The Problem of Evil
Thus far in the story of Elijah, we’ve seen how the prophet delivered a prophecy to King Ahab and then ran for his life. God told Elijah to hide out at a brook, but eventually the water dried up. Then God told Elijah to travel about 80 miles to Jezebel’s homeland, outside Israel, in the center of Baal worship, and live there with a widow and her son. God miraculously provided food for many days for this small household.
When all seemed to be going well, disaster struck. The widow’s son gets sick and dies.
This story brings up a very large and important topic—the problem of evil. Elijah himself questions whether God has brought evil upon the woman and her son.
The problem of evil—i.e., why bad things happen to good people—is a major issue in theology. Unbelievers commonly use the problem of evil as an excuse not to believe in God. They argue that if God is good, he would prevent evil. If God is powerful, he could prevent evil. The fact that evil happens to good people must mean that God is not good, or God is not powerful, or God does not exist. The problem of evil is one of the primary arguments unbelievers use for their assertion that there is no God. So it’s a major issue.
Christians have responded that the Bible explains the presence of evil in the world, and that God has a purpose behind allowing evil, pain, and suffering. The presence of evil, tragedy, or calamity in our world does not contradict the existence of God, the goodness of God, or the power of God. In fact, the only way to make sense of evil is to believe that God has power over it, that he can use it for his own purposes, and that he will eradicate it someday.
The Bible teaches us to trust God during times of disaster and calamity. We cannot control such things, but we know who can, and we trust God through times of evil, disaster, and suffering. And we know that in the end, God is victorious over evil. Jesus died on the cross and rose again to defeat all forms of evil. Death, the last great enemy, will eventually be defeated. So there will be an end to evil in God’s eternal plan. God himself provides the solution for the problem of evil.
Let’s consider then the problem of evil in the life of the widow woman and her son.