I have often heard it said that the problem of evil (why does God allow so many bad things) is the biggest problem of our generation.

Watching the news lately, I have been overwhelmed by the burdens of bad news that I had to take on within just a few moments. There was a shooting and someone died. There was a dad going mad and killing his young son with a knife. The details were gruesome; he was stabbed over and over again in the head. Not too long ago a twelve year old girl hung herself—twelve years old! Her parents are heavily involved my former church. We also had four other funerals within a two week period. Then, in my Sunday school class, there were more needs. A prayer request about a daughter with cancer, a father who lost his job, and a baby who was in danger of being born prematurely. Then there is the bad news that we get locally here in Norman. On top of that, there are so many family burdens, immediate and extended, that add to the pain. Burden after burden. Pain after pain. Evil after evil.

Most significantly: Haiti. My heart sinks in horror every time I think of all those who have died. More so, all those who are trapped, and are not going to be rescued. The cumulative pain of that nation right now could cause anyone to cry out in pain, despair, and, most significantly, doubt. God, where are you? What is up with THAT?!!

All the news is bad news. But you know what is difficult to handle? Most of this is bad news about people I did not know and would likely never meet. With this much evil, what is one to do?

Paul tells us to “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). The “law of Christ” in this context seems to be to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:39). How am I to bear all of these burdens? Are all these people my neighbors? There is that question again—”who is my neighbor?” To be a neighbor, do I bear all of these burdens? How? It is too overwhelming. Once I attempt to bear them all, they in turn become less significant and I become apathetic. I place my hands in my head and simply say “Maranatha!–come Lord Jesus.”

News can be overwhelming. Evil reports are discouraging, depressing, and disillusioning. I believe that in our world today we are blessed with valuable technological advancements in communication that would have seemed nothing short of supernatural until one hundred years ago. In the day of Christ, to think of those in Jerusalem being able to have on demand and immediate access to the happenings of people on the other side of the Roman Empire would have been unheard of. In order for one in Jerusalem to find out what was happening in Rome they would have to wait weeks or months to get the information. And even then, the information may not have ever reached your ears had you not been in the “need to know” audience. Certainly, people would have heard if Rome would have been sacked, if there was a severe famine in a certain part of the world, or if the Emperor had died or been replaced, but you would not have heard any non-significant information that did not pertain to you. You would not have heard about kidnapping of the daughter of the everyday Roman citizen, a stolen chariot, or a robbery-murder that took place on the Ephesian Way. This kind of information, if it did reach your ears, would have been irrelevant and, at most, part of a minor rumor mill that died out very quickly. At this time, a person would limit the “headline” news to that which happened in their own neighborhood. Worries and anxieties would be limited to the here and now. For the most part, worries and anxieties would have come from the possibility of future happenings to you, your family, or your immediate community. Your daily news would have come from your community within a certain vicinity. Within this limited community (your family, neighbors, synagogue/church, your work place), you would have had a balance of good and bad news. For the most part, this news would not have been too overwhelming or disillusioning. If there was someone who had a daughter who died of suicide, it was probably the first time you had been exposed to such an occurrence and it would seem very tragic. If you were a good neighbor who was desirous to bear the burdens of the other, you would have been with the parents that day with your arms around them. The biggest problem you would then have is to worry about the future. What is going to happen tomorrow? What if one of my children does the same thing? What if my child dies of this disease or that ailment? What if I lose my job as so-and-so did? What does the future hold?

It is in this context in the great “sermon on the mount” Christ brings perspective:

Matthew 6:31-34 31 “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. 

“Each day has enough troubles”? This does not sound too encouraging. I would rather have heard Christ say, “Don’t worry about tomorrow. God is going to take care of you.” Or “Don’t worry about tomorrow; for today has enough joys to keep you occupied.” I don’t really like “Today has enough troubles of its own.” Even worse is the King James translation. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” The Greek does not get any better. The word used to translate “trouble” is kakia. The Gingrich Greek lexicon defines this word as “badness, faultiness in the sense of depravity, wickedness, and vice.” Most particularly in this context it carries the idea of “trouble or misfortune.” Ouch. I don’t like the word misfortune or depravity. I especially don’t like it connected with the word “today.” In essence, Christ is saying that each day has enough burdens to bear. Within the culture of the day, with the limited news that they had, their troubles were sufficient.

According to Christ, a person cannot and, indeed, is not expected to take on any more than they can bear. This includes future evils. “Do not worry about tomorrow.” The theological principle is this: people should not and cannot take upon their shoulders the evils of the future. More broadly, this would teach that people can only take so much burden. If this is the case, while the burdens of the future are major temptation and cause people great worry and stress, so also is the case with the burdens of those outside our community.

