"O God, Why did you let this happen?"
A behind the scenes look
into the unseen conflict between good and evil
by Gerald Wheeler
Although the Allies knew far ahead of time of a planned German air raid on Coventry, England, they dared not order the evacutaion that could have saved thousands of lives.
Cigar clenched between his teeth, a grim-faced Winston Churchill stalked through the hollow ruins of England’s Coventry Cathedral. A thin local clergyman walked beside him, pointing out to the prime minister and the rest of his party the bomb and fire damage. Newsreel cameramen hovered along the edge of the group as Churchill paced the miles of appalling devastation from this latest German air raid.
Reichsmarshal Hermann Goring’s Luftwaffe had tried for weeks to bomb England into submission, blasting London into a flaming shambles. But the daily attacks seemed only to make Britain resist with greater determination. So Goring turned his attention to other major cities. Finally he ordered a raid against the pride of England, the beautiful city of Coventry, located in the heavily industrialized Midlands district. The region produced most of Britain’s war materials.
Swarms of bombers droned through the darkness of November 14, 1940. They quickly leveled 70,000 homes, killing those who did not make it to the air-raid shelters. They destroyed or damaged most of the city’s ancient churches. St. Michael’s Cathedral became a gutted shell. England felt heartsick and bitter as the once beautiful city lay in a pile of smoking debris.
A terrible secret
Churchill now walked through the smoking ruins of Coventry Cathedral. To millions his solemn expression symbolized the British determination to stand up to the enemy no matter what the cost. But only a handful knew that behind his expression he carried the burden of one of the most terrible secrets that a man can struggle with.
For the raid on Coventry had been no surprise to him.
Churchill had known it was coming - in time to have evacuated the city’s doomed population. But he did not. To have done so would have jeopardized one of the most vital and closely guarded secrets of World War II: Project Ultra.
Within a few hours after the German military command sent a message, Project Ultra had it broken. The Allies had obtained a model of the German code machine. Complex as the code system was, the British set up a special task group to decipher the messages.
The project gave the Allied Forces the knowledge they needed to survive an enemy that had an almost overwhelming military superiority. Ultra saved the British army from annihilation before Dunkerque; it provided the Royal Air Force with sufficient warning to get its Spitfires and Hurricanes into the air before the Luftwaffe could destroy them on the ground. Again and again it was the only thing between the Allies and defeat.
At three o’clock on the afternoon of November 14 a code message came through from Luftwaffe headquarters. It contained the name Coventry. When deciphered, it revealed a planned air raid on the city. F. W. Winterbotham, the man who ran the Ultra project, called up Prime Minister Churchill’s office.
Churchill had to decide what to do about the raid. He could order the city evacuated. The Royal Air Force could begin jamming the navigational aids the Germans used and take other countermeasures. But to do any of that would alert the press to the fact that the government had advance knowledge of the attack. The Germans would begin wondering how they knew. Was there a leak in their security? As a precaution they would change their code system. No longer would the Allies have access to German military orders. The only advantage the Allies seemed to have would vanish. The prime minister agonized over his decision - the people of Coventry or the fate of the war.
He made his decision. Churchill simply had the firemen, police, and ambulances secretly put on alert. The people of Coventry had to suffer and die so that their tragedy would save countless lives later and help win the war. It was a terrible decision to have to make, but Churchill made it and now walked through the ruins of Coventry.
What would you have done?
What would you or I have done had we had to face that choice? What were Churchill’s thoughts as he paced Coventry streets? Perhaps he had an inkling of how God must feel as He looks at our world and sees the suffering that ravages it.
Suppose a mother who had lost a child in the air raid somehow discovered the choice her leader had made. Coming up to him sobbing, she demands, “Why? Why did you let this happen?”
What would he have said?
The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:28, “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him.”[i] When tragedy strikes, when adversity attacks, we cling to that promise. Pleading, praying, we beg God to honor it. We are sure He will make everything all right. And when He doesn’t, with bitter tears and perhaps even hatred, we demand, “Why, God?” The woman of Coventry, who looked up to her national leader, would have had a hard time understanding his decision. Perhaps she would have turned away from him in scorn and anger. Will man do any less to God?
Our world a battleground
The Lord also walks through the smoking ruins of Coventry. He, too, is a leader of embattled forces. Our world is a battleground. The forces of good and evil struggle for victory among humanity. Satan challenged God’s right to rule in the universe He created. Scripture tells how “war arose in heaven” (Revelation 12:7), and the conflict still rages on earth.
The accuser (Satan, or the devil) contends that God’s government is unfair and based on selfishness (see Job 1:6-12). His arguments were subtle and persuasive. Scripture hints at his success in influencing some of the angels, beings who lived in continual association with God Himself (see Revelation 12:3; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). If angels who knew God through intimate relationship with Him rejected Him, how could man see through or refute Satan’s claims?
To deal with the devil’s charges, God must clearly demonstrate His nature to man and the other created beings of the universe.
Jesus revealed the meaning of the statement “God is Love” through His life on earth. Each one of us who did not have the opportunity to walk with Jesus on the dusty roads of Palestine must come to know that fact through a personal experience with the Substitute He left behind - the Holy Spirit. We must come to know Jesus as the embodiment of all love, reflecting the same love as His Father.
