By Jordan Burgen
Hello, we are very much enjoying attending your church services and your kids ministry is amazing. I had a question about how to handle an issue that has come up. My husband and others have been very upset about the recent deaths of a family in Erie. The questions of ‘why would God let this happen?’ Or ‘how could this happen to kids that young?’ are tricky to work through. I am unsure what to say or how to even explain the faith it takes to understand that God was there and he knew what would happen. Can you please help me with an explanation if possible? Thanks in advance!
Thank you so much for reaching out with your question. It is a very good question that I will try my best to help you out with.
I have struggled with these sentiments myself and been frustrated at times with the answers people have given in the face of them. So, I very much admire your desire to handle the questions your husband and others have delicately. The fact of the matter is that we live in a fallen world where people choose to do horrible things. God gives people the space to have free will so that we may respond to Him in a manner that isn’t coerced. All people, at times, respond poorly. Sometimes people do horrendous evil with that free will. However, God DID do something about that evil. Because He is holy, He is not able to condone such evil, and therefore all evil must be punished. Because He is loving, He overcame that evil by punishing His Son instead of us so that we would not have to bare the penalty of evil ourselves. This substitutionary atonement, or grace, is applied to whoever has faith in Jesus Christ. Whoever does not will have to pay for their own sins through separation from God after death. Either way, not a single evil act will go unpunished. Justice will be served. So, God was with that family in th face of evil by way of promising that justice will be done; either by punishing the man that did it (if he is not saved at the time of his death) or in Jesus on the cross. Jesus Himself said “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) He is our only hope in terrible circumstances like this. And at the end of time, God will renew this world and make everything new. Jesus talks about His 2nd Coming in Matthew 19. He calls it “the renewal of all things” which is the greek word “palingenesis” which the pastor Timothy Keller explains as this:
“This was a radically new concept. Jesus insisted that his return will be with such power that the very material world and universe will be purged of all decay and brokenness. All will be healed and all might-have-beens will be…Everything sad is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost.” (The Reason for God, pg. 33)
In other words, God has already dealt with the justice of evil on the cross, and He will eventually deal the earthly consequences of evil by undoing everything evil has caused. For now, He is giving people free will to allow for more time for more people to be reconciled to Him. In the meantime, we are to persevere (James 1:12), find our hope in Christ (Ephesians 1:11-14), and tell as many people as possible about His invitation to this new life (Matthew 28:18-20).
I hope this helped a bit. I admit that this is a very hefty topic that many minds greater than mine have tackled, and I’m not sure I did it justice. The Keller book I quoted from is a very good resource for hard questions such as this and I would definitely recommend it. Thanks again for reaching out, and please let me know if you have any more questions!
The "Good Questions" blog is a place where some of the really good questions people email into the church can be shared with everyone, along with Jordan Burgen's response. Jordan Burgen is the Content & Theology Pastor here at Flatirons, so he answers a lot of the emails sent in to us. To ask a question (about anything, really), please fill out a contact form here or email Jordan directly at