did this happen?” Or “How could this happen?”
More recently, we lost a young man in our community and a lot of people asked the question: “Why would God allow this to happen?”
I have several answers to the logical problem of evil, but I can tell you from experience that when someone is in the midst of grief, talking about the logic behind God and evil doesn’t help.
What I have found to be the best answer isn’t anything that you say; rather, it’s what you do.
Are you there for the person in the midst of their grief? Are you listening to what they are saying and helping them with their needs? Answering these questions in the affirmative is what’s ultimately going to help that person in the long run.
I want to make a few things clear. First, your presence isn’t going to solve everything but it may provide the person a good foundation to start gaining tracking through their grief. Second, after a while, they may need to talk about the logical problem verses the emotional problem.
It’s a good idea to understand the differences between the emotional problem of evil and the logical problem of evil. The emotional problem of evil deals with people saying “I can’t see why God allows children to have cancer”, while the logical problem of evil deals with the phrase “It is logically impossible for God and evil to exist”.
Do you see how different those two statements are? When you hear someone speaking about God and evil, make sure you identify what they are saying. Moreover, you may have a problem if you try to answer the emotional problem with a logical answer.
You don’t know what has gone on in that person’s life to make them say something like that. But what you can do is be there for them, answer questions, and look for a good time to answer their questions when they move from the emotional problem of evil to the logical problem.
There are a lot of good books on this subject, but one I would recommend for you to read is Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale’s book Why Suffering. It’s a good start to look at the problem, and both Ravi and Vince are seasoned apologists who are fantastic writers on this subject.
Remember to hold tight to the virtues of gentleness, respect, and the fruit of the Spirit in all conversations; it may be hard, but conversations using those virtues will turn out far better.
Grace and Peace