A second objective
In addition to revealing His own true nature, God must also expose Satan’s true character, must help us to know what sin does. Satan can lie and distort, but God cannot. The devil has at his disposal every devious weapon of falsehood, innuendo, or propaganda. God has only the fact of His own character - which evil has so blinded us to that we can no longer see it clearly.
Only one way exists to break through such blindness. The Lord must let sin and its author work out its terrible course so that all will  have no question about its consequences. The Lord’s revealed love contrasts with sin’s total selfishness. We will know from personal experience the results of each choice.
The Lord, unlike Satan, never forces anyone to make a decision against his own free will. He never manipulates His created beings like mindless chess pieces on some cosmic chess board. But God constantly sets before us the alternatives and outlines the consequences and rewards of each.
Scripture constantly pleads for man to “choose life” (see Deuteronomy 30:19); to " 'Choose this day whom you will serve ' " (Joshua 24:15). Elijah asked Israel, " 'How long will you go limping with two different opinions?' ” (1 Kings 18:21). Repeatedly the Lord begged man to make a decision. But He left it up to him as to which way he would choose.
To let each being decide without coercion, God gave him evidence on which to base this decision. And only Satan can provide convincing evidence against himself. The way to forever remove all question about Satan, his claims, and his plans, is for a time to permit him to put them into effect. The true Satan must stand up. God must walk through the smoking ruins of Coventry.
Given free reign
Should God completely prevent Satan from putting his concepts into practice, the devil could argue that the Lord didn’t want him to succeed, that God was afraid he would demonstrate that he had been right all along. Satan would work to create the suspicion in the minds of the other created beings that perhaps he had a point. Doubt, as the universe has seen, is almost impossible to eradicate once raised.
So for the ultimate good of the universe, God stepped back and let Satan operate. The Lord chose to walk the smoking ruins of Coventry. Every being must fully satisfy himself about Satan’s and sin’s true nature. Each has to witness evil in action. If God should intervene too much, Satan could angrily charge that the Lord was unfairly meddling, that Satan’s leadership was turning the world into a mess only because God’s interference was upsetting everything.  It is the only way God can ensure that another Satan will not arise again without His using coercion.
“We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him.” We find it a hard thing to accept when we see no apparent good coming out of a tragedy - when we perceive only evil and suffering in the world around us.
Where are You, God?
Elie Wiesel, a well-known Jewish writer who survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald, where his parents and a younger sister died, tells of the congregation of a synagogue in the Warsaw ghetto when the Nazis began to systematically exterminate the Polish Jews. Each day a few of them would disappear, rounded up by the German soldiers, never to be seen alive again. The rest of the congregation would gather at the synagogue, and the rabbi would pray, “We are here, Lord.” With each passing day fewer and fewer were left. But still they met in the synagogue. The rabbi continued to pray, “We are here, Lord.” Finally only he remained. Everyone else was dead or in a concentration camp.
“I am here, Lord,” he prayed at last. “Where are You?”
All humans at some time or other have felt that same sense of total, utter abandonment. We may not pray it or say it aloud, but our hearts demand, “Lord, are You still with us?" With Jesus we pray, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken us?” But God has not abandoned us. For He walks the smoking ruins of Coventry.
Job cried out in his agony, " 'The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away' ” (Job 1:21). But Job was wrong. We must never blame God for taking away. Satan takes away. He destroys; he brings suffering. The Lord walks the smoking ruins of Coventry so that in the end good will win the war against sin and Satan. But though He permits much to happen, God does not stand passively by. He quietly works to ease some of the pain, just as Winston Churchill put the emergency services of Coventry on alert.
The unexplained
Many times events seem completely without rhyme or reason. A young couple awaiting the birth of their first child went shopping at a mall. As they left their car, they decided upon a place to meet after they had finished their different errands. Then they parted.
Seconds later a shot shattered the murmur of shippers’ voices. For no reason that anyone could ever discover, a stranger walked up to the young wife and killed her and her unborn child. The husband, a deeply committed Christian, had to struggle with the question of why God had allowed such a senseless tragedy. There was no point to it.
And the Lord walked with him through the smoking ruins of his Coventry.
Each of us has experiences that make us question our faith, for we cannot understand why a loving God would permit them. So we torture ourselves with guilt that we have displeased or not satisfied God, or we turn in our wrath against Him. But we must always remember, must always cling to one fact: God still walks through the smoking ruins of Coventry. And as He walks, He weeps bitter tears with us.
Copyright © by Gerald Wheeler
Used by Permission
1 Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible
Project Ultra remained Britain’s secret throughout World War II. Located 50 miles north of London at Bletchley Park, Project Ultra continually intercepted high level German messages which allowed the Allied Forces to build an accurate picture of ongoing enemy plans and orders of battle. After the Allied landing on Normandy in 1944, intercepted signals between Hitler and his general led to the destruction of a large part of the German army in France.
For 29 years after the war, the existence of Project Ultra continued to be an official secret. In 1974 the ban was lifted after the publishing of the book The Ultra Secret by a key participant in the Project.
Source:  Encyclopedia Britannica, 2006
[i]  Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible.