"O God, Why did you
let this happen?"
A behind the scenes
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
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.
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
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.
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
- 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.
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
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?
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Scripture quotations are from the
Revised Standard Version of the Bible.