The devil’s garage sale
Perhaps you’ve heard of Satan’s garage sale. He had all his tools on display and priced: anger, murder, hate, lust, gossip, and the rest. At the end of the table lay an unnamed tool more worn than all the others, but priced highest of all. Someone asked him, “What tool is that?” He said, “Discouragement.” “Why is it priced so high?” “Because no one knows it’s mine.”
We’re wrestling this week with the perennial question: how can an all-loving, all-powerful God allow evil and suffering? Since this problem is as old as the Garden of Eden and the flood of Noah, Christian theologians have struggled with it all through the history of our faith. Five basic approaches have been proposed most often.
The first is the “spiritual warfare” model. It reminds us that Satan is very real. He murders and lies (John 8:44). He accuses the people of God (Job 1:9-11), resists the godly (Zechariah 3:1; Matthew 13:38-39), and tempts us to sin (1 Chronicles 21:1; Matthew 4:1). He has power over unbelievers (Acts 26:18; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4). He is a “roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
As a result, much of the evil and suffering in the world is attributable to his malignant work. Paul was clear: “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).
However, not all suffering is the direct result of Satan’s work. We live in a fallen world, in which natural disasters and disease are inevitable. People misuse their free will (the second approach). God permits some suffering for our greater good (the third approach). Satan would like us to attribute all evil to him, giving him too much power; or blame nothing on him, pretending he doesn’t exist.
The right approach is to ask the Lord if there is a satanic component to our suffering, and trust that he will guide us to the truth. If we are under attack, we can claim the power of God over our enemy and find victory in his Spirit and strength.
We’ll continue with our conversation tomorrow. For today, let’s claim the assurance of Scripture: “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). What temptation do you need to trust to your Father this morning?