Q. It seems there are so many terrible things going on today—natural disasters; little kids being trafficked, even here in the U.S.; dads shooting moms; teens getting hooked on drugs by their own so-called friends. Why does God let bad things happen? Does He still care about us?

A. The grief you express about the condition of the world is exactly like what God feels. Evil has invaded His creation with loss, destruction and death. How has this happened? You shouldn’t be surprised when I tell you our race is responsible.

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s instructions for living, they opened the door and let in all sorts of terrible “insects.” Evil got inside! And evil continues to plague our world, because people keep the door open to it.

Unfortunately, our culture has an incomplete understanding of the specific forces in the world that are dead-set against God’s life-filled purposes. The Bible describes four categories of death-dealing evil, and a quick review of them may help explain why terrible things keep happening on this planet.

The World: Like a driver who refused to follow directions, the world is on the wrong course. It is heading where God never intended it to go, so “wrong” is where things usually end up. People suffer and die and do terrible things because the whole planet is surrounded with a diseased atmosphere.

Long ago, mankind failed as stewards of this planet and gave it into the hands of the devil (see Gen. 3). The world was kidnapped into futility (see Rom. 8:20). It fell under the cruel influence of Satan (see 1John 5:19), and it now sabotages life with disease, violence and emptiness.

The Flesh: Everyone has appetites. We want air and food. If those appetites are not satisfied, they can become all-consuming. When we’re really “starved” for food, we eat almost anything!

On the spiritual side of things, we also have appetites. Collectively, they are called the flesh, and our flesh craves and lusts after satisfaction, regardless of consequences.

People do many terrible things to keep their flesh happy. Like a spoiled 9-year-old child, the flesh likes to be in charge. To get what it wants, or to show its displeasure when it doesn’t get its way, it generates problems such as jealousy, anger, envy, addiction and quarrels (see Gal. 5:19-21).

The Force of Sin: Our ancestors knew no evil until they ate the forbidden fruit (see Gen. 3:7), but the moment they disobeyed, our world was invaded by an invisible power. It bent human hearts toward evil. It was like a malignant infection spreading death and misery everywhere.

God warned that it would seize every opportunity to ambush us with evil desire (see Gen. 4:7). I call it the sin-force. Sin is more than just an individual act or thought; it is also a power at work in our world. It acts like a giant spider, catching our thoughts and feelings in deceitful webs to drain us of the good life God wants for us.

The Evil-Spirited: Though our Western culture scoffs at the existence of a spiritual dimension, we know the unseen world is real. The “spiritual forces of wickedness” in the heavenlies create staggering amounts of ruin and wrongness in life (see 2 Cor. 2:11; Eph. 6:12).

Just myriad angels are sent by the Lord to minister to us (see Heb. 1:14), so a smaller number of evil-spirited beings afflict people with unexplainable mental torment and heartache. Like traces of toxic chemicals seeping from a waste site, causing deformity, disease and death, the evil-spirited weave their way into the human psyche and the human condition.

God’s longing for people to be saved for eternity is stronger than His grief about the condition of our world right now. If He eliminated all evil, He would need to erase all life like He did in the flood. So He chooses to be patient with the evil condition of our race in order to rescue more of us for heaven.

By: Daniel A. Brown, Ph.D., founding pastor of The Coastlands (Aptos Foursquare Church) in Aptos, Calif., and Commended to The Word (CTW), a ministry through which he develops resources to mentor believers in spiritual leadership.