But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
—2 Peter 3:8-9
For many, the most difficult problem with evil is its persistence. God “has set a day when he will judge the world with justice” (Acts 17:31). But why a future day of judgment?
Barbara Brown Taylor phrased it, “What kind of God allows the innocent to suffer while the wicked pop their champagne corks and sing loud songs?”
We may say, “Yes, Lord, we accept your wisdom in permitting evil and suffering for a season—but enough is enough. Why do you let it continue?”
The Bible echoes the same sentiment. Jeremiah said, “You are always righteous, O Lord, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?” (12:1).
Why doesn’t God simply reward each good and punish each evil as it happens? Because God’s justice is not a vending machine in which a coin of righteousness immediately produces reward or a coin of evil yields swift retribution. Scripture assures us justice is coming. Everything in God’s plan has a proper time; the gap between the present and that proper time tests and incubates our faith. When reward and punishment are immediate, no faith in God is required or cultivated.
The wheels of justice may seem to turn slowly, but they turn surely. Some rewards of goodness and punishments of evil come in this life. And though ultimate rewards and punishments await the final judgment, considerable justice—both reward and retribution—is dispensed upon death, when God’s children immediately experience the joy of his presence and the unrepentant suffer the first justice of Hell (see Luke 16:19–31). This means that the maximum duration of injustice experienced by any person cannot exceed his life span.
Don’t we give thanks for God’s patience with Saul, the self-righteous killer who became Paul? Or John Newton, the evil slave trader who accepted God’s amazing grace and wrote the song that countless millions have sung?
God drew me to Himself in 1969. But what if Christ had answered the prayers of many in those days and had returned and brought final judgment in 1968? Or in 1953, the year before I was born? Where would I be for eternity? Where would you be?
I’m grateful God was patient enough with fallen humanity to allow the world to continue until I was created, and then continue further until I became part of his family.
Aren’t you grateful for the same? If God answered our prayers to return today, who might be lost that he plans to save tomorrow?
Lord, you are the potter; we are the clay. You have the right to do what you choose. But if we look carefully at what you choose, we may see wisdom and purpose and mercy even in what we don’t fully understand. Thanks for not answering the prayers for Christ’s immediate return offered by the generations that preceded me and my family. I’d hate to think of us not existing, of not being able to love you and serve you and glorify you forever.
This meditation is excerpted from Randy’s book 90 Days of God’s Goodness. Learn more.
Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.