Everything Happens For A Reason?
I have heard it said many times, “everything happens for a reason.” This statement in some ways is true. It is true in that everything that happens has a ‘reason’ that can be explained, whether we know that reason or not.
The ‘reason’ for an earthquake is that the earth’s tectonic plates shifted.
The ‘reason’ for a hurricane is that air rose up the center of a thunderstorm out at sea and the rising column of air created a rotation that picked up speed.
The ‘reason’ a cake rises is because the carbon dioxide in baking soda is released as a gas by reacting it with acid or heat, and as a gas it is much larger thus making it bubble and rise.
The ‘reason’ a ball falls down after it has been thrown is because of gravity.
The ‘reason’ you bruise is because your capillaries near your skin's surface break and leak red blood cells when impacted hard enough.
Before we knew the scientific reasons for these things happening, they still had an explanation. So yes, everything does “happen for a reason” but that is not what people mean when they say it unfortunately, because in that case they would be better off. What is usually meant is that everything that happens has an existential reason and purpose.
The earthquake, the hurricane happened for a reason to accomplish a cosmic purpose.
The cake was baked, the ball was thrown, the bruise was caused (apart from the intentions of the human or natural agent) for a reason to accomplish a cosmic purpose.
For people who do not believe in God or “gods” I do not know how they are driven to say this because “purpose” would require a mind behind all the events pulling strings to make them happen a certain way.
For Christians I understand how some come to this conclusion. Some people feel very uncomfortable believing that even the smallest detail on this planet is out of God’s control. His omnipotence requires everything to happen His way in order to accomplish His purposes. All of existence is His tapestry.
That sounds very poetic until you begin to look at the tapestry. If it is true that “everything happens for a reason” then that would mean every woman that has ever been raped had to be raped. Every child that was ever killed had to be killed. Every mental illness case was necessary. Every cancer patient had to suffer and either die or live with it’s consequences. Every broken bone, bloody nose, middle school break up, Justin Beiber hit and 80's fashion was necessary to accomplish God’s purpose.
If we are at the mercy of careless god’s then all we can do is suffer, but the Bible tells us that God loves us (Jer 31:3) and that He is love (1 Jn 4:16). So we must ask the question, if everything happens for a reason then does God’s purpose require these things to happen or is He powerless to have it come about any other way? If He does not require it to be this way and if He is not powerless then why does he choose to have it come about this way?
Often we say, “everything happens for a reason” to demonstrate trust, and I believe that is commendable. But the statement makes a terrible accusation that when bad things happen God is the culprit behind it.
Jesus told a parable once about a man who sowed wheat. During the night a hooligan came along and sowed weeds among the wheat. When the seeds began to sprout the servants were confused. Maybe some asked themselves, “why would he sow wheat and weeds together?” and others responded in full trust of the owners expert farming skills, “do not question him. Everything he does has a reason. Why would he deliberately destroy his crop and lose millions and have thousands starve? He must have some sort of plan although we do not understand.”
Of course this is all hypothetical but the question they ask the master suggests it, “Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?” (Matt 13:27) to which the owner responds, in short and swift words, “An enemy did this” (V.28).
In other words, "I didn't do it."
Often when bad things happen, instead of going to the owner and asking about the weeds in the field, we stand around in the field trying to justify the weeds. It is great that we trust the owner, but the town nearby that is about to starve needs to know that the owner is not careless.
Not everything that happens has a cosmic reason. Not everything that happens is God’s doing. Not everything that happens is part of his purpose. To a lot of things God might say, “An enemy did this.”
And there are amazing stories of people who have suffered great loss but in the end God brought out something beautiful. But please do not get it twisted; just because something beautiful came out of it does not mean God needed the tragedy to happen. If something beautiful came out of it, it is because God can make beauty from the ashes. For it is written in the book of Isaiah, “To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.” (Is 61:3)
These words were written to the people of Judah who, by their own doing, had brought destruction upon themselves. God had not given them ashes, but he gave them an offer they could not refuse: beauty for ashes.
We need to stop saying that everything happens for a reason. It is unbiblical and it serves a terrible witness to our amazing loving God.
But rather what we should say is: God can make beauty from the ashes.
Now that requires mature faith.
And it sounds much more beautiful.