Why Did God Allow This To Happen?
I met with a woman in mid-March at Prenatal Clinic who was not our patient. She had delivered at Holy Spirit Hospital, but had insurance and received care through a private doctor. She came, not for care, but to donate baby items … for a very sad reason. Unfortunately, she had had a baby with a genetic defect that was not compatible with life. The little girl spent several weeks in the intensive care nursery until it was determined that there was nothing more that could be done for her. She was sent home to die peacefully, surrounded by family instead of monitors and machines. This bereaved mother was trying to wrap her faith and heart around the question, “why did God allow this to happen?”
Pr. Rob had recently preached on this subject, called theodicy. The dictionary defines this term as “an attempt to demonstrate that God’s existence remains probable after the problem of evil is posed, by giving a justification for God’s permitting evil to happen.” More simply put, if there is God, why is there evil? Pr. Rob’s three choices were fresh in my mind… God doesn’t care (He created everything, then left and is no longer here (deism)); Powerless God; or God who wants us to choose to love and trust Him in spite of evil.
Of course, the third option is the one that I, too, feel is correct. If God fixed everything for everyone who asked it, then of course all people would readily believe in Him and worship Him. It would, at the end of the day, be a matter of necessity rather than choice. If God never allowed evil to happen, what sane person would NOT pray to Him and believe in Him? It would be hard fact instead of faith, survival strategy instead of choice. Jesus’ life and the Good News of the Gospel would be a waste. There would be no need for the Church and there would be no need for the Great Commandment, to love one another as God loved us… because everything would be fixed, just by asking God.
What If God Fixed Everything
If God “fixed” everything and made everything “good” for us, then there would be no evil. But Genesis 1 tells us that there IS evil, and that it came about through choices that we humans made. The world is broken. It is by our own nature that it is broken. And that’s where we run into the sad fact and ultimate answer: it’s our nature, its “in our DNA”, and we can’t change our own nature. That’s not something we have the capability of doing. That’s not a choice we can make.
The fact is that God wants us, actually allows us, to choose Him…or not. It’s not a debate over whether or not God allows evil to happen. It’s a matter of the fact that, given our choice to bring evil into the world through our very nature, our way of being, our selfishness and our fear… what do we chose to do in relation to God? We often seem to want God to be a “celestial Santa Claus”, bringing us everything on our wish list and making life easy and wonderful. But that is not how reality is: we live in a broken and imperfect world. And that’s not how God operates. He wants us to love Him, believe in Him, trust Him and cherish Him in spite of evil. He wants us to choose him even when it isn’t easy and doesn’t seem sane.
The fact is that God sent Jesus, His own son, His own very substance, to live and suffer in all the ways that we all suffer. Jesus had to suffer mockery and bullying (if Jesus had had a social media page, he would have most certainly been cyber-bullied by the Pharisees). He suffered betrayal by one of his closest friends and disciples. He was chronically homeless and unemployed (by human standards).
Can We Make A Difference?
And that brings us back to the idea of the fact that evil and broken-ness are in our nature, in our DNA, something we can’t change. WE may not be able to change that, but God sent someone who could, did , does and will….Jesus. When we choose to trust God, to have faith in His good will toward us because of the fact of Jesus, we have taken the first step into the Kingdom of God. Jesus is our path to that kingdom. To stay on it, we need only to believe in him and follow him.
Sometimes our youth “get it” more than we do. I recall a conversation with my daughter, Marie, as we returned from our first Kenya trip in 2009. As we flew in over upstate New York, I took note from the airplane window that there was water everywhere. Kenya had been experiencing a very dry rainy season, which had the unfortunate potential to lead to starvation from lack of crops in the upcoming dry season. So much water here, so little water there. I mused out loud to my daughter, “It’s too bad that, by a mistake of geography, the people in Kenya have so little water.” My daughter replied, “God doesn’t make mistakes. Like Pastor John said in his devotion about Jesus and the man born blind, some things happen so that God can be glorified. God gave us (in the US) this situation so that we could glorify Him by reaching out to help the people of Kenya in His name.” A proud moment for the mom of a 14 year old. And …. Amen.
- Holly Hoffman, Diaconal Minister