Why do bad things happen to God’s people? A very common question, and I have a very common answer. God doesn’t cause bad things to happen. He allows them. This is a sinful world, and evil things fall on the good and the bad just because we live on this earth. God has to allow evil to play out its course so that we will know this earth is not our home and He can put an end to sin once and for all when He comes again.
Well, my pat answer and poorly thought out theories fell very short of true explanation when, on a ghastly day two years ago, my beautiful, beloved, carefully tended and tenderly cared for granddaughter, Kelly, was killed in a senseless car accident. She was five and a half years old. One moment she was here, healthy, vibrant, blissfully reading aloud a Dr. Seuss book to her mother and two-month-old sister, Katy, both girls tightly strapped into their car seats in the back of the car. The next moment a careless driver, with no license and no insurance, had gone through a red light and broadsided their car, striking Kelly’s rear door with enough force to kill her almost instantly.
Now what use is the argument, “We live in an evil world, therefore bad things happen”? What about, “Ask and it will be given to you”? Didn’t our daughter and her husband, not to mention we and Kelly’s other grandparents, pray daily for God’s protection on this little family? Where was her guardian angel? Napping? Ironically, on Kelly’s wall, there was a large, signed print of Harry Anderson’s painting “The Guardian Angel,” protecting a child who is depicted as leaning precariously over a river. God could have changed any one of a dozen things and caused a far different outcome. Hey, I could have changed one or two things myself and easily prevented the crash if, like Him, I’d known the end from the beginning.
All my arguments were ropes of sand when they related, as they now did, to a real, personal, hits-you-where-it-hurts tragedy. Not only do I (as well as others in my family) have gut-wrenching, daily pain, I have to try to come to grips with the fact that the Lord I serve would allow such a thing to happen.
Shortly after the September 11 Twin Towers attack (and other attacks on that day), someone in our Sabbath School class stated she thought people who prayed for God’s protection had come through that horror safely, and those who died in the Trade Center’s fall must not have been praying for God’s protection. I thought of that conclusion during our personal tower collapse. I know the argument is invalid since we fervently prayed daily for safety and protection of these dear ones. My daughter tearfully mentioned how she pleaded with God during morning devotions to guard and protect her children. Yet Kelly was gone.
From the perspective of today’s post-accident time frame, I have a new appreciation for the “this earth is not my home” idea. I’ve read many books on grieving, loss, and God’s part in the whole process. The one book which has made sense to me, at least in regards to the “why God allows suffering” issue, was one by Jerry Sittser called A Grace Disguised.1 He illustrates his point by Job’s and Joseph’s biblical stories. They, too, didn’t know why God didn’t protect them or their loved ones. I especially related to Joseph who, in all his misery, was always faithful to God. And looking back from the vantage point of centuries we can see that, because he was sold into slavery, the children of Israel would eventually be led to the Promised Land by Moses, and God would be revealed in many ways during this period.
I don’t know what possible reason God had for allowing this little girl to be born into a loving family who would nurture and teach her, to have grandparents and aunts who would love her and dote on her, why He would let her live and flourish for five and a half years, then suddenly allow her life to end because some careless person drove 65 miles an hour through a red light. There must be some reason for it, but we’ll never know. Not this side of heaven. We can ascribe all kinds of motives to God; all kinds of reasons He’d let such a thing happen. We can make excuses for Him. But the fact remains: He could have prevented it. He didn’t. Therefore, He had a reason why it was better that she live only five and a half years. Since we are not privy to God’s reasons, and as far as the east is from the west are His ways above our ways, we can’t imagine what those reasons are, and it is an exercise in futility to try. I find myself really annoyed by people who try to ascribe a reason for it to God. How can they know? Do they speak in some way for God?
So, for now, the best I can do is know and believe that God loves us, our daughter, and her husband, and He loves Kelly. I know I can let her breath of life rest with Him and that He will return it to her on resurrection day. Till then, He will tenderly guard it, and He will re-create her faithfully, so that she will again call me “Graama” in her special way of saying it. She will rise incorruptible and, for her, the time span between Dr. Seuss and Lord Jesus will be an instant. For me, and for all of us who loved her so deeply, the hours and days till His coming drag on. Even so, come Lord Jesus.
1 Jerry Sittser, A Grace Disguised (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995).