JonBenét Ramsey’s father: Why does God let terrible things happen?

After the 1992 the car accident that killed his daughter Beth, his eldest child from his first marriage, John Ramsey … Continued

After the 1992 the car accident that killed his daughter Beth, his eldest child from his first marriage, John Ramsey writes that his “immature faith in God plummeted to bedrock,” in his new memoir, “The Other Side of Suffering: The Father of JonBenét Ramsey Tells the Story of His Journey from Grief to Grace.”

GREGORY SMITH

ASSOCIATED PRESS

In this Aug. 29, 2000 file photo, Patsy Ramsey speaks as her husband John Ramsey listens during a short news conference in Atlanta. Prosecutors say new DNA tests have cleared JonBenét Ramsey’s family in the 1996 killing of the 6-year-old beauty queen.

Over time, Ramsey writes, he began to heal from Beth’s death and became convicted about the truth of the Bible. Then JonBenét, his 6-year-old daughter with second wife Patsy, went missing and was later found dead in the basement of their family home. JonBenét’s murderer was never found, and for years the Ramseys found themselves subject to police investigations into their role in her death. The Ramseys were later exonerated and the Boulder Police Department issued an apology for implicating them in their daughter’s murder.

“Where was God?,” Ramsey asked himself amidst his suffering.

Through the death of his two daughters, and later wife Patsy to ovarian cancer in 2006, Ramsey writes that he began to identify himself with Job, the long-suffering Old Testament figure who lost his members of his family and his wealth but was later rewarded by God for his faithfulness. Ramsey writes:

In the wake of his first daughter’s death, Ramsey writes that his faith was evolving and maturing—just as his daughter was found murdered. “When JonBenét died, I had no doubt she was in Heaven with God. My deep agony was for my loss, not JonBenét’s. I had lost a part of my future on earth.”

“One of my spiritual mentors, a man who taught me how to study the Bible after Beth’s death, told me ‘John, I believe JonBenét and Beth did not spend one more day or one less day on this earth than God intended for their lives.’ That thought was difficult for me to accept and understand. It illustrates the apparent conflict between man’s free will and the sovereignty of God,” Ramsey writes.

Still, deep mysteries remained for him. “I believe man’s free will gone wrong resulted in JonBenét’s murder. But was it God’s sovereignty that allowed such a terrible thing to happen?”

While coming to terms with his questions, Ramsey writes: “I had accepted that Jesus was exactly who he said he was. God, who came to earth in the form of a man to both teach us and provide a sacrifice for a God of perfect justice. I began to think of myself as a follower of Jesus, not an Episcopalian or Presbyterian [the churches Ramsey attended previously]. It made things so simple and clear.”

For Ramsey, it is the story of Job that has encouraged him throughout the series of tragedies, and that gives him hope for the future, writing, ”I must accept that He works all things together for good, even though I don’t understand the reasons or purpose of suffering. I must remind myself I don’t have the eternal picture. I can only see what is before my eyes. I don’t have vision for the unseen.”

“Job reached his peace at last,” Ramsey writes, echoing his own evolution. “’But now my eye sees You,’ he declared in Job 42:5, and what beautiful five simple words those are.”

“Now my eye sees You.”

About

Elizabeth Tenety Elizabeth Tenety is the former editor of On Faith, where she produced "Divine Impulses," On Faith’s video interview series. She studied Theology and Government at Georgetown University and received her master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. A New York native, Elizabeth grew up in the home of Catholic news junkies where, somewhere in between watching the nightly news and participating in parish life, she learned to ponder both the superficial and the sacred.
  • Hill_Rat

    “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
    Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing?
    Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing?
    Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing?
    Then why call him God?”

  • bedollo

    What a load of nonsensical baloney…

  • Rongoklunk

    Ramsey definitely had a lot of terrible luck – and I feel for the guy. He lived through hell. And to be accused of killing his own daughter must have been agonizing. So if believing in a god makes it easier to handle – then good for him.

    If it happened to me I don’t know what I’d do. But I know I would not believe in a god. What happened to Ramsey is evidence that there is no god – certainly no “loving” god. But the 27 children killed earlier today in the Belgian bus crash tells us that too. But so did the Japanese Tsunami and the 2004 Asian tsunami that killed more than 250,000 mostly poor folk. The world would be a much better place if there really was a loving god watching over us. But there isn’t, and the sooner we face it the better, The very idea is absurd and is not supported by anything tangible. It’s just wishful thinking.

  • KMH34567

    The theological answer to that question, I believe, is free will.

  • WmarkW

    Congratulations to On Faith for not running a modeling photo on top of the article.

    This story would have died 19 years ago, if not for tawdry pictures that publications could pretend were “news.”

  • WmarkW

    Sorry, 15 years ago. I got confused by the date in the article.

  • Sara121

    Free will, as it is generally understood, is an illusion. Even from a metaphysical perspective.

  • nkri401

    Sorry for his suffering but this writing comes off as a pious baloney.

  • nkri401

    Of all the pious baloney, Job stroy comes across as the baloniest of all.

    All the people around Job had to suffer terribly to see “You”?

  • HookedOnThePost

    Free will is a luxury enjoyed by those who are having a good day.

  • 1SkyTrooper

    God didn’t let terrible things happen, he did when he helped cover up his daughter’s murder by his wife.

  • mikeh3

    Someone who believes something despite all evidence to the contrary is considered delusional. A whole group of people who do the same thing is called religion.

