I’m reading through old posts, and I came across this one based on a letter I received from a reader. It’s heartbreaking, and I wish I could jump through the screen to hug this girl Amy. I did the best I could by writing her back. But even then, the question lingers. Is God good? When all this bad stuff happens? How do we reconcile a good God with painful circumstances?
I’m sure I didn’t answer her question completely, but what I shared came from hardwon wisdom walking this crazy earth. I pray her honesty (and mine) will help you grapple with this authentic question today.
I get a lot of emails asking perplexing, painful, amazing questions. Today I’m going to attempt to answer (if there is such a thing as a “correct” answer) a question I’ve wrestled with for years. See if you relate to Amy’s dilemma.
Thank you for your blog. I am new reader but have enjoyed reading what you share.
It is quite unlike me to send an email like this. But here it goes . . . as I know you have heard many times I resonate with much you have shared. I am not healed but am healing. I think I will always be. I have a childhood of abuse. I survived by dissociating and now I have to untangle that dissociation. I hope that makes sense. I have a good solid counselor who I am grateful for.
I know Jesus as my savior. I do not doubt my salvation. I believe his word to be true. But I am in a battle. It is a battle that is draining any hope I have. I know you have mentioned in your writing that you do not understand why God allowed your abuse to occur. With my father and step mother I had to pretend that they were good parents – I had to attend to their needs – all the while my father was abusing me. If I did not “pretend” they were good parents then I was not being a good Christian – then I had no value. My value came in being submissive to what they told me to feel, think, do, and put up with.
I struggle now with feeling like I have to pretend God is good even though there are all these things in my life that are not good and point to God being capricious.
I know the theological answers given – free will of man, for His glory, make us more like Him, and He is/was with you in the pain. I struggle though because if I am honest it all feels like rationalization for God being God. And I can’t do it. In church, we sing songs of His protection – of us being safe in His arms – and I struggle. I have heard people say things like “if you had not gone through trauma you would see things differently.” But the truth is I did go through trauma – that is my reality.
I want to trust him. I want to surrender to Him in the moments of my life. But I can’t. I am afraid. I cannot make simple answers out for things and I cannot pretend He is with me. I feel less than those who can put everything into neat answers and I feel anger. I never want to give simple answers – to say things like “when you are more spiritually mature you will understand this.” I know how it has hurt me and I do not want to do it to anyone else. So this has rambled much more than I intended – I’m sorry.
I really wanted to know how you are able to hold those two realities in your hands – that you do not understand why your abuse was allowed and that God is good. If you have time to answer, thank you. But if you do not, I understand.
I so resonate with your questions, and I applaud you for asking them and not being satisfied with cliche and pat answers. I wish I had some perfect i satisfactory conclusion to offer you, but I can say this: you are not alone in what you ask.
Many people struggle with looking over the evil in the world, particularly the evil perpetrated against them, and wonder how a good God would let that happen. Looking back on my own childhood, particularly the sexual abuse by the neighborhood boys, I can’t fathom why God wouldn’t have stepped in. Is He weak? Did He not care? Was I expendable?
I consider my own children. If I knew someone was hurting them, rest assured I would DO SOMETHING to protect them. So if I’m a relatively good parent and I would rescue, why would God the perfect Parent choose NOT to rescue me?
Most people feel it sacrilegious to voice such questions, as if God would be angry for us putting words to what we feel way deep inside. The truth is, He knows our questions and quandaries already. So why not share them with Him? I let out many of my questions in the memoir, Thin Places.
When I get to the place of despair in these questions, I remember that Jesus is God’s beauty in the flesh, that He took on those awful sexual sins perpetrated against me on the cross. He bore every. single. sin. It was wholly unfair, particularly since He did not in any way deserve to receive those sins. When the questions holler louder than God’s goodness, I try to picture Jesus on that cross, bearing the weight for my sin, your sin, everyone’s sin.
This is a fallen world with fallen people messing with each other, inflicting awful pain. And until I realize that I am part of the problem, that I am a sinner who also perpetrates, it’s easy for me to point to the other sin calling it uncalled for, yet glossing over my own.
I can say that God used the things in my life I’d rather not have happened to create deep empathy in me. Sometimes people ask me how they can be close to Jesus like I am (though honestly, I feel small in this area). The answer is that He and I have walked through so much together, and He has healed me of multitudes of wounds. In that place of deprivation, I’ve become a more loving, forgiving person.
I honestly wonder if I would’ve reached for Him had I not experienced what I did. Would I have longed for a daddy had my earthly father not died? Would I have an insatiable need for feeling clean had I not been violated? I don’t know. I’m pretty stubborn, and I love control.
To be honest, there are many times I would rather that God would let me be, stop sending trials my way, and let me experience abundant circumstances. But then I look back on my Christian life and see where I grew the most. It was through the awful trials. I wrote a book about that, Everything, where I talk frankly about our family’s traumatic time in France and how we survived in the aftermath.
I also have to remember that this world we live in is fading away. God does see the pain I’ve walked through. He will reward me for faithful service despite my limitations. He will bring complete and total healing on the other side. I don’t live for the wholeness now 0r even demand it. I wait on tiptoes for the wholeness that will come.
But you’re right. Saying, “I serve a good God,” is difficult when you see the abuse of the past. I’m sorry you walked through that. And I don’t know why you had to walk through all that. It is hard to trust God in that instance because He can seem arbitrary and capricious.
Perhaps that’s what trust and faith are all about–where we acknowledge our perplexities, let them stay in tension, and choose to risk in faith anyway. I know for me, I’m happiest when I don’t stay in that place of figuring things out, but when I lift my hands in surrender and honestly tell God, “I don’t get it.” A settled peace comes over me in that moment, something I can’t explain, where I realize again that He is God and I am not. He is sovereign and I am small.
I don’t expect this answer to clear up your wrestling, not by any shot, but I do hope you see that you’re not alone in wondering these things, and your questions don’t nullify your faith. You are normal. You are human. And you’ve been injured. May our great big God continue to heal you, help you to trust, and experience His goodness even right now.