If there is a God, why do so many bad things happen? Is God really everything we want to think he is…or is he something altogether different? More specifically, is there a “dark side” to the God of the Bible?
The concept of the “dark side” of George Lucas’ “Force” in Star Wars is compelling in many ways, and fits in with the beliefs of certain world religions. Is there a “dark side” in the real universe, responsible for all the suffering we experience in life?
Suffering is cited as the biggest reason people reject the idea of the existence of God, or at least, the idea of a caring, personal God. To my mind the earth and life on it is obviously designed, and not cobbled together by time plus chance plus countless trillions of fortuitous and impossible events and circumstances. But I can understand why people do turn away from faith in the face of suffering, because we humans sometimes suffer unspeakable things, and it’s difficult even for those of us who believe in his infinite power not to sometimes question his motives or his methods.
THE DARK SIDE OF GOD?
Anyone who reads a sizable portion of the Old Testament can’t fail to notice some very heavy-handed dealings by God with his people and those around them. As an example, consider the punishment of Korah, his family and all who rebelled against Moses with him:
“…the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all who belonged to Korah…and the earth closed over them…” (Numbers 17:31-35 ESV).
In fact, the Old Testament is strewn with plain statements from God about himself which demonstrate a side of him that most of us choose to ignore:
“I form the light and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things” (Isaiah 45:7 KJV).
By “create evil” I assume not that he’s a “Yin-Yang” type of God who is both good and evil, but that some of those terrible things we hear of in our world, and which we ourselves suffer, are without doubt sent by Him, or allowed within his plan.
Who hasn’t read the account of Job’s testing without a chill running down his back or without asking some very serious questions about God, and who hasn’t wondered why God put that tree…that baaad tree, in the perfect Garden, along with the serpent?
Here are two more examples:
Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? (Exodus 4:11 ESV);
When ye be come into the land of Canaan, which I give to you for a possession, and I put the plague of leprosy in a house of the land of your possession… (Leviticus 14:34 KJV).
It really doesn’t help our fear of God’s “darker” side to dismiss the Old Testament and only follow the New, because by dismissing the Old you are also bringing into question the entire New Testament. You can’t read any one of the gospels without finding numerous examples of Jesus Christ quoting the Old as though he believed it were totally true, and the letters are similarly packed with references to it. In fact, putting the Pharisees on the spot as he loved to do, Jesus said:
For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me (John 5:46 NASB).
The two disciples on the road to Emmaus were given a Bible study from what we call the Old Testament (Luke 24:13-35). Jesus was showing the validity and importance of Old Testament scripture, and how it gave the background to his own ministry and person. The genealogy and history of Jesus’ human side is recorded there, and then confirmed in Matthew’s gospel. The two testaments are inextricably linked. You can’t have one without the other.
In the New Testament there’s no escaping God’s “other” side, because statements throughout it apparently echo what we saw in the Old Testament:
…let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:28 KJV).
It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God… (Hebrews 10:31 NIV)
This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 NIV).
And here is one I often refer to in my own daily life:
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it (Romans 8:20 NIV).
We seem to be stuck with the fact that the God who sent plagues upon the Egyptians, and who ordered the cleansing of Canaanites from the land, and who said “I make peace and create evil”, is the same God who sent his son Jesus into the world for us to find life, forgiveness and hope. The same Bible that tells us about the love of God also tells us that many of the things which go wrong in our lives and in our world are directly from the hand of the one who created it, or they are allowed to occur by him. God does, then, have what appears to be a “dark side” to his nature.
However, as any Bible student will have been itching to inform me up to this point, John the apostle wrote that:
God is light; in him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5 NIV).
No darkness at all! How can God be said in his own book to be all “light” and yet at the same time to cause or allow frustration, trouble, testing and suffering? We obviously have in the Scriptures what is either a serious contradiction, or a strange paradox which we need to come to terms with. So in part two of this post-in a few days-I’ll discuss why the fact that God’s “other”, darker side does not have to exclude the reality that God is all “Light”, and I’ll discuss God’s provision for our deliverance.
I’ve published an entire series on the causes of suffering as revealed in the Bible. While I don’t pretend to have all the answers, some of them are there for your consideration. I’m not trying to sell them to you in “my latest insightful book”-they’re free. Start here: https://nickyfisher.com/2017/05/31/why-do-we-suffer-part-1/