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When Bad Things Happen to Good Children

Dr. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker

When tragedy strikes, like it has in Oklahoma City, and children are trapped beneath the rubble of their collapsed elementary school, it causes each of us to gasp. We stare at the television or Internet sites, not because we want to gawk, but because we are transfixed by disbelief. How could this happen to innocent children?, we wonder. This, of course, is ridiculous reasoning because we know that tornadoes don’t select as their victims adults, children, nice folks, or mean ones. They just happen.

As we pray and process, our disbelief turns to incredulity, and we want to pin the problem on someone or something. We need to place blame because a tragedy like this just seems, well, wrong—at least in America where we don’t expect natural disasters to be a regular part of our daily lives.

So we look to the most reasonable place for blame and that is to the God who controls the wind and its direction. The tornado was unmerciful as it destroyed lives and families. How could we call the One who commands the tornado anything like “merciful” or “kind”? Isn’t this an impossibility?  In the moment, yes, it does feel impossible, but soon it won’t be.

After parents who have lost a child stand up again and folks who have lost their homes take a step or two forward, we will be able to see that maybe the God who allowed this to happen might be good. But for today—in the midst of the agony—it feels unreachable.

If God is real (I fully believe that He is), then He must embody kindness. He must be rational and merciful if He is anything like the Bible says that He is. This isn’t sophisticated theology; it is Faith 101. God is good. And He is kind.

So, why, then, do horrific things happen to beautiful and good children? Rabbi Harold Kushner, author or When Bad Things Happen to Good People, reasoned that God allows bad things and suffers with us, but He doesn’t forbid them because He is limited. I disagree. How can God be limited if He is God? We can’t escape that He is responsible.

I think that something else is going on that we can’t see or understand. God doesn’t wish bad things to happen but He allows them because I think, He doesn’t see them as devastating as we do. Of course He doesn’t want anyone to suffer, but He knows that when we live on earth, suffering will be part of our lives. But God sees a side of life that we can’t see and I think that this reality allows Him to withstand the pain of tragedy.

God sees what happens to the children and adults after they suffer the tragedy and die. He sees them rise from their bodies and dance in heaven. He longs to have them home with Him and as quickly as the tragedy comes, it ends for Him because He oversees immediate restoration. But we don’t. We stay here stuck staring at the rubble—waiting, praying, and hoping beyond hope that loved ones will survive to see another day down here on earth.

To those parents who hurt today, be encouraged. Although the pain of loss never quite leaves you, the peace of God offers comfort that passes all understanding. And for the children who don’t survive, heaven awaits with a life that is far sweeter than we experience on earth. Faith is deciding to believe that this is true.

I have come to embrace this belief because I have witnessed tragedy and seen the goodness of God pierce through human pain. And sometimes in his mercy, He gives us a glimpse of the life beyond. I encourage you to pick up Heaven Is for Real or Proof of Heaven so that you can see a small piece of what God has ready for the innocent children who don’t survive tornadoes. Our prayers must stay diligent for the parents those little ones leave behind.

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