The other night, Trey and I were going through our nightly bedtime routine with our three children. He was managing our two kids, who are 3 and 5, while I was getting our youngest, who is 15 months, dressed for bed. After Trey tucked Justin into bed, I heard him instruct Kate, our oldest, to put on her pajamas and to brush her teeth. We had gotten in from church earlier that evening, so while Kate did as he instructed, Trey stepped outside to finish cleaning out the minivan from our day’s activities.
We have a small ranch-style house, and all three bedrooms are on the same hallway. This hallway also leads out into our garage. As I was putting on Alisa’s diaper and pajamas, I heard the alarm over our garage door beep. I thought nothing of it since I knew Trey was going in and out of the house, but I also wondered what Kate was doing. She should have been brushing her teeth by that point, but I assumed she had gotten sidetracked playing in her room, as she often does.
A minute or so more went by, and I finished dressing Alisa. There was a nagging in my spirit to check on Kate, and I walked down the hallway in search of her. About the time I realized she wasn’t in the house, Trey opened our garage with a look of horror on his face. Kate was following sheepishly behind him.
“You won’t believe what our daughter just did,” he said to me in disbelief. “I was backing the minivan into the garage. As I was watching the backup camera, a flash of movement in the side mirror caught my eye, so I stopped to investigate. Kate was trying to crawl between the van and the wall as I backed in!”
You have to understand something about my firstborn daughter. Kate is my adventure-loving, good-time-seeking, “let’s celebrate something every night,” kind of girl. She will play hard with the best of them. But when it comes to activities that might even be remotely dangerous, Kate is not interested. She is usually overly cautious and less than motivated when it comes to risk.
Knowing this about our daughter, you can imagine my surprise when I learned that Kate was crawling on the ground right behind the moving minivan as dad was backing it into our garage. Not only was it completely out of character for her, but we have also talked with her at length before about the dangers of things like walking behind moving vehicles. Kate knows better than this! Suffice it to say that we talked very frankly with Kate that night about the dangers and realities of foolish choices. We hugged her with deep gratitude, and we praised God for protecting her.
You can also bet your bottom dollar that I did not sleep very restfully that night. The reality of what might have been assaulted my thoughts all night long. Over and over and over again, I kept thinking to myself, “How could Kate do this? She knows better!”
That question honestly haunted me for a while that night. How could my daughter put her life in such danger? It was completely out of character for her! Of course, Kate is five. She may know better, but she also still possesses the foolish whims and immaturity of child. I know that, but the weight of what her decision risked that night was too much for this mother. We will never fully understand why she made the choice she did in crawling on the garage floor as a moving vehicle crept closer to her, but we will be forever grateful for the grace of God in protecting our firstborn daughter from what might have been a very different outcome.
As I mentioned in the first post of this series, I believe there are several deep and heavy questions every person asks in the face of trials and tragedies in this life. How we answer these questions determines the substance, the quality, and the endurance of our faith as we walk the most difficult realities of life. Every person, whether he believes in God or rejects God, must face these questions head on at one time or another in his life.
The first question we asked and explored was, “Where was God when…?” As genuine followers of Christ, we know that God is always present, even in the most tragic and heartbreaking of circumstances. Where was He when the worst happened? He was right there, fully present and cognizant of every happening. It can be a difficult reality for us to grasp when the horrors of this world intermingle with our lives. But the truth is that God is also intimately involved in our lives and actively working to bring about healing and redemption for all people who call upon Him. He is always good, even when the worst happens in our temporary circumstances in life. If we trust that God is always unchangingly good, our faith rests in the knowledge that He is doing a greater work than we can see at the moment. Where was God when the worst happened? He was right there, and He was good.
The next question we will explore takes things a shade deeper, as we ask, “How could God let this happen?”
The question of “how” strikes at the heart of a relationship. It indicates that there might have been a betrayal of trust or a break in the relationship. Just as I asked of Kate that night, “How could you do this?”, this question indicates that someone has possibly acted out of character in such a way as to harm another or to betray the bond of trust that had been the foundation of a relationship. I can think of several friends whose spouses have left them or committed grave acts of betrayal in their marriages, and the conversations I’ve had with these friends have always included their heartbreaking question, “How could he/she do this?”
Often, when we hear others ask this question of God, it is said in this way: “How could a loving God let this happen?” The unbelieving world cites the incomprehensible tragedies all around us, and the world declares that these horrors are incompatible with the character of the loving and gracious God that Christ-followers profess. Many people conclude that if this is how a “loving” God acts, then they don’t want anything to do with such a God. Indeed, my dear friend who I mentioned in the first post of this series has said these very words to me in a recent letter.
But even those of us who still follow Christ must ask this question when we are faced with great loss and heartache. In fact, we must ask this question, because our faith will never go beyond a shallow, powerless belief if we don’t grapple with the truth that the worst sometimes does happen, and God might even have allowed it to happen.
It’s a valid question to ask, and the pursuit of an answer is worthy of our time. Come back next time, and we will ask together,
“How could God let this happen?”