We, as individuals, have a responsibility to take on the burdens of those around us. When we begin to take on the burdens, the evil report, of those whom we have never met and will never meet, we become so discouraged that we cannot even take on the burdens of those close to us any longer. We throw our arms in the air and cry “What is the use? What can I really do?” 

Now lets apply this to our current situation of our day. This is the postmodern plight that we find ourselves in today. I believe that it is the primary cause for today being called by many “the age of despair.” We have access to so much information it creates an overload of knowledge concerning the state of affairs that goes beyond our own community and, often, our responsibility. We feel as if it is part of our stewardship to pray for, cry for, and give an answer for the evil report of the entire world. We feel as if we are doing something good if we have a good day and are able to do this. But this is not often the case and it will eventually make us useless in bearing any burdens and dealing with the problem of evil at all.

At this point, we can easily become disillusioned by the problem of evil in an unnatural and imbalanced way.


  • I am not saying that everyone should quit watching the news, but be careful. If it causes you to worry, become disillusioned, and go into despair, maybe you should consider slowing down or stopping. Just be careful what and how much you take in, it can alter your worldview.
  • Your primary stewardship is with your immediate community which is made up of those who you actually know and have a relationship with. Always seek to bear their burdens.
  • This does not mean that we don’t care or do what we can for those on the other side of the world. We have a responsibility as a nation and individuals to aid Haiti in whatever way we can. Paul went from church to church seeking help and relief for others. I think we have a responsibility for those who live in impoverished nations and catastrophe stricken states. We need to do what we can to help relieve their suffering and pain. But, at the same time, we need to keep focus on the stewardship that God has given us in our immediate context. There is only so much you can do.
  • Keep in mind that today does not have more bad news or evil report than any other day in the history of the world, we just now have more access to this bad news. Don’t lose perspective.
  • For every evil report, there are countless reports of heroism, joy, success, comfort, and redemption that are taking place all over the world. The “breaking news stories” that the local and national news deems worthy of reporting are not always balanced (and I don’t know how we can expect them to be). They won’t tell of the countless children who did not get kidnapped and the billions of people who survived the car crashes and all the places that did not suffer an earthquake. And they most certainly are not going to tell of the redemption of countless people who have accepted the truth of the Gospel or who found the way out of depression through the loving gracious arms of others. There is neither a news station who has access to the heavenly realm where the report will be made that God is still on the throne and has a plan for everything that happens. They are not going to tell us of the angels rejoicing when a sinner repents. Don’t let the news dictate your understanding of the big picture—no one has access to it outside of Scripture.
  • How long is your prayer list? Many times we feel that we have to pray for every problem that we hear about. When this happens, the result will be a mix of insincerity and apathy. Because of this, we will stop praying so much for others and as a result be weighed down with undo guilt. I am not saying to stop praying for others as God leads, but to keep your prayer list responsible and realistic. 

Let us read the words of Christ once more:

Matthew 6:31-34 31 “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I could be wrong, but I believe that the reason why the “problem of evil” is more significant today than it has been in the past is because you and I have information overload concerning the evils of the world.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    18 replies to "Why Is the Problem of Evil Such a Problem – Reflections on Haiti and Other Bad News"

    • Kristi

      You surely must have bugged our house for the last 24 hours, Michael Patton. *stamp foot* How else could you have known how badly I needed to hear this sermon?

      Amen and Thanks. *grimace* No, really. Thanks – you might be on to something here.

    • Ed Kratz

      Darrin, not directly. The issue has to do with how much people attempt to take on the burdens of others. Did you read the post?

    • Aaron

      “Just be careful what and how much you take in, it can alter your worldview.”

      If knowing the truth about what really happens in the world alters your worldview, then perhaps your worldview needs to be altered.

    • Ed Kratz

      Aaron, the point is that it can alter your perspective. The idea here is if you are continually taking in bad news from people who you don’t even know (who are not your community) without sharing in the fullness of their life and community (good news included), your worldview is alter in that you believe that God only is a work in bringing about evil.

    • Aaron

      I think see what you’re saying. I had mis-read your post as implying that the solution to the problem of evil is to ignore the evil in the world if it is far away. Still though, we need to remember that the people that we see suffering in photos from Haiti are every bit as real and as human as our next-door neighbor. If our worldview cannot cope with that, it is our worldview that needs to change. The world itself, unfortunately, is not changing any time soon.

    • Ed Kratz

      Yes, that is why the third point in the bullet points are there.

