Keith Wishum: How could God let that happen?

Published 3:00 pm Sunday, March 22, 2015

A few years ago, I watched smoke pour from the Pentagon, the symbol of our military might. Our great nation, in which we place so much confidence, was under attack. The magnificent twin towers of the World Trade Center were destroyed that morning. Air traffic was grounded all over the nation. Our borders were closed. Many government buildings across the country were evacuated. More than 3,000 died in those attacks. Our nation was horribly shaken.

Inevitably, at a time like that, we ask, “How could God let this happen?” Many reason that a loving God who has power to do so would prevent such tragedies from happening. Some conclude either that God does not care, or that he is capable of protecting us. A few decide he does not exist.

It is understandable in such a time that we want to assign blame and to ask questions. Allow me to suggest another important question to consider. Instead of asking, “How could God let this happen,” perhaps we should ask: “How could God not let that happen? What would he have to do to prevent it?”

The only way God could prevent acts of terrorism would be for him to deny us the freedom of choice. The only way he could eliminate evil from the world would be to make us so that he alone controls our every action. But, we are simply not built to be robots. Do we really want to be? Because we are free to choose, there will always be some who choose to behave badly.

God is not the source of evil, nor is he responsible for it. “For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” Those words were written 2,000 years ago to people who were also enduring acts of terrorism (James 1:13-15).

Surely attacks like Sept. 11 are examples of how evil desire takes root in a human heart and eventually leads to death. Do not blame God. Do not lose faith in him. For us, just as for those early Christians, our need is to remember that “every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17). The rest is from another source.

Keith Wishum is minister, Williams Road Church, Americus.