  • Carstonio

    People like the Ramseys seem to believe in a god because they want to explain suffering. “Why” is the wrong question because it assumes that life’s suffering was deliberately created for a purpose. It doesn’t acknowledge the possibility that a god exists who wants to alleviate suffering and lacks the power to do so, or that such a god is indifferent or even unaware of human suffering. It doesn’t devalue the enormity of the Ramseys’ grief to suggest that asking “why” amounts to being stuck in the anger stage of grieving. Perhaps moving to acceptance means deciding it’s not important whether gods exist that have anything to do with suffering, and that last part is an important caveat. I admire people like John Walsh and Roberta Roper, who used the tragic losses of their children to accomplish good for many other people.

  • ImNotaWitch

    God doesn’t intervene in the daily affairs of man. Man has been given free will and that IMHO means God is not part of what goes on down here. He created us and that was the end of it. What happens happens. It is our faith in Him that carries us through whatever occurs in the venal world.

  • lafayette89

    I agree. How can there be a god who oversees the fate of individual human beings? Why would he let a Stalin or a Hitler arise to murder tens of millions of innocent lives? Stalin even died rather peaceably in his bed. Man is responsble for his own fate, and it is a sophistry to explain God’s role as a simple observer, just to keep him in the picture.

  • James210

    I’m invoking divine right of blonde status. “Natualized” to fine shade of sand.
    the devil wears white. Do you require further proof?

    ok, i am going to throw them a bone, because i am too stupid to know otherwize and because they like to be the bigger person in the “Control” situation? i wish!

    a pattern, often implies law. Now if one were to demonstrate a consistant pattern of say misleading , those of us that are too uneducated to know eitherwise? or perhaps a loss of hope and not caring about their fate, wouldn’t care? but don’t beast them down too harshly(?)…for they do good works, just misguided by the drunken spectre of power and holding a life in one’s hands.
    Oversight?

    I would surmize that a little country attorney could possibly have had a third party investigation and pending legal based on _____?
    but i could be wrong as I usually am! about impending events. God only knows why I am the one tasked with watching, this garbage heep. the devils time is short.

    I would throw the the “staircase”, with my compliments. and then look the other way.
    Shell’s keep track of your cubs? glorious , too see that revealing mask

  • Secular1

    It is very poignant to even read about Ramseys. The accusations they had to endure in the midst of their grief. In his case that was compounded by his loss of another on eof his children and his wife too. While his comparison to Job of the old testament is perhaps apropos. That said it is very important to point out there are some huge differences.

    1) Story of Job is just that a story. A complete work of fiction – a fairy tale
    2) In case of John Ramsey the suffering is real, in case of Job there never was any real suffering by any one
    3) Ramsey’s suffering was not premeditated necessarily, for sure the latter two deaths.. However, in the story of Job the fictional suffering was entirely premeditated.
    4) John Ramsey’s suffering story is very poignant and evokes unbelievable empathy. Story of Job is a vilest of vile stories, shoved down teh throats as a story of virtue and blind faith. It is the most despicable story of all. We are supposed to swallow that horse manure as act of piety. On the other hand if any human in position of authority or power were to do anything remote similar to the atrocities the sky daddy commits in the story, that person would tarred and feathered and run out of every town, village, and hamlet throughout the world.

  • david6

    So, KMH34567, God is not powerful enough to allow free will and keep evil in check.

  • lastofall

    For this cause does our Lord tells us that His grace is sufficient for us, because His strength is made perfect in weakness. Which is why we who do believe look not at the things which are seen as the unbelieving world does, because we know the things which are seen are only temporal, wherein the unbelieving world has there hope and trust and confidence in. But we look for the things which are not seen, because those are the things which are eternal.

  • afnelson4141

    The account about Job explains a lot but you have to start at the beginning. When Job lost his children, along with his wealth, it wasn’t God who did it. The first and second chapters plainly shows who was behind it: Satan. That God allowed it to happen involves the challenge in Job’s case brought by Satan’s accusations against God: that he (and all others) would only worship him if Jehovah bribed him to do so through prosperity and protection. That challenge explains a lot.

    All of these years people have been “blaming God” for things that Satan does (think of clauses in insurance policies about “acts of God”). But everything that happens isn’t directly caused by Satan but the result of his system But it will be corrected soon for Satan’s days are numbered. (Rev. 12:7-9; Rev. 20:1-3,10)

    .

  • PhillyJimi

    I am an atheist and as a human I can’t imagine anything worse then losing a child. Then the double damage of being accused of being part of the murder of your own child. When I was a believer I was also taught the Job story or the “Is part of god’s plan” and we can’t possibility know god’s plan.

    But I was also taught that god is supposed to be all knowing and all powerful. I have to say the Job story has to be on of the most immoral stories in the bible. God is gambling with the devil. The bet is only about stroking god’s insecure ego. He let’s the devil mess with Job to show the devil how much job loves me. In order to let the bet play out god knows murder of innocents will happen. Why does anyone think this is a moral being worthy of worship? If god is moral, he tells the devil “No, I am god and I already know you can’t corrupt Job. I will not let you commit murder in order to settle an immoral bet.”

    The other coping story I hear from the religious is, “god’s plan”. The death of a loved one is just part of “god’s plan” and we can’t possibility know god’s plan. Well then what happened to freewill?

    Just read your bible, god of the bible is a genocidal monster who killed millions and killed children for making fun of a bald man. He killed the first born children of Egypt. Who knows how many children died in the flood.

    It is so extra funny when you study history the devil never existed until monotheism was invented. With only 1 god when bad things happened there was only 1 god to blame. This was a big problem thus the devil needed to be invented to be the fall guy for when bad things happened.

    The whole thing is silly, and the Ramsey’s are using the drug of religion to cope. Reality can be harsh and cold at time but I don’t feel choosing to believe in the myths of 2000 year old sheep herders is a path to truth or a way to improve the world we all share.

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