Author Kelly Ferguson is a soft-talker, an introvert, faithful, quietly strong, and ostensibly, the least likely to ask, “Why does God hate me?”
But first impressions aren’t reliable. You can’t possibly know the inner thoughts or struggles of those you barely know. Over dinner one night, this self-described “church goer”—a woman I knew only superficially—did reveal much about herself. And to my surprise, she had asked, “Why does God hate me?”
She had asked it a lot.
“I felt like I was a victim of God’s ploys to discipline or toy with me,” Kelly told me. “Everyone told me that God was a righteous father and judge,” and they said this with the fervor of a stump preacher. “But I couldn’t see or understand God’s love.”
It would take many years before she did.
Many Ask, “Why Does God Hate Me?“
Kelly isn’t alone. She’s one of many who also ask the same question.
In an article published in a Jesuit magazine late last year, Jim McDermott wrote that on a whim he googled “Why does God…” He wanted to see what would populate. “Why does God hate me” was number three on the list.
“It is not just people today who asked that question either,” McDermott wrote. “In the Hebrew scriptures, the ancient Israelites are constantly assuming that anything that goes wrong in their life is a punishment from God… It doesn’t have to mean that they did something wrong or that God hates them.”
It can just mean that life in our lost and broken world can be horrible.
Questioning God’s Motives
If you were Kelly, you might feel justified in wondering why bad things kept happening. You too might question the Creator’s benevolence and motives.
God, for example, hadn’t stopped Kelly’s earthly father from walking out on her mother and younger sister and then shifting responsibility to nine-year-old Kelly, already a rule follower.
“Take care of your mom,” he wrote in a note addressed to her. “I’m leaving.”
His abandonment ended her childhood and impoverished the family—a situation made worse when he used the lure of brand-new school clothing to groom and seduce her when she was just a teen. “We could only afford thrift shop clothes at home, and he made me feel beautiful, special, and good about myself… However, I soon found out he wanted something more personal from me.”
Looking for Abba
She dreamt of a husband, a family, a new life free of poverty, struggle, and abuse from men who said they loved her. “If I married a pastor,” Kelly had reasoned, “God would love me, and nothing bad would ever happen again. I could start over.”
When Kelly met Clayton at a college in Kentucky, she found the man of her dreams—a soon-to-be minister with dark hair and eyes. She fell in love at first sight, certain God had answered her prayers.
Despite their youth, she and Clayton eloped and had a child a few years later. He became the center of her world, and for the first time, she felt happy. Stable. Hopeful. “I watched him father our daughter. I didn’t know what a good husband or father looked like, and he showed me.”
Then it was over.
God hadn’t healed Clayton of glioblastoma, the most aggressive type of brain cancer, despite prayers and heartfelt beliefs that he’d beat the disease and proclaim what the Lord had done.
“I lost everything when Clayton died at the tender age of thirty-three. I was a single mom, and I didn’t want that for my daughter. God let me down, and I asked, ‘What did I do to deserve this? Why does God hate me so much?’ Clayton’s death was the last straw.”
The Other Shoe Drops
The trauma of losing her husband, coupled with her dad’s abuse during a rare visit to see him, blinded her to the blessings in her life, she told me.
Despite having terminal cancer, Clayton miraculously got a life insurance policy and fought hard to live the required year so that Kelly could receive the settlement.
Of course, the money wouldn’t restore Clayton, but it did ease financial worries. She bought a home and took a part-time job, which meant she could participate in her daughter’s activities—all the things many single moms can only dream of doing.
But instead of appreciating the provision, she got angry. She wallowed in self-pity. “Why is He trying to make up to me now?” she asked, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Depression to Understanding
Clinically depressed, Kelly became suicidal. She had a plan to end her life. “And I was going to take my daughter with me because if we couldn’t be a family on earth, we’d be one again in heaven. But I was especially afraid knowing I’d have to face God as well.”
This suicidal ideation was the point when she knew she needed help, and she asked a friend for a referral to a mental health counselor.
“I didn’t know the process of grief,” Kelly said. She’d never worked through the steps after being traumatized by her father. But through disciplined journaling, therapy, and the support of close friends, she learned that being angry at God was okay, a natural response to trauma.
“When I understood that disease comes from a dying world set in motion by humans in the Garden of Eden and that abuse is the result of humans’ bad decisions to hurt others, I saw the truth and shifted the blame away from God.”
She also learned that God hadn’t abandoned or forgotten her. He’d made sure she survived and that something good would arise from her hardship. “God took my trauma and turned it into something good…to help others recover from trauma.”
In 2019, Kelly published Love Lifted Me, a devotional drawn from the journal entries she wrote during therapy. She also started a bereavement group…a gratifying endeavor this shy woman never imagined for herself. And just last year, a piece called “Love’s Pursuit” was published in Abba’s Heart. Her writing career continues.
Why does God hate me? It’s a question Kelly no longer asks because she knows He never did.