There is no one question I have been asked more since providing this service over the internet in 2002 than this one: “Why did God let that happen?” We are all subject to some bad things that happen in life. They hurt and sometimes debilitate us. Someone breaks up with us. We lose our job. Our best friend disowns us. Our family member does us wrong in a business deal. All of these things can cause us to wonder where exactly God is and what he is doing.
To understand what happened and where God is we need to understand who God is and how he operates. God is love (1 John 4:16). Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not insist upon its own way. (1 Corinthians 13:4). This fact is so very important to what is happening in our lives. God does not stop someone from not following him. God does not stop someone from doing the total opposite he is asking them to do. He allows it to happen for several reasons, but this one is at the top of the list. God will not force someone to be a robot. Robots cannot love.
For there to be love, there must be a free choice made without duress. You must be free to choose which person you will love or it is not love, it is rape, torture, coercion, blackmail, fraud, etc. Love means we allow the other to make up their own mind, whether we agree with their decision or not. So, God allows people to be evil. He doesn’t smite them from the earth because “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things.” God is waiting for that evil person to turn it around. The Rev. Clyde Thompson killed 8 people before he turned to God and then brought countless others to turn their lives toward God and a loving life. Before we ask God to limit the amount of opportunities for others to change their lives, we ought to think of how many opportunities we would like to have to make good for bad we have done.
“It is mine to avenge,” it says in Deuteronomy 32:25. This is important because it reminds us that God does not approve of bad behavior. I remember a client from Uganda who was upset that his wife left with the vegetable truck and began using it with her new boyfriend. “Why would God allow that?” My question is, “Since when does God approve of adultery?” There is a commandment of its own against it: Exodus 20:14. We assume that God is happy with the bad things that happen against us. God is not happy that you were hurt, done wrong, abused, or molested. God is NOT happy at all. He said he will avenge those who do people wrong, but until then, he is pleading with them to come and love him and his people, and his creation.
I cannot tell you what is God’s mind about judgment against others, but I cannot help but believe that there is a special place in eternity for those who are abused, neglected, killed without justice or mercy, and otherwise preyed upon by evil (Luke 16:19-31). I believe that hell is where the abusers go who do not repent and heaven is where the abused go who are treated without mercy.
Achbp. Rowan Williams writes that baptism confers the role of prophet (speaking out against injustice), priest (bringing reconciliation to people), and king (creating systems of justice in communities where no one wants to go) are at the heart of Christianity. It is true that we are to be the Kingdom of God in the midst of a godless world. But the world is just that, godless, and we need to expect it.
The question is then begged, “Where IS God in all of this collateral damage from free willed people who choose to do evil?” God is being injured with the victims and is pleading with the perpetrators to stop. The Incarnation is exhibit A when we want to understand where God stands when evil happens. He is with the ones who are getting accused by mean people, convicted unfairly by a kangaroo court, getting beaten while in custody, and then executed in public as humiliatingly as possible. The fact that Jesus came at all says where God is. (Hebrews 2:1-18) He is with us.
The day after I suffered a tragic loss and sat in my study praying the emptiest prayer ever (it seemed), the Lord whispered to me, “All things work for the good for those who love me. I am here. I will save.” (Romans 8:28). As my dreams lay in ruins at my feet, I was reminded that Jesus Christ endured the same things I endured and then came resurrection. God walks with us and helps us see where we needed humility, maybe, and where we could apologize for things we have done wrong, but he does not rejoice in the wrong that happens to us, he rejoices in the right.
I believe this ministry online, where people in many of the United States; in Uganda, Nigeria, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, China, Malaysia, contact me with their crushed dreams by evil people, springs out of the depths to which I have gone. I have gone there and know that God has sent so many people my way who are kind, generous, loving, and wonderful. He has given me a platform that is new to the Christian world–ministry online to people where they are instead of making them come to me. These blessings have shown me that God was with me in the valley of the shadow of my death and now he has restored my soul. (Psalm 23:3-4).
Even when I was in the midst of being oppressed to the point of abuse, I was given little windows of hope to know that I was not crazy and that other person’s bad behavior had nothing to do with my value. My value was and is centered in the living God who claimed my life in Baptism. When the gentle whispers of God soothed my broken soul, then it gave me another life that had so much meaning, more meaning than the life I was living.
So, God does not rejoice in the evil thing that some bad person did to you. He is standing next to you shaking his head with you. He is calling on others to rally around you and to love you. He will take this thing, whatever it is, and heal you. The direction you land may not be what you thought you wanted, but it will serve God’s purposes well enough. God let that happen because people need to choose to love for it to be love at all. When they don’t, that is not God’s fault. The Father in heaven will reach down through his Son, Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit to comfort you, walk with you, and show you the way to a resurrected life. So, look up. The sun will rise tomorrow and Jesus Christ will greet you on your new way.
Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian
- God does not insist on his own way.
- God is calling on the evil to turn to him and do good.
- Evil has collateral damage.
- God will rectify everything in the end.
- Jesus came to experience the evil that we do to each other.
- Jesus Christ will transform that evil into something good in your life.
- Jesus will give you a resurrected life that will be different, but good.
- 1 John 4:16, God is Love.
- 1 Cor. 13:4, Love is patient, kind, and does not insist on its own way.
- 1 Cor. 13:6, Love (God) does not rejoice in wrong doing.
- John 3:18, People choose for themselves to follow God.
- # 2. above, He will not insist on his own way.
- Deut. 32:35, God will take care of the people who hurt you.
- Luke 16:19-31, God is definite about people who hurt and abuse.
- John 1:14, Hebrews 2:1-18, Jesus (God/man) experienced the same hurt.
- Rom. 8:28, God will take that hurt and make good out of it.
- Ps. 23; Ps. 139, God is with you everywhere and loves you.
When I taught a class in ethics at what is now Brightwood University, one of my students talked openly about her choice to keep her son who was the product of an incestual rape. She said, “You know, God has blessed me so much with that boy. He knows how to love and has loved me better than I could imagine any son loving his mother. God took that bad thing and made good out of it. I just praise Jesus for him every day now.”