I had been meeting with a lady for the past few months, helping her walk through a challenging situation. She had been sexually abused as a child and, while she had previously seen a counsellor, this was the first time she had looked at the pain in her life from a Christian perspective.
We didn’t begin by talking about the childhood abuse she had experienced, but it became evident that the challenges she was currently facing were related to it. As an adult, she was struggling relationally because of the ways she had developed to cope with sexual abuse that masqueraded as intimacy. We spent some time looking at unhealthy ways she was using to protect herself from rejection, as well as at her personal strengths. In the midst of this difficult conversation she shrugged her shoulders, shuffled in her chair, and pronounced, “Well, I guess I should thank God for the sexual abuse, because it’s made me a stronger person.” She had, after all, been taught to give thanks to God in all things.
I couldn’t let that statement go by without comment. “Sexual abuse is evil. We are never to thank God for evil. We can thank Him for sustaining us, growing us, keeping us alive and bringing us new life, but we are never to thank God for evil!”
This woman went on to ask a question many Christians struggle with. “If God is all- powerful, loving, merciful and just, why do bad things happen to good people? And why did this evil happen to me?” It is one thing to grapple with this question in a Bible College class; it is another thing altogether to wrestle this through with an adult who was abused or neglected as a child. The woman I was talking with had been sexually abused from the time she was four years old. Why didn’t God intervene?
We ask the same question when landslides bury villages, tsunamis kill more than a hundred thousand people, famines destroy the lives of innocent children, and more. But the question becomes even more personal when traumatic incidents happen to people at the hands of people in their community or their families. Why didn’t God stop it?
In many people’s sincere desire to defend God, they put forth some disturbing answers to this question. These answers either place the blame solely on the victim, or paint God as an impotent cosmic ruler. As Christians, our desire to defend our belief in a loving and powerful God can lead us to some confusing conclusions about why there is evil in the world, and what we are supposed to do about it.