God and the Rain

Why doesn’t God step in and stop bad things from happening?

On a cool cloudy day in Manhattan, a young mother walking with her three children (one in a stroller) was caught in a sudden downpour. She was pushing the stroller, holding the hand of her little girl, and juggling a bag of groceries on top of it. When the rain came down, she started to hurry, because she was afraid the baby, who had been sniffling, would get sick. The oldest was giving her trouble, and she yelled at him to be quiet while she hurried to cross a side street before the light turned. The rain was heavy, and visibility was bad. She didn’t see the car turning, and the driver, also in a hurry and not completely sober, didn’t see her. She and all three of her kids were killed.

Except that didn’t happen. Here’s the true version. I had gone to do some shopping, and having checked the weather forecast, I brought a small folding umbrella with me. When I got to the store, I was surprised to see my wife there, shopping. (This was before cell phones.) She was on the way home from work and also had an umbrella. We started walking home together just as the rain began pouring down in buckets. In the hope of staying dry, we each opened our own umbrellas. As we got to the first cross street, I saw the woman with the three kids bent against the rain and rushing to get out of it.

I was not a Christian at this time, but I had been going to church occasionally, and I was in the process of thinking about Jesus, the Gospels, and the possibility that God was real. Without more than an instant’s thought, I crossed the avenue, went up to the woman, and gave her my umbrella. She gave me a smile, said thank you in Spanish, and I could see the relief on her face. She held the umbrella over the stroller, and continued more calmly on her way, joking with her kids, and stopping at the corner for the light to turn back to green. My wife caught up to me and gave me a smile. We walked the rest of the way home under one umbrella, which was fine.

Did God prevent a tragedy there? We will never know. The first paragraph is clearly derived from my own imagination. Did the Holy Spirit come to me and whisper the suggestion of a charitable and selfless act? That is probably the case—first, because this was a time when the Holy Spirit seemed to be actively engaged with me; and second, because such charitable acts toward strangers were not among my habits. I had been born and raised in that city, where interactions with strangers are not part of the culture.

Perhaps this story is only one of millions of stories of God’s interventions to prevent tragedies that we can never know about, and the tragedies that do occur are those where the intended agent (in this case, me) chose not to follow the whisper of God’s urging. What I think is crucial is that if my fantasy is actually true and God used me to save four innocent lives, then we must all always be open to doing acts of kindness and mercy, because we, humans, acting here in the physical world, are one of the ways in which God intervenes for good. Theologian Thomas Jay Oord, in his new book God Can’t suggests that this is always the way that God works in love to bring about transformation in the world. I don’t know if that’s always true. But now, as a follower of Christ, I certainly do believe that at least once, many years ago on a rainy New York street, that is exactly what He did, and I was blessed beyond measure to be His instrument.

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4 Responses to God and the Rain

  1. Bruce says:

    Excellent insight! Thank you for sharing. I’ve got a funny feeling that there will be many things where we thought we did good that aren’t necessarily going to be so good and also many things that we did, almost without thinking, at God’s leading, that will shine and we have forgotten about. Blessings brother.

  2. dgilmanjm says:

    Very good story. People keep asking why does God not step in to prevent bad things from happening. In fact atheists actually use that argument as their proof that God does not exist. Your story is an illustration of one of the many answers I give.

    In your story, you simply exercised your free will. God does not force people.

    Neil DeGrasse Tyson has posted his problem with bad things happening even though God is supposed to be benevolent. I would love one day to tell him; and others like him this:

    The only way for nothing bad to happen is if:
    1. God does not grant free will (We are all pre-programmed.
    2. God steps in every time we choose wrong, or not to do the right thing. (Free will is meaningless)
    3. There would be no bad consequences regardless of what we do or not do.(The entire universe is illogical)

    Having granted us free will, it would be inconsistent for Him to withdraw it or make it meaningless. Also, the universe will never become illogical. So, how will He fix it? By allowing, empowering and authorizing someone and/or a group to use their own free will and act. We have already been given the identity of the principal one who will act to fix things.

  3. SheilaDeeth says:

    What a neat example, and a powerful call to act!

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