Why does God let other people hurt us?
For that matter, why does He let us hurt ourselves?
It’s because God has granted to each human the incalculable gift of free will.
On one hand, it is the greatest gift He could offer us, since it makes true relationship possible. It makes art and music and poetry and amazing feats of engineering possible. It gives us the ability to dream and create and argue and think our own thoughts. It gives other people the ability to surprise us, to delight us, to comfort us.
Without free will, we’re less than human, less than interesting, and might as well have remained inert clay with no breath of God breathed in.
But it comes at a high price.
Back in the late 90’s, when I was a much younger missionary, I participated in a prayer time for the nation of Indonesia. At the time, a terrible persecution was happening to some of the Christians there. Someone read out an account of murder and rape so brutal that all I could do was weep.
After the prayer time, I was angrily processing my feelings with God.
“Why did you even give us free will if this is the sort of stuff we do with it?!”
His answer was so gentle, and didn’t come in words. Suddenly I knew what an incredible gift it was that He gave us. What enormous dignity He gave us. What enormous potential He put in each one of us by bestowing on us the gift of freedom.
I saw that it was worth it.
But at what a cost to Himself.
If God truly loves us—as I believe He does—then He must suffer most of all when we suffer.
Because when you truly love someone, you can never be unmoved by their suffering. And God sees it from all angles. I only saw how my Christian brothers and sisters were suffering in Indonesia.
But God saw each person causing the suffering as well. He knew them each by name, and He saw their potential and how they were using the gift of life and breath and choice that He gave them. He wanted so much more for them, as well as for their victims.
God suffers most of all.
He can’t take away our freedom to make bad choices without taking away our freedom. If He only allows us to make good choices, then we aren’t really choosing at all.
But when we can choose, we can love.
As Christians, we’re called to overcome evil with good. Our ability to bless when we are cursed, to pray for our enemies, to love those who hate us are all because God gave us this gift.
And that is how good overcomes evil.