TRIGGER WARNING: Photos in this post may be triggering to abuse survivors.
I believe in God. I also believe God answers prayers and God sometimes even performs miracles. I’ve seen it happen in my own life, and in the lives of people close to me.
But tonight I was reading a site about abused children–not children with narcissistic parents who grew up into emotionally damaged, but physically and mentally normal adults, but children who never had a chance at all. Children like 3 year old Jeffrey Baldwin, who was tortured almost from the day he was born, and whose photos show both the emotional and physical destruction of a human being, and ended in a painful, horrible death by starvation at the age of three. Or children like a 4 month old baby girl, whose name escapes me, who was repeatedly raped and tortured by her own father, and died of internal injuries. These are just two examples of children who God seems to have forgotten, but they are far from the only ones.
There’s bruising on Jeffrey’s face, but he could still smile.
Jeffrey Baldwin, second from the right. He could no longer smile; in these later photos he looked this way in almost every picture, before the light went out in his eyes.
A few days ago, there was a thought provoking and inspiring article called The Surprising Gifts of Suffering on the Dreams of a Better World blog (the post is in two parts), in which my friend speculated on the reasons why God allows people to suffer, some horribly. For emotional abuse victims, her argument that God is attempting to hone us and shape us into something more and draw us closer–knowing our souls are strong enough to withstand the abuse–make a kind of sense. We may not realize we were even abused until 40, 50, or even 60 years of age, but once we realize what happened to us, that’s when we begin to heal. Then we have something to teach the world. Many of us grew close to God because other humans proved to be so untrustworthy. We may never fully overcome the emotional damage, but if we keep an open mind and ask the right questions and learn the right lessons, we can reach out and begin to help others who were in the same situation. God knows we have the ability to turn our pain and suffering into something good and beautiful, which may be the reason we got handed that particular crappy deck of cards. Maybe.
I can even understand, to a point, sick and starving children in third world countries. Although they live in unimaginable poverty and squalor, suffer physically almost from the moment they are born, and in all likelihood will die at an early age, they usually still experience joy, acceptance, and love. Their families suffer along with them, and photos show these children being held and loved by mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends, and neighbors, who are all in the same boat. They don’t suffer alone. The healthier among them may still even laugh and play. Not knowing anything about prosperity, they are more able to enjoy the simple, natural pleasures that life offers.
But when I read about a case like little Jeffrey Baldwin, I just shake my head in sad bewilderment. I don’t understand how God could allow something like that to happen. For what reason? Some people may think it’s because God allows free will and Satan has dominion over a fallen world. But as I explained in a post I wrote a few days ago, I don’t believe the devil, if he exists at all, has that much power. Even if he did, why wouldn’t God step in and protect a helpless child who never had a chance, who no one prays for and no one cares about? If God loves us all, why would he allow an innocent life to be completely wasted, with no chance of redemption? Even if their souls go on to heaven, why would he put them here on earth, if their only fate here is to suffer and then die? If yelling at and cursing God is a kind of prayer, as a commenter the other day suggested it really is, then I guess I’m praying when I angrily implore to the heavens, “God, why THE HELL do you allow these things to happen?”