Firstly, in tough times people often want to know how much you care over how much you know. Even Job's friends give us good advice at the start by simply sitting with him in silence and weeping with him when he had his bad news (Job 2: verses 11-13). The "Why?" question (i.e. "why did this happen?") is impossible to answer. The better question to ask is "Who?" (i.e. "who can I turn to for help?"). Caring and comforting those in need is the key. This is the first thing to remember.
Secondly, the tough question remains, and while we don't know why, there are some things we do know. God has a plan and is in control. There is no "chance" – see (1 Samuel 6 verse 9). God is not only the Creator of the universe but the sustainer. He upholds everything. Genesis 1 verse 1 explains this, saying that God created the heavens and the earth. But the word "created" also means "He continues to keep it going." God is in control and has a plan, even if we think things are out of control. What an encouragement to know that despite the bad news we see and experience, the fact is that God is in control (Romans 8 verse 28).
Thirdly, God is holy and is not the author of sin, neither can He do evil (1 John 1 verse 5 and James 1: verses 13-15). If God is good and light, then no darkness or sin can be found in Him at all. This is a very comforting concept: God cannot be tempted by wrong. It is impossible. Therefore, who can we turn to when troubles come or we need support? Who can be 100% relied on and trusted? Answer: God.
Fourthly, while God is not the author of sin He can turn it around to bring about something good (Gen 50 verse 20). Many times we see evil enter into a Bible story, yet God turns it around to bring a victory. Job's suffering shows Satan's evil plans. Yet God turns this around to bring about restoration for Job and glory for God's name.
The most powerful illustration is the Cross. Jesus was betrayed by Judas' own evil desires. Jesus was murdered in this process. Yet out of this injustice God brought about something amazing: a restored relationship with Him through Jesus' atonement.
What was an occasion for weeping turned out as the greatest victory in history (John 16 verse 20 and 1 Corinthians 15). This good news message is the answer to the question about God's providence allowing evil. The victory has been won and is now coming about.
The providence of God is a very comforting concept because it reminds us that God is good, has a plan, is in control and can be trusted.
Jeremy is a former sport scientist, now chaplain & pastor.
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover.html