By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved.
Originally published in a slightly different version.
This man has violated our trust. I have to wonder, does God like that? If He is so just, why did He sit by and let this happen? I am hurt, my child is hurt, other families are hurt. And he gets a few years in prison for all this pain he has caused, which will never end for all of us whom he has hurt. How do we go on from here? Where is God’s justice?
This quote is an amalgamation of words I have heard from many victims’ families. The same basic words, the same hurt, the same questions are being spoken again and again. But this is the answer I made to one woman who asked me similar questions about her experience of domestic violence, with minor editing where specifics were included in the original.
What I see here is actually two questions and I’d like to address each of them separately. The first question is about God’s justice. The second is how to reconcile the hurt you’re experiencing. After addressing each of these questions, I will include a third section that specifically answers how to appropriate God’s healing.
First, is the question about God’s justice. This is a very real, justifiable and honest question. The betrayal and hurt are real. The injustice is undeniable. And where does God fit into this type of situation? It seems so obviously something that He could not approve of and would certainly not want for one of His children. So, why did He let it happen? Why has He done nothing to “fix” it? Why does the injustice continue with the minimization of your pain by the church? What appears to be real here doesn’t match up with what we’ve been told is true about God. So what is the truth?
There are several factors that shed light on the truth of this situation. The first thing I want to make completely clear, however, is that the hurt is real and God doesn’t for one minute discount it, deny it or turn a cold shoulder toward you in it. He has very specific answers for you and He truly cares — in a real and tangible way, not a dim, distant, theoretical way. The Word says God IS love. He cannot act in any other way toward you because love describes, fundamentally, WHO He is. It is literally impossible for Him to act toward you in an unloving way. What will hopefully become clear is why your circumstances don’t seem to bear that out and how you can walk in the truth of God’s love — experiencing the reality of His love for you even in this circumstance. This question will be addressed in more depth in the second and third sections.
The question of God’s justice is one that people stumble over often, and in this case must be answered before being able to find help for the second question. The Word says that God is just. Either He IS just or the Word isn’t true. And if the Word isn’t true, then it’s all a lie. Since I believe the Word is true, we are left with the question — why does injustice continue?
First of all, God has put limits in place within which He has chosen to operate. When God created the world, He created man unique. God gave man the unique attribute of a free will. Now, there is a beautiful reason for this. Man is the only created being (with the limited exception of the angels) who has the ability to choose to love and relate to God. Every other created thing simply does exactly what it was created to do — which honors God as Creator. But there’s something far more special about man in that we have the choice to relate to God. That honors Him far more. How much greater glory is given to God by a created being who voluntarily chooses to love, serve and worship Him?
With that blessing of a free will, however, comes a huge risk. And God knew, before He ever created mankind, what we would do with that ability. Since we have the ability to choose to love God we also have the ability to reject Him. And when mankind chose to sin in the Garden of Eden, we chose to put ourselves under the authority of Satan. The sin in the garden wasn’t just about eating a piece of fruit. It was about choosing to believe and obey God or choosing to obey our own will, making ourselves our god (see Genesis 3:5). In doing this, we unknowingly placed ourselves under the authority of Satan (John. 8:44). For this period of time, until God ultimately defeats and binds Satan for eternity, the earth is under Satan’s dominion. Because these are the parameters we selected with our sin choice, God has limited Himself to them — actually in deference to our free will.
Now, it might seem unfair that Adam and Eve could make such a choice and lock the rest of us into it. The truth, however, is that we all make our own sin choices, too. And our sin choice is the same as theirs — I will be my own god. And my sin is no different than their’s in its consequences. I can’t blame it all on Adam and Eve. If I have ever once made a sin choice of my own, I have merely affirmed the decision they made.
Because God has limited Himself to the consequences of mankind’s sin choice, He allows Satan a free hand on the earth. He does intervene, and, in spite of Satan’s attempts to the contrary, God has a bigger plan at work that He will and does accomplish. But the injustices of this life are merely the natural consequences of mankind’s choice to sin. At the same time that God will not force you to love and obey Him, He will not force a pastor, clergy member or violent spouse to do so either — even if that means that you are hurt by your another’s sin.
This is a hard truth. At the same time, it can be liberating to understand it. When I finally understood this, it made a huge difference in my dealing with the injustices I experienced in abuse. For one thing, I realized that God wasn’t doing all this to me. This was quite simply the results of someone else making a sin choice. That doesn’t make it easier. But it puts responsibility where it belongs.
I also realized that God did not abandon me in this place. This wasn’t “His will” for my life — which would mean that He was a cruel and harsh God to me. It also helped me to better understand and pray for my abusers. The problem wasn’t that God wasn’t answering my prayers. The problem was that these other individuals were walking in bondage to sin and God would not force them to change. God would attempt to draw them to Him, in answer to my prayers, but God would not force them to turn to Him.
Another factor in dealing with this situation is remembering that God cannot be anything other than Who He is. In this particular case, the attribute in question is whether God is truly just. The Word says that God is just. But justice is not merely an ideal He upholds. God is just — this is a fundamental description of who He is. He cannot act in any other manner.
However, one attribute of God cannot be isolated from all the others. God is just. He is also long-suffering and patient. God is love. God is the Redeemer. These are just a few of the absolute characteristics of God, but these are the ones in particular I wanted to note in this situation.
God is love. His love for your abuser is no less than His love for you. Because He desires that “all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9) He is long-suffering and patient. He doesn’t extend this patience toward your abuser to hurt you or in neglect of you. He does it because He loves your abuser. In fact, as you are praying for your abuser, this is what you are praying for. God is answering your prayers in His patience.
But what about God’s justice? Let’s look at some Scripture.
John 5:22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.
John 5:27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.
Here we see that the Father has given over the function of judgment to Jesus. This is an important thing to note before seeing this next fact.
John 12:47-48 And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
Notice when this Scripture says that God’s judgment will be enacted. Yes, God is a God of justice. But during this time on earth, God, through His Son Jesus, is extending mercy to mankind. God judgment, the exercise of His justice, will take place at the end of time. As long as your abuser remains alive, God’s patience will be extended toward him. That doesn’t mean that his choices will have no negative consequences — because sooner or later they will. What he sows he will reap. But those consequences probably will not make you feel better. Your abuser may never acknowledge what he has done to hurt you. But the truth is that his sinful choices are between him and God, first and foremost.
So, where does that leave you? Knowing the truth about God’s justice and patience does nothing to alleviate your very real pain. I will address this question separately in the second section — When God’s justice leaves me hurting.