How Could God Do This?

Author: Mary Beth Bonacci


By Mary Beth Bonacci

I realize that there's already been tons of ink spilled over the Oklahoma City bombing tragedy. And I realize that with the lag time between when I write these articles and when they're published, there will be even more articles written. Still, I wanted to address the issue at least once.

We all expect terrorism to hit in foreign countries. Terrorism seems to be a phenomenon of the big city and international intrigue and corruption. People who live in major world cities know the risks they take.

But this is hitting just a little too close to home. If it could happen there, in the middle of the Heartland, it could happen anywhere.

Having just been in Oklahoma City makes this event all the more chilling for me. I spoke there just a couple of months ago. I wonder if I met anyone who was hurt or killed in the blast. I know that virtually everyone I met was profoundly affected by it.

I know that a tragedy like this brings up hard questions. Where is God? How could He allow something like this to happen? There were children killed in there, for Pete's sake. How can this be?

I have no easy answers. But it is important to keep one thing in mind. God did not "do" this. It was not God's "will" that this brutal tragedy occur. It was the will of men with twisted minds, men who were going directly contrary to the will of God. They were the ones who did it. I'm sure God would have strongly preferred that they had spent the day feeding the homeless or going to church or even staying at home watching soaps. But they chose to spend their time destroying people's lives. It was their idea, not God's.

The problem here is a problem of free will. Free will allows us to freely choose to love God instead of being forced into submission like some kind of pre-programmed robots. Unfortunately, the same beautiful system that allows us to freely choose God allows us, by definition, to reject Him. And, just as we've seen, some people do so -- in a big way. Whenever someone rejects God, people get hurt. God is love. Rejecting Him is rejecting love and what's left is hate, violence and brutality.

So where do we go from here? Well, one thing we do know is that God "writes straight with crooked lines." He didn't will this tragedy to happen, but now that it has, He will work to bring good out of it. It's hard to imagine how good could come out of something so awful, but it really can. The community has come together. The world has reached out with a truly amazing outpouring of love and support. Rescue crews arrived from cities all over the United States.

Most importantly, we've seen an ugly, awful glimpse of the power of evil. We're more aware than ever of our need for God.

I know this has been a wake-up call for me. I've been reminded of the brevity and uncertainty of life. Life is not just a neat little package where we're guaranteed long and protected lives. It can change or end at virtually any moment and that can tend to realign our priorities.

The things that last are all that matter in the end: God, eternal life, saving our souls, bringing other souls to Him and relying on Him in a world where evil so often seems to triumph.

When tragedies like this hit, it seems that evil has triumphed. But this was only a battle. In the end we know who wins the war. There's great comfort in knowing that, whatever twisted havoc free will can cause, God is victorious in the end.

It's just sad that there have to be so many casualties along the way, especially when those casualties are children.

Bonacci is a frequent lecturer on chastity.

This article appeared in the May 18, 1995 issue of "The Arlington Catholic Herald."

Courtesy of the "Arlington Catholic Herald" diocesan newspaper of the Arlington (VA) diocese. For subscription information, call 1-800-377-0511 or write 200 North Glebe Road, Suite 607 Arlington, VA 22203.