Girl wearing a hat sitting in field
Soul

Does everything happen for a reason?


One morning I was in the gym changing rooms getting ready for the day when I overheard two ladies greeting each other after they had been out of touch for a while.

Friend A (walks into the changing rooms and greets Friend B): “Hi, how are you?”

Friend B: “I’m doing better thanks.”

Friend A: “Why better?”

Friend B: “My husband and I were getting takeaways a few days ago and we were robbed at gunpoint. We had drawn cash for him to pay his workers the next day and they took it all.”

Friend A (without skipping a beat): “Don’t worry, God has a reason for this.”

If I was part of that conversation and not just eavesdropping, I would’ve punched Friend A in the face!

I have an inherent loathing of this phrase “everything happens for a reason.” It is usually an automatic Christian reply when someone experiences trauma or tragedy.

Your child died?

Everything happens for a reason.

You’ve been diagnosed with cancer?

Everything happens for a reason.

There is an earthquake in Haiti?

Everything happens for a reason.

You’re getting a divorce?

Everything happens for a reason.

Really?

When people say these words, do they really believe that God is a vengeful God who punishes his children to serve some greater goal like we are puppets on a string? By using this clichéd reply you are belittling my pain and telling me that the heartache I am experiencing is not that important or even valid. Jesus experienced pain, disappointment, anger, and grief here on earth. His emotions were valid, and so are the feelings of anyone of his children who experience suffering here on earth.

There is no verse in the Bible that tells us that “everything happens for a reason.”

Our Father is a father of love. In Matthew 7:11 Jesus teaches that just as our earthly fathers would never do us harm but only want the best for us, how much more would our Heavenly Father not want to give us “good gifts”?

I know the plans I have for you

We also read in Jeremiah 29:11 that our Heavenly Father says “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,” plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Would such a loving Father cause death, destruction, and tragedy?

No. That is all our fault.

God created man to live in a perfect relationship with him in the Garden of Eden for all time and eternity. Adam and Eve just could not be satisfied with that arrangement and succumbed to the temptation of the serpent, causing the fall of man into sin (see Genesis 3). By eating of the forbidden fruit, they caused man to be separated from God and allowed evil to enter the world.

Evil is from Satan.

God is good.

God gave man our own free will

Adam and Eve had a choice whether they wanted to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and they made the wrong choice. Similarly, humans make terrible choices every day. They rob each other and kill each other. They hurt each other, sometimes for “good” reasons and sometimes for no reason. Death and disease are the consequences of sin, so some people get sick and some people die.

All actions have consequences

In Galatians 6:7-10 Apostle Paul teaches the congregation that “you will always harvest what you plant.” If you plant seeds of selfishness or hatred, you’ll harvest a crop of sorrow and evil. If you plant to please God, you’ll harvest joy and everlasting life. (See Life Application Bible – NIV). Therefore, suffering and pain can sometimes be a consequence of our actions. If you run the red light you might get a fine or be in a fatal accident. God did not cause you to run the red light. You made the decision all by yourself, and the consequences can be devastating.

God’s role in pain and suffering

On his blog, John Pavlovitz writes that “pain doesn’t have a predetermined purpose, but pain can yield valuable fruit.” God can use pain and suffering to discipline us as a father and “God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness.” (see Hebrews 12:5-13). Pavlovitz further explains that God doesn’t cause us suffering, but he sits with us in the suffering so we can experience his holy presence.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:3-5)

James 1:2-3

Jesus taught us that we would have “many trials and sorrows” in this world (John 16:33) because we are not of this world. We were designed to live in Eden with him and the Father. We are involved in an epic battle for our souls. Apostle Peter also warns us to “stay alert” against Satan who “prowls like a roaring lion.” He encourages us to “stand firm against him and be strong in your faith.” (1 Peter 5:8-9) In Ephesians 6 Apostle Paul cautions us “that we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world…”

Satan’s goal is to remove us from God. The easiest way for him to achieve this goal is to cause intense suffering. The closer you get to God, the stronger his challenge to separate you from the Heavenly Father. His favourite weapon is doubt. Doubt in God’s goodness, and doubt in his love. Therefore, I believe he loves spreading this half-truth of “everything happens for a reason.”

God can use trials and torment for his divine purpose. He won’t cause the pain, but he can use it to display his glory. This is illustrated in John 9 after Jesus healed the blind man and the disciples asked him why the man was blind. Jesus replied, “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.”

This quote by Ray Firestone is so profound I could not dare summarize it:

“Suffering is not God’s desire for us, but it occurs in the process of life. Suffering is not given to teach us something, but through it we may learn. Suffering is not given to punish us, but sometimes it is the consequence of our sin or poor judgment. Suffering does not occur because our faith is weak, but through it our faith may be strengthened. God does not depend on human suffering to achieve his purposes, but sometimes through suffering his purposes are achieved. Suffering can either destroy us, or it can add meaning to our life.”

Romans 8:28

For God to use all our valleys and our mountaintops for our good, we must love him first and live according to his purpose for us. Then we will see his plan fulfilled in our lives and we will be “more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37). Nothing we can get up to or go through can separate us from the love of God. No bad decision or sin is too great for the love and grace of God to cover it. God wants us to live with him for time and all eternity. He wants us to overcome this world so we can be with him in the Kingdom of Heaven.

God would never cause his beloved children any harm. He does not bring about suffering but suffering is a result of this broken world we live in. Yet in his infinite wisdom he can help us learn and grow closer to the image of Jesus Christ out of the circumstances we endure here on earth.

So, everything does not happen for a reason, but we can find purpose in the pain.

This song below creates this beautiful picture of that day when the war will finally be over. I imagine we will be exhausted as we lay down our weapons and do a run-walk towards Jesus. Can you imagine the relief? I can’t wait!

These links inspired many of the thoughts and ideas in this post:


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