Why Does God allow war?
The devastation and human tragedy we have witnessed on our screens over the last two weeks in Ukraine has been shocking and disturbing to say the least. The destruction of towns and cities, coupled with migration in the millions, are scenes that have not been witnessed since WWII. Unlike wars fought in other “less enlightened” parts of the world, this is one fought on the doorstep of Europe, among nations like our own, screened to us in full colour and in real time, bringing the impact of war closer to home. As we witness these scenes, and emotions of sorrow, despair, and anger arise, the question that is naturally asked is “Why does God allow war?”.
In our frustration we ask further, “Why can’t everyone just get along?”. “If God is good and all powerful, why can’t God intervene and stop this tragedy?” Without Scripture we may conclude that God is either not good or not all powerful. But God by His grace has given us His Word to inform us and encourage us and direct us in times of war and tragedy of all sorts.
While we in the West have lived in relative peace for the last thirty years, the war in Ukraine reminds us that war is not new, nor has humanity “matured” beyond it. From the very beginning, when man rebelled against God and sin entered his heart, so did man’s desire to war against God and each other (Gen 3:12-13). Without so much as a break in the narrative we read (Gen 4) Cain, through jealousy of his brother and anger toward God, murdered Abel. Jeremiah is right,
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jer 17:9).
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who lived through the devastation of two world wars, concluded from Scripture that “the ultimate cause of war is lust and desire; this restlessness that is part of us as the result of sin.” In one sense, we could say that war on a worldwide scale is simply the multiplication of our propensity toward hate of neighbour, jealousy, lust, power, holding grudges, self-autonomy – simply put, our propensity toward sin.
Lloyd-Jones rightly goes on to say that the question that needs to be asked is not, “Why does God allow war?”, but rather, “Why has God not allowed us to destroy itself entirely in its iniquity and sin?”. Why? Because of God’s restraining grace upon all of those outside of Christ who currently lie “in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). God has restrained wickedness (Gen 20:6) and prompted good (Ezra 1:1-2), directing kings’ hearts (Prov 21:1) and the counsel of nations (Ps 33:10), for the purpose of calling all people outside of Christ to repentance (Acts 17:30) and bringing about His good plans for His people (Rom 8:28). How we ought to marvel at the patience, mercy, and wisdom of God in the face of man’s rebellion.
More than all of this, we see it evident in God sending His own Son in love into this world to die for sin that all would turn from evil and look to Him, believe, and be saved (John 3:16). But people have not wanted nor are they able on their own to be saved. Therefore, in mercy God allows devastating tragedy, even world war, to show rebellious, self-sufficient humanity their sin and pending judgement so that they would repent and believe in Jesus and be saved (Luke 13:1-5).
We must understand that so long as there is sin, there will be war. And every tragic effect of war is God’s loving call to come to Him and find peace, and comfort, and forgiveness, and eternal protection in the wounds of the Lord Jesus Christ. For Jesus went to war on your behalf and won, propitiating the wrath of God (Rom 3:25) and overthrowing the power of Satan (Col 2:15) to redeem for Himself a people, among whom you can be included (Gal 3:13-14).
Jesus has promised that until He comes again and takes home His bride, wars and rumours of war must happen (Matt 24:6-8). But when He comes, He will finally vanquish every foe and bring everlasting peace to His people and take us to a place where war and weeping will be no more (Rev 21:4-5).
Until that day, war, and crises of every kind reveal to God’s people our weakness, helplessness, and lack of power and cause us to depend on Him like nothing else. Lloyd-Jones states that “there is no school in which Christians have learned so much of the loving, tender care of God for His own, as the school of affliction.” It is truly in the shadows of affliction where God’s presence shines brightest.
Until that day of Christ’s return our duty must be to trust in God and pray (1 Tim 2:1-4). Pray earnestly for the war in Ukraine. Pray that justice, peace, and gospel-proclamation will prevail. Pray that those who oppose the Lord Jesus would yield their life to Him and be saved. And finally, pray that you would use the appointed time God has granted to you to serve Christ above all else as you carry out the good works He has prepared for you to do (Eph 2:10) with love and joy, and for His glory and praise.
By Craig Baxter