I frequently hear people say “Everything happens for a reason.” It’s usually said in the midst of challenging circumstances as a way of trying to make some sense of the situation. But is this really true?
Does everything happen for a reason?
I posted this question on the Live Intentionally Facebook page which prompted a fascinating conversation with people with all kinds of diverse views about God and the universe weighing in. I love it!
Following that conversation, I realize one clarification is necessary: when we say “everything happens for a reason” we’re not talking about simple, physical cause and effect. We’re talking about a higher power orchestrating events for a reason. If a hammer slips out of my hand and lands on my toe, we all understand there are physical reasons for that – my hand was sweaty, gravity pulled it down, etc. That’s not at issue here. The question is whether God (or some other being/force) wanted the hammer to hit my toe for some greater purpose.
As you can already tell from the title of this post…
I don’t believe everything happens for a reason.
If we say “Everything happens for a reason” that would indicate that God (or some other all-powerful person/force) intends for everything to happen that happens. That is just not consistent with what I know from the bible or from personal experience.
First of all, the God of the bible (the God I know and follow) is a God of order. He created systems that govern the laws of nature. He does not have to choose where the planets will be every moment of every day; He created gravity to do that. He does not have to choose where and when it will rain every moment of every day; He created weather systems to do that.
Certainly there is both biblical and experiential evidence to show that God intervenes in world events. God can and has stopped the sun in its place (Joshua 10:13). God can and has caused the start and end of droughts (Haggai 1:11).
But if it rains, should I be saying, “I guess God didn’t want my son to play baseball today?” Or on a grander scale, “I guess God didn’t want the Patriots to win the Superbowl this year?” Does God have some greater purpose behind the fact that we’re out of bagels and I had an English muffin for breakfast?
If so, why create systems at all? It just doesn’t seem consistent with who God is and how He operates.
Certainly there is lots of room to debate the degree to which God is actively intervenes in day to day events. Sometimes – yes. Every time – no. Sometimes the hammer falls on your toe just because your hand was sweaty.
Second, we as human beings have free will. We can choose good or evil. All is not decided for us. If I punch you in the nose, it is not “God’s will” for you to have a bloody nose but mine.
God is all-good. He is not capable of perpetrating evil. He is also all-powerful and has the capacity to intervene in world events when he wants to. But he often he chooses not to leaving us to deal with the natural consequences of our actions both good and bad.
The good news, however…
is that the bible tells us in Romans 8:28
In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Even though God doesn’t cause bad things to happen to us, He is able to use all circumstances – no matter how bad – for our good if we allow him. The same power of God that raised Jesus from the dead is capable of healing our physical, emotional and relational wounds. And often in his infinite wisdom, God uses us to bring comfort, guidance and healing to others who are going through the same bad circumstances we experienced.
So, when I or someone I know faces challenging circumstances instead of saying, “Everything happens for a reason,” I choose to say, “This is tough, but God is powerful and loving enough to use even these circumstances to bring about good.”
What do you think? Do you think “everything happens for a reason?” Why or why not?