I recently re-posted a meme from a Facebook page called Christian Today on my Hungry for God page. It said, “Faith tells me that no matter what lies ahead, God is already there.” A person named Phil left a comment that broke my heart. He asked, is God there “even when a priest is about to rape a boy?”
Now Phil could be one of those people who trolls Facebook and Twitter looking for opportunities to stir up trouble by being contrary, quarrelsome, and generally unpleasant. The best way to deal with this type of commenter, I’ve found, is to ignore them.
Or Phil could be a real person whose heart is genuinely troubled by the fact that people in authority sometimes abuse their positions and do horrible things to others. Phil might even have been that boy who was raped by a priest.
I’m going to assume Phil is sincerely asking the question, “Where is God when people are hurting other people?”
Phil, I can’t give an exhaustive answer to your question. The parameters of my blog and the limits of my theological knowledge don’t allow for it. But I would like to share a few things I know to be true, both from Scripture and from my own experience.
1. Yes, God is there when a priest is about to rape a boy. God is all knowing and everywhere. He sees. He knows. And his heart breaks.
2. Then why doesn’t he stop it? is the next logical question. If he’s so powerful, why doesn’t he prevent tragedies like this?
God created mankind with a free will. He gave us the ability to choose our own way. We can choose to honor him with our actions, or we can choose to dishonor him. The ability to choose between good and evil is what makes us different from animals.
In the beginning of time, God created a beautiful world free from sin. No murder. No rape. No one in authority using his power to hurt those who trust them. He placed Adam and Eve there. Every day he walked and talked with them in the cool of the day. He provided everything they needed to be happy.
But perfection wasn’t good enough. They wanted more. They wanted the one thing God had withheld from them—the ability to determine right and wrong for themselves. Their disobedience introduced sin into God’s perfect paradise, and every generation since then has followed in our forefathers’ sinful ways.
3. Sadly, the freedom to choose means many will choose to sin against each other, like this priest you reference in your question, but also like me, and like you. If God chose to intervene every time we sinned against each other, we would no longer have free will. Instead, we’d be automatons, and God didn’t create automatons. He created human beings.
4. Although God doesn’t stop every act of cruelty that man commits, he does make several promises:
First, everyone who has rejected Christ as his/her Savior will stand before the judgment seat of God and give an account of their actions. That priest will not escape ultimate justice at the hands of God, who saw every thought, word, and action he committed. As Jonathan Edwards said, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God.”
Sin, especially sin committed against a child, makes God very angry. Listen to his Words in Luke 17:2: “It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.”
Second, God can use everything, even a horrible, cruel, devastating action such as rape, for good in our lives if we surrender it to God. For many of us, it was the very thing that could have destroyed us that God used to bring us to himself.
When Jesus saw the sinfulness of the people of Jerusalem, his heart broke. He wept, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34). Jesus wants to heal us.
Finally, God can redeem and restore those who have been harmed by the sinful actions of others. World-renowned Bible teacher Beth Moore was the victim of childhood sexual abuse. She has said, “God will often take our pain and turn it into a passion.” Beth has dedicated her life to helping women find restoration and hope a life by surrendering to Christ. She’s a powerful testimony to the fact that God can turn our misery into ministry when we place it in his hands.
Cec Murphy, author and co-author of over 135 books, including 90 Minutes in Heaven, was also the victim of child sexual abuse. He writes about it in his book, Not Quite Healed: 40 Truths for Male Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse and on his blog, Shattering the Silence. Cec and Beth, along with countless others, surrendered their pain to God and allowed him to redeem it. They’re living the truth of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
Phil, if you are that boy who was raped by a priest, I am so sorry. I understand a little of your pain. A trusted adult also molested someone I love. While that horrible action changed her life forever, it also thrust her into the arms of Jesus, where she found cleansing, healing, and hope.
I pray this will be true for you as well.
Placing our faith in Jesus Christ is our only hope in this sin-sick world. This is why he came—to break the power of sin like the one Phil mentions and offer us the hope of heaven. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, I’d love to share my story with you. CLICK HERE to hear what someone told with me about how to know for sure when I died that I’d go to heaven.