Someone recently asked me about how to respond to a man whose family was killed by a drunk driver. The questioner wanted to know how to break through this man’s grief and explain why a loving God would allow this.
From a big-picture standpoint, Christians believe that all bad things happen as a result of the fall of man. We rebelled, wrecked the world and have to live with the results. But this explanation provides little comfort to those who are dealing with tragedy in their lives.
As I have grown older, I have become increasingly comfortable with allowing God to be mysterious. This has relieved me of some of the pressure to provide explanations for particular events.
I believe that Scripture supports me in this. God told Habakkuk:
“For I am doing something in your days that you will not believe when you hear about it” (Habakkuk 1:5)
Through Habakkuk, God announced that he was going to use Babylon to punish Israel for her rebellion. When we read this 2,500 years after the fact, we can lose touch with what went on. Really, really bad things happened to people when they were conquered by Babylon. The fact that God announced it ahead of time does not make this event less tragic for those who were wounded, killed or taken captive.
In a sense, in the quote mentioned above, God is telling Habakkuk that he won’t get his head around what God is going to do and perhaps he shouldn’t even try.
In the same way, when we are speaking with someone who is forced to endure a difficult situation, we can lose sight of the fact that the pain is real and that no explanation will alleviate that pain.
We are doing everyone a disservice when we try to explain God’s motives for allowing a particular event.
In the book Embodied Hope, Kelly Kapic draws from John Swinton to highlight three negative consequences of attempting to explain why God allows an event.
- The explanation often ends up justifying or rationalizing evil. By doing so they end up calling evil or suffering “good.”
- The explanation often silences the voice of the sufferer. The danger is that we can “smother the wounded with useless and often inaccurate explanations.”
- Explanations as to why the evil has occurred “can actually become evil in themselves, promoting further suffering rather than providing genuine comfort.”
So, when a friend, family member or church associate is struggling to deal with a difficult situation, understand that it is not your job to explain it. By attempting an explanation, the most likely outcome is that you will misrepresent God and hurt the person you are attempting to help.