Dear Pastor Mike,
How does something like this fit into God’s intricate plan for the world? How does the brutal death of this little girl build God’s Kingdom on Earth? If He doesn’t care enough about her to save her, then why should He care about any of us? Serious question.
Several answers popped into my head as I thought about answering your question.
I think it is a great question. It is pretty much the same question I ask God every other minute or two when I ask God how/why he took my wife away last June. What in the world was he thinking? Doesn’t he know if he had to take someone, he took the wrong one of us? And who said he needed to take anyone in my family? And what about all those people praying for her, couldn’t he have given any one of them a “yes, I’ll heal her” answer? Saying yes to any one of them would have saved her and given her back to me and our daughter. What in the world was he thinking? Who does he think he is? Is he really there at all? Does he really care?
I wonder if I think your question is a great question because it is a great question or if it is a great question because it is also my question and I think way too highly of myself.
To save my bacon, this is also the age old problem of evil in the world that philosophers and theologians have been asking for eons. How can there be a good, loving, and kind God in the universe, and still have evil? Either he doesn’t exist, he is impotent, or he is evil. There doesn’t seem to be any other answers. If he exists, is all powerful, and he is good, he wouldn’t/couldn’t allow evil to exist. So since evil clearly exists, he either isn’t there, isn’t all powerful, and/or he isn’t good.
It seems to make sense, but it is one of those things like in non-Euclidian geometry where lines can be parallel, but not be equidistant from one another all the way along the line. In a closed system things doesn’t operate the same way they do in an open system. The problem with the logic above is that it doesn’t take into consideration that God isn’t inside our creation, he is outside it. His ways are not our ways (Isa. 55:8-9).
The central problem is that we think we know everything, we are the center of everything. We think that what we know is everything there is to know and anything that doesn’t fit into our neatly crafted boxes either can’t be known, or is simply wrong.
We’re like the seaman on the submarine who is told to paint the top of the ship with black paint, but he has other ideas and thinks black is really boring. So, he paints the ship all sorts of wild colors. His commander comes by a few minutes later and yells at him for taking things into his own hands and not obeying the command. He is thrown into the brig for disobeying the orders. But what is wrong with painting the ship all sorts of pretty colors? The ship is a submarine, for pity sake. It goes way under the water, no one will ever see the pretty colors. Well, first, the ship is supposed to be invisible under water, even when it is near the surface. Second, black is more invisible than pretty colors. Third, the command was to paint it black. That’s what he was told to do. And fourth, the people in charge know much more about what is actually going on than the smart-aleck seaman. When they told him to paint the boat black, they knew the big picture, and had a plan for how they wanted things to go. The reason they wanted the ship painted black was much larger than the seaman could understand. All he needed to do to be a part of the larger picture, was to do his job.
Similarly, the Bible tells us that God is good (Psa. 136:1). It tells us that he is all knowing (Rom. 11:33-34). It tells us that God has a glorious plan for the future (Rom. 8:28). He even has a plan for each one of us that will work together for his glory and for ours as well (Rom. 8:28-30). So when we start with what the Bible tells us we see that even though we can’t understand what we are seeing around us, we can trust that God knows and has everything well in hand. I can praise him for including the death of my wife in his glorious plan. I can thank him for including my life in his plan. I can strive to do what I’ve been called to do with all my might, trusting and knowing that I am a part of a much larger and more glorious adventure than I have any understanding about.
But I’m talking about me and my precious wife. Now let me talk about a 10 year old girl who was horribly murdered. It is a highly emotional event. It is an incredibly evil event. It rips the emotions right out of the chest and makes the observers really really angry. And our outrage, our rage, our shouts of revenge and justice are fully justified. But are they justified when they are leveled at God?
If we get rid of the emotion, and view the events in a Biblical way, we come up with a very different answer. First, the adults involved were vile and terribly sinful. But the Bible tells us how to handle these kinds of people (Num. 35:30). The Bible also tells us that even if the authorities don’t do what God tells them to do, that God is a righteous judge and the evil doers will not escape (Rom. 12:9). The Bible also tells us that God has a plan for the fact of evil (Rom. 9). Therefore, on the side of the evil done, God and the Bible has answers.
But no one is having problems with this part. Of course God will deal with evil in this way. The question is, why didn’t God stop the evil in the first place? I think the answer is the same answer I have for my dead wife. On one hand, I don’t know. On the other hand, God is good, faithful, just, loving, kind, and he has a plan. I don’t know what his specific plan is, but I know he has one. I don’t know why he didn’t step in and save the girl, but I do know God and I know he has his reasons. And they are way bigger than I am.
There are two other thoughts that popped into my head when I read your question. First, as I said, this is a good question—at least asked in the right way and in the right context; which what I assumed and why I answered you. But in another context, it can be an evil question. To question God without submitting to him as God is to stand in judgment over him. It is to say, “This happened, who do you think you are not to step in and stop this?” Or “I am the center of the universe and I demand that you do what I think you ought to do, and if not, I demand that you answer me and justify yourself.” God is God and we are not. To talk like this to God is a very dangerous thing. I think we should ask God things like this, but we need to remember, at some point, who we are talking to. If not, things will go very badly for us.
Second, to notice that this sort of event is evil shows that God exists and is good. If there is no God, there are no absolutes. If there are no absolutes, then everything is relative. If everything is relative and there are no absolutes, then nothing can have an absolute value; nothing right, nothing wrong. If there is no God, or if he is not good, what those people did to that little girl is neither here nor there. They did nothing wrong. If God doesn’t exist we can make no criticism about what they did. The fact that everyone reacts in the same way shows that God does exist. And it is right for us to make that judgement. And because he exists, we must deal with the whole thing the way he prescribes in the Bible. If we don’t, we become our own kind of evil.
Of course, we can take a vote on this and other kinds of behaviors and decide as a people that it was evil. Secularists think this is what they are doing, but when they make laws based on what we think is evil, everything settles down to the lowest common morality. Because we are all born in Adam (1 Cor. 15:22), we are sinners and we want to sin, thus we do sin and are constantly trying to justify our sin. This means that what we considered the standard for good and evil yesterday, is being pushed downward today. What was thought of as evil 50 years ago, is often taken for granted today. For example, whores existed then, but today the kind of behavior that would have landed that title on someone is so common that the word has no real meaning. And none of this means that we are becoming “enlightened.” It means that we are falling further and further into debauchery and evil. The evil that was perpetrated on that little girl is simply at the nasty end of the bell curve that describes our declining and rebelling society. The Bible says, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, And prudent in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20–21). Our culture is not the immediate audience for this passage, but it certainly needs to listen to the principle.
So to answer your question, I don’t know. I know God is good, he has a plan, it involves us, and it is glorious, and what happened to that little girl is part of that plan in the same way that the death of my wife is part of the plan.
I also know that you need to come to Christ and ask the question from inside his family instead of as a challenge to his existence and goodness.
I hope this helps.