So at the risk of being completely controversial – which is sooo unlike me, right? – I am no longer convinced by the phrase which I have said and which has been said to me, that “everything happens for a reason”.
In the moment when we say it, we’re doing the human thing of trying to offer hope and comfort. But when I read my Bible, I don’t see it. I don’t see anothing kind of phrase or verse which tells me that everything I endure happens for a reason.
What I do read is the assurance,
“That God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28
Which is actually very different.
People who don’t know God for themselves have been convinced He is this angry, sinister being who just sits in heaven causing bad things to happen to people. And it’s our fault, as the Church and well-meaning Christians have stated time and time again, that “everything happens for a reason”.
People who knew God, and have endured such horrific and challenging moments in their lives, at the hand of others, as a result of others’ choices and actions, have found it difficult to comprehend why the God they love and serve would allow this to happen, if “everything happens for a reason”.
Now what I am not saying, is that God isn’t aware of what is happening, for He is the God of all creation, beyond time, knowing the end from the beginning, and fully aware of what is happening before it happens. Yeah, I know what you’re going to say – if He knows what’s going to happen, why doesn’t He just stop it from happening? One day, we will know the answer to this and many other questions.
But what I do know, is that God has chosen to extend grace to His creation, and allow us to determine what level of control we designate to Him in our lives. And while not everything happens for a reason which God has ordained, when we subject ourselves to His will in our lives, He can and will work things out – the good, the bad and the ugly – and bring about a purpose behind what has happened.
Reason. Purpose. They’re two different concepts.
There may not be a specific reason behind something we have endured or been hit by, other than: a bad decision on our part, a character flaw in someone else, the decision to take a call while driving, the choice to not go to Church, the lighting-up of the first drug, the determination to date that person inspite of red flags, the mind set to steal..the list is endless – these are all man-made choices. Either yours or mine. They aren’t God’s decision. The result or consequences of these choices aren’t God’s either, so we can’t blame Him if or when things go wrong. We may be on the wrong side of someone else’s bad judgement, but God is not to blame.
Purpose, on the other hand, means that in spite of the pain, the hurt, the negative experience, the anger, the heartache, the battle, or whatever is the result of the man-made reason, we can ask God to step in, to work things out according to His will and purpose. Knowing He will bring a purpose in the darkest of our moments. Isent this part of our faith-journey?
When we learn to see things through God’s eyes, we stop assigning blame to Him, and learn to walk through the “valley of shadow of death” we fear not evil, nor God being “mean” against us. Instead we learn to recognise God is,
“close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” Psalms 23:4
Knowing God walks with you raises our confidence, and we can ASK Him to protect us from “wicked people” (Psalm 17:9) from “deadly disease” (Psalm 91:3), from “trouble” (Psalm 32:7), from “temptation and evil” (Matthew 6:13), and from the schemes of the evil one (Ephesians 6:12-13). All of God’s protection is freely available to those who love Him, walk with Him, ask of Him – for those who ask will receive – who obediently follow His direction, His instruction, His prompting.
When parents want to protect their children, they want to keep them in their line of vision. The hardest part is when they are trying to encourage independence and the child is no longer within sight, then the child relies on what they have been taught, and parents trust the wisdom and obedience of their child.
God has taught us what is required of us, He is always with us, will never forsake us. But if we don’t look to Him, or ask Him to protect us or guide us, how then can we say “everything happens for a reason”?
Infertility doesn’t happen for a “God-reason”. Domestic abuse doesn’t happen for a “God-reason”. Becoming homeless doesn’t happen for a “God-reason”. Being in an accident doesn’t happen for a “God-reason”. Being made redundant doesn’t happen for a “God-reason”. Being diagnosed with cancer doesn’t happen for a “God-reason”. Being the victim of theft or fraud doesn’t happen for a “God-reason”. If any of these did, then sure, God would be to blame.
But a “God-purpose” can be sought in any situation, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Ask God to reveal it. Walk in it. Walk tall through it. Don’t slouch, God isn’t mean and nasty – He is your loving Father who gives you strength to endure, faith to believe it will one day be over, and the confidence to know this will not be the end of you.