God Can Bring Good from Bad

Tim Richards   -  

God Can Bring Good from Bad

I recently finished, Before We Were Yours, a fascinating novel by Lisa Wingate. Her book tells the story of families severely traumatized by social worker, Georgia Tann. She was widely respected in Memphis until it eventually became obvious she was mistreating children. Tann was at the center of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society scandal of 1950. Though the specific families’ stories Wingate told are fictional they are representative of Tann’s victims.

Tann sometimes had poor children kidnapped from loving homes while others were legitimately removed from dysfunctional families, but each child in her care was neglected and abused as they awaited adoption by wealthy parents. Children who misbehaved or for whom she could not find adoptive parents often suffered severe abuse. Up to 500 children are thought to have died in her custody.

State law at the time kept her from charging Tennessee’ parents more than $7 for an adoption. Because of this, 80% of children she placed went to families in New York and California where she would sometimes charge up to $5,000 per adoption according to The Knoxville Focus and the Historical Quarterly.

Adoptive families did not know how the children had been treated. Famous adoptive parents included: New York Governor Herbert Lehman, and actors Dick Powell and June Allyson. Actress Joan Crawford adopted twin daughters.

Though she began trafficking children in 1924, her crimes did not become known until her homes were shut down in 1950. She was diagnosed with cancer that year and died before her wrongdoings became public and she could be prosecuted. At the time of Tann’s death her net worth was around $1 million, equivalent to $12.5 million today.

While it seems unfair, Tann apparently got away with her crimes, at least until she had to face God. Still, some might ask how an all-knowing, all-powerful God could allow such horrific behavior? Though I cannot fully answer this question, I want us to consider what the Old Testament patriarch Joseph told his brothers years after they sold him into slavery, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (Genesis 50:20, NLT, my emphasis)

Though we rarely see it clearly at the time, God can and often does use bad situations to accomplish great good. Joseph was sold into slavery but years later God used him to rescue millions from starving during a horrible famine. Despite all the bad Tann did, placing children with well-to-do families helped change the public’s attitude about adoption which led to more children finding loving adoptive parents. What she did was very wrong, but God used her reprehensible behavior to bring needed change. Many may question how a good God can allow bad things to happen but both Joseph and Georgia Tann’s stories illustrate God sees things from a much larger perspective than we do.

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