How often do we see the evil in this world and wonder why? Last year, there was a huge earthquake in Japan. That was bad enough, but it also resulted in damage to the nuclear power plant, and touched off a massive tsunami as well. And many people look at all this and wonder why? How could God allow it?
Or we see all the evil that people do. Just look at the newspapers and you can see murders, rapes, and all other kinds of crimes. And again we ask why.
And as people look at all this, they often long for a time, seemingly not so long ago, when things were so much better. When the evil we see today didn’t seem so rampant.
But Solomon writes,
Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions. (7:10)
Why isn’t it wise to ask these questions? Too often, we simply won’t be able to find the answers. Be wise, Solomon says, and let that wisdom shelter your peace of mind. Money can provide shelter for us to an extent, but ultimately, it’s God’s wisdom, and the perspective that comes with it, that can keep you sane in a world that seems to have gone insane. But if we dwell on the whys of evil too long, it can lead to despair, or worse.
Solomon then gives an example of the person who has given into despair.
Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? (7:13)
In other words, “How can I fight God? All this evil is his fault. I can’t change what he’s done. If you’re going to say God made the good times, then you also have to admit he’s responsible for the bad times too. And the thing is, we never know what we’ll get from him.” (7:14)
“What’s more, I’ve seen righteous people die early, and wicked people live long. So why waste time being super-righteous? Of course I’m not going to be stupid and be super-wicked either. That would just be stupid. I fear God too. But let’s not be extreme about all this. I want to have my fun too, after all.” (7:15-18)
But how does Solomon answer?
“What do you mean that ‘righteous’ people are dying early? There are no righteous people. I’ve looked up and down this earth and there is no one that qualifies as truly righteous. Think about all the people you’ve heard curse you under their breath when they thought you weren’t listening. But can you truly hold that against them when you do the same thing? God made people good in the beginning, but they’re just going off doing their own thing now. And you say they’re righteous?” (7:20-29)
“So be wise; follow the laws set by the authorities, do what’s right, and though you may be suffering now, in the end, all will be made right. But when you do evil, you become prey to its consequences, and you cannot escape. (8:1-8)
“Yes people hurt people in this world. Yes, evil people that shouldn’t be honored die with honors. Yes, we see wickedness spread because justice isn’t done. But eventually justice will come.
“Yes, righteous people sometimes get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked get what the righteous deserve. And it’s not fair. It’s not right. But you can’t control that. And no matter how hard you try, you will never understand it. Even the wisest people in the world cannot grasp the whys of all the evil in the world. Even those who say they know, can’t supply all the answers. So don’t drive yourself crazy trying to figure it out.
“Rather, focus on the good things in life. Choose to focus on the good things that you see and have from God, and joy will follow you.” (8:9-17)
I think Solomon is right. The whys will drive us crazy if we let them. The main reason is we can’t see the tapestry that God is putting together in this world. A tapestry that covers the beginning of time to the end. We couldn’t comprehend it if we tried. But two things we can know. Again as Solomon said,
For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a man’s misery weighs heavily upon him. (8:6)
And as he mentioned before in chapter 3,
He has made everything beautiful in its time. (3:11)
We don’t have to understand the whys. All we have to know is that God will work everything out for good for those who love him and have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28).
And if we remember that, we can find joy in this life even if we never do understand the whys of all the evil we see in this world.