Feb 042016 0 Responses

Everything Happens for a Thousand Reasons

Just because there are times you shouldn’t say it, doesn’t make it untrue.

Everything does happen for a reason. There are no accidents. Events don’t take place which surprise God or thwart his plan. Everything happens with at least his divine permission if not his divine directive.

But I don’t say that as I’m standing in the ICU after the doctor has just pronounced the time of death. I don’t remind people of this fact as we are walking out of court after their marriage has been terminated. I don’t gleefully make this theological announcement as parents are weeping in my office over a prodigal child. (See: A Dangerous Assumption about God’s Will)

Truth is truth, but just because something is true doesn’t mean it is the right thing to say at a specific time.

It is true that a poor diet can lead to heart disease. It’s an important fact and one we should all know. But clearly we don’t state that truth at the funeral of a person who has died from a heart attack. It would lack compassion and meaning.

Truth must function inside context. Just because something is true doesn’t make it the right thing to say at a given time. Not only must our words be true, but they must be the right words for the moment. In times of tragedy, people need true words which are also comforting.

Yet just because truth can be said at an inappropriate time, doesn’t make it less true. Telling a grieving widow that a poor diet might have killed her husband is the wrong thing to say even if it is technically not wrong. But just because it can be the wrong thing to say, doesn’t negate its truth.

So it is with the idea that everything happens for a reason.

Every year someone writes a new piece denouncing this old cliche. Their intention is good–people say the wrong things at the wrong times and we need to stop them. But their conclusions are wrong. They assume that if a phrase is the wrong thing to say then the idea must be wrong.

This confirms what they already believe. Surely God would never will bad things to happen to us. Of course forget the history of the nation of Israel or Paul’s thorn in the flesh or God’s will for Jesus to die on the Cross.

But clearly bad things can happen at God’s direction.

And those which aren’t directed by Him happen at least with his permission. Consider Job. God wasn’t the source of the evil which happened to Job, but he did allow it. He gave his divine permission which, from Job’s perspective, was more significant. Job never yelled at Satan, but he had plenty to say to God.

God never told Job, “Hey, don’t blame me.” Instead he told Job that God’s actions are far greater than Job could ever imagine. What was happening to Job had far more meaning than Job could ever imagine.

Everything does happen for a reason. (See: My First Response to a Natural Disaster)

There is a sovereign God who holds sway over this world. While we might have freedom of choice, our choices do not override his power. Somehow the two–divine sovereignty and human responsibility–intermingle.

While it is a mystery why a powerful God would allow bad things to happen, the knowledge that God is sovereignly in control of our lives is great news.

Because everything happens for a reason:

God will never waste our pain. Every negative experience in our lives can be used for our good and His Glory.

God can bring good from every sorrow. Nothing is beyond his capability. Even in the most tragic of circumstances, God can create good. The positive results do not negate our sorrow or outweigh the grief, but it is a consolation in the midst of our pain.

We can have hope no matter the circumstance. If things happened for no reason then there would be times in which we would have no hope. If some situations stand outside of God’s sovereignty, our lives are completely up to chance.

We can continue to trust even in our doubt. While we may never know the reasons God allows a circumstance, we can trust no matter our situation because we know God has a plan. If things happen outside of His plan, there is no reason to trust because God is not worth trusting in.

I understand the discomfort with the idea that “everything happens for a reason.” I would like to let God off the hook from a lot of situations in life which occur. It would be easier to say they happen outside of his divine permission. But that is not the story which is revealed in the Bible. God has revealed Himself as one who is sovereignly in control of this world. This means at maximum he causes things and at minimum he has given His divine permission to everything which takes place.

This idea creates some confusion because I don’t know why God would allow bad things to happen.

But it ends in hope because I know that no matter what happens to me or around me, God can use every circumstance. (See: Why God Doesn’t Say Why)

While I believe everything happens for a reason, I don’t like the statement. It’s true, but incomplete. Everything doesn’t happen for “a” reason. Everything happens for a thousand reasons. It is far too simplistic to think God simply works in an “A causes B” scenario. God isn’t just doing one thing at a time. He is doing an incomprehensible number of things at all times.

Nothing happens in this world without His divine permission and for that reason, “everything happens for a thousand reasons.”

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