    • PeteRock

      The past 2 days have personally been heavy for me. Lots of thoughts and concerns about extended family members that are still unreachable in Haiti. More than just my own family, I am hurt over the overall state of my native country. And Michael, little do you know, it’s what I have been learning from you (via TTP and posts) that is helping me put things a proper perspective. I dare not charge God foolish for the 7.0 earthquake that hit Haiti. While He was well aware of it (and its tragic aftermath) before it happened, He allowed to be so…after all is said and done, I still believe God is justified in all He thinks and do. My God is unable to err. Thanks for this post.

    • Gammell

      Darrin/Aaron: Remember that “if it bleeds, it leads.” Bad news is more arresting than good, so it’s in the media’s economic interests to use modern communication to perpetually dig up something bad in the world to draw viewers. Good news gets tucked in at the end of the half hour as the “human interest story” in a vain attempt at bringing balance. The world is seriously screwed up, that’s for sure, but to think that media saturation and global communication has brought comprehensive and agenda-free Truth to your doorstep is naive.

      I think CMP’s call for perspective and prioritization is wise. I personally monitor defense news in some depth which is often even more depressing than headline news. From this, I learned some years ago that as a finite man I do not have the resources to invest myself in every fight, even just emotionally. There is too much. It’s not a matter of shutting out the fallen world but rather recognizing your limits and deliberately (intentionally, if you will) choosing where to invest your resources including your time and emotional energy. There will come times when you have to turn away from a tragedy not because it is unimportant but because so many things are important.

    • Susan

      Good thoughts here, Michael. If we prioritize ministering to the needs of those close at hand we have greater opportunities to encourage them in Christ…toward Christ. God has placed each of us in the community where He can and will use us if we remain available to Him.

    • Tsk

      I hope that the blogs will allow that information to be less biased than the tv networks. and more accountable through comments

    • Leslie

      Not exaggerating here, Michael, but this is the most realistic reflection on the topic I’ve ever read. Mostly, the tendency is to write from a woodenly academic perspective. But it was very refreshing to read your’s. Thanks!

    • Sarah

      Haiti is in a bad way not just because of the earthquake but mainly because it is poor. If an earthquake of that size hit California or Japan (and they do), the situation would be entirely different because the infrastructure is built to cope with quakes. This is a man-made catastrophe caused by the injustice which has created such poverty. Turning away because it makes us feel too depressed is not the answer. It should upset us! And it should motivate us to work to correct the gross inequality of wealth in the world. Surely that is the meaning of suffering – it’s a wake-up call to love our neighbours as ourselves. And whether you like it or not, we now live in a globalised world where even people quite far away are actually our neighbours too. Unless you only consume products manufactured in your own country, only eat food grown in your own country, and your country is built on wealth that wasn’t gained through slavery and colonialism.

    • rayner markley

      It’s also a wake-up call for Haiti to correct the gross inequalities within itself. As the second American country to gain independence from its European parent, it has had 200 years to overcome the past and build a society.

    • Alexander M. Jordan

      Hi Michael:

      Thanks for this post. I think you’ve expressed sensible principles for properly reacting to the barrage of bad news one is exposed to all the time in this media-saturated world we live in. I agree with you– the endless stream of bad news can overwhelm if one isn’t careful. It may cause us to forget that God is really in control, despite all the bad things that happen.

      As I read your article, you are certainly not advocating that Christians develop cold hearts or become apathetic to all the suffering. Yet you remind that there’s only so much one can do. I agree — God calls us to do what we can do and live in peace and not get stressed out. Even Jesus once said, “the poor you always have with you…”

      Which I think means that in a fallen world, troubles will always surround us and there will always be someone in need of help. Christians should respond, but not out of guilt or despair. Knowing that He is in control, we respond with the love of God and by faith in Him, trusting in Him as the source of our compassion and of whatever ability we may have to help. At the same time, we ought to stir up compassion within ourselves, if we find it lacking.

    • Jason C

      Sarah, Haiti is poor because successive generations have considered it enough to simply throw money at it. There are, if my information is correct, about 10,000 aid organisations in there and what difference have they made? Nothing?

      Socialism only shares the misery equally. It has not worked in any country, and it is theft for you to take money from people who have worked for it and give it to people who have not. That is what the left mean by “redistribution.”

      Poverty of mind, corruption of government, a cycle of dependency, these things pull people down far more quickly than some belief in inequality. Moreover the attitude you espouse reduced the Haitians to the level of children, unable to succeed unless the white man fix things for them.

      Better by far to ask them what they need in order to help themselves.

    • rey

      Amos 3:6-7 (NKJV) “[Question:] If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it? [Answer:] Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.”

      In other words, a natural disaster is just a natural disaster not a punishment from God, Unless God announces otherwise by a prophet. But Pat Robertson aint no prophet.

    • […] how fast and plentiful information is today. 2) It is not as bad as it seems. Seeing as how I have already written on number 1, let me talk about 2 for a […]

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