When Bad Things Happen to Good Marriages (Pt. 3)
Why didn’t God just stop it?
We’ve all been tempted to ask that question one time or another. Our spouse is seriously injured in a car accident due to a reckless driver who was texting, or a college age daughter is sexually assaulted while at a campus party. Sitting in the emergency room we are haunted by a pressing question: If God knew it was going to happen, why didn’t he step in and stop it? Why allow evil to happen when he clearly has the power to stop it?
What if God took you up on your suggestion?
What if he actually set a deadline for ridding the world of evil? Suppose God announces that next Monday at midnight he will step in and stop all suffering caused by evil people? How would he do that? God decides to utilize a tool used by police officers—a Taser gun.
A Taser gun shoots an individual with a temporary high-voltage current of electricity. The makers of Taser guns claim that a shock of ½ second will cause intense pain and muscle contraction. Two to three seconds will cause a person to become dazed and drop to the ground. Anything over three seconds will drop an attacker for up to fifteen minutes. The makers of Taser guns boast of a 95% compliance rate. In other words, hit a person with enough electricity and you can get them to do anything.
When the deadline for stopping evil comes, God gets us to comply with his wishes by shocking us. Start to text while driving and you are hit with a ½ second zap. Try to rob a person and you get two seconds of shock. A would-be rapist would be incapacitated. However, knowing that evil thoughts often lead to evil actions, God also zaps us for sinister thoughts. God’s not finished. Since it’s evil to fail to do good when given the opportunity, God zaps us for failing to show mercy, kindness, and justice. As a result, people are zapped for doing evil acts, thinking evil thoughts, and failing to do what is right. What would be the result? In Taser world you daughter would be totally safe at any campus party and your husband could drive without fear.
We have the world we wanted—a world utterly void of evil! However, might there be any drawbacks to such a world?
One possible drawback is that individuals would be morally good for fear of being shocked. God would stop the action, but a person’s heart would be unaffected. People who write on parenting make a distinction between deep acting and surface acting. Surface acting involves controlling a child’s outward expression of emotions, not influencing what the child actually feels. Expressing respect is emphasized more than being respectful. In contrast, deep acting seeks to affect a child’s heart and attitude. Children should be respectful of adults because that is the right thing to do. If God shocked people every time they did evil, he would get a world of surface actors—people acting virtuous while harboring ill feelings toward others and God. “It is worth noting that the whole point of Christianity,” explains J.B. Phillips, “lies not in interference with the human power to choose, but in producing a willing consent to choose good rather than evil.”[i]
Another reason God doesn’t set a deadline for ending evil is that evil forces us to come face-to-face with the world we’ve created. Evil and pain prod us to think about the kind of world God desires for us—a world free of violence, destruction, and suffering. This line of thinking is powerfully articulated by C.S. Lewis: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”[ii] God allows evil to continue because it forces us to ask the “why” questions.
When God shouts to us through suffering and pain it has a haunting effect. “It’s much harder to believe the world is here just so I can party,” writes Philip Yancey, “when a third of its people go to bed starving each night. It’s much harder to believe the purpose of life is to feel good when I see teenagers smashed on a freeway. If I try to escape the idea and merely enjoy life, suffering is there, haunting me . . .”[iii] As Christians, we too, are haunted by suffering and the deep questions associated with evil.
When a negligent driver hurts a spouse, or a daughter has her innocence stolen it breaks God’s heart. He allows it because he doesn’t want to force us to obey him like cowering dogs. He allows pain and suffering in hope that we will turn to him for help in fixing a broken world. In short, he’s interested in not only the safety of your spouse or daughter, but the safety of everyone! He allows evil in the hope that a sick world with turn to him to find a cure—willingly submitting to his loving governance—that will eventually make us all safe!
He allows pain and suffering in hope that we will turn to him for help in fixing a broken world.
Tim is a professor of communication at Biola University in La Mirada, CA, and is the co-director of the Winsome Conviction Project which seeks to reintroduce humility, civility, and compassion back into our public disagreements. He is the co-host of the Winsome Conviction Podcast and his latest book is, Winsome Conviction: Disagreeing without Dividing the Church (IVP)