Everything happens for a reason.
This is a phrase we are likely all familiar with and have heard many times from those who are trying to alleviate our suffering and give it purpose. Perhaps we have even said this phrase to ourselves as a way to try to muster the courage and fortitude to get through a particularly tough time.
This is a phrase that Christians and non-Christians seem to both like, but is it true that everything really does happen for a reason?
Relevant contributor John Pavlovitz says no. In his article “No, Everything Does Not Happen for a Reason” he explains that while God certainly gives our lives meaning, the idea that everything we suffer, all the horrible experiences we’ve ever endured, have a purpose and meaning is actually harmful to our Christian walk.
When we say that everything happens for a reason it tends to put an inordinate burden on us to discern what that reason is. Because of this, we may be tempted to search and search for a reason that will justify something that may simply be the result of the reality of sin and living in a fallen world.
“In our profound distress, this idea forces us to run down dark, twisted rabbit trails, looking for the specific part of the greater plan that this suffering all fits into,” says Pavlovitz.
This is similar to the idea many of us tend to have toward God’s Will. We tend to think of it in terms of the specifics of our lives (career, relationships, where to live, etc.) when those things are actually secondary to obeying God’s Will in things like praying, being in community with the body of Christ, or reading the Bible.
In the same way, there is a more concrete, less elusive way to deal with the confusion that suffering can bring.
Crosswalk.com contributor Brian Cosby, in his article “How to Respond When You are Suffering,” suggests that there are two main ways we can rightly respond to trials in our lives.
Firstly, there is the passive response. “Passive responses have