This weekend I received a call from a Christian friend who was deeply troubled. The husband of a woman to whom she had been witnessing had been killed in the World Trade Center attack. The woman called my friend and demanded bitterly: “Where was your God that you’ve been telling me about this week?”
Everywhere, people are raising the same question: How could a good God have allowed such massive evil? No question poses a greater stumbling block to Christian faith; no question is more difficult for Christians to answer. Yet, the biblical worldview does give us a good answer.
The simple answer to why bad things happen to so-called good people is that God loved us so much that he made us free moral agents in his image. He designed creatures with the ability to make choices, to choose either good or evil. The original humans, Adam and Eve, exercised that choice – and chose to disobey God. In doing so, they rejected God’s good, thus creating sin and opening the door to death and evil.
What happened last week was raw, naked evil – committed by men who made evil choices. But it was something else as well: It was merely a consequence of the fact that there is sin in the world. God could erase the consequences of sin immediately. But then we’d no longer be free moral agents; we would be robots. For without consequences, there is no real choice. God cannot simultaneously offer us free choice and then compel one choice over another – which is what would happen if he stopped all evil.
Jesus himself was asked why bad things happen to good people. In Luke 13, we read that people asked him if the Galileans who were killed while worshipping at the altar were worse sinners than anyone else. “No,” Jesus answered. And then he added, “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Jesus then reinforced his point. Recently, a tower in a nearby city had fallen; eighteen people had been crushed to death. Jesus said, “Do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
This is one of the hard sayings of Jesus, but there’s great truth in it. We are in no position to ask God why terrible things happen. We’re only to seek forgiveness ourselves.
What happened last week was one of worst tragedies in American history. But God can bring good out of evil, and he often works through adversity. Since the terrorist attacks, we have seen the nation come together with greater unity than I’ve witnessed since Pearl Harbor. And this Sunday my church was filled to capacity at all services – very unusual in Florida at this time of year. Churches all over the country were packed out, and were in England as well. People may be angry at God, but they’re also asking questions about the meaning of life and God’s role in it. You and I need to be prepared to answer the questions of people in pain.
Where was God last week? He was with us – just as he always is. He gave us everything we need to cope with this or any other evils: He gave us himself at the cross at Calvary.
Originally published on Breakpoint by Chuck Colson, September 18, 2001
For more information on this subject, see Randy Alcorn's book If God Is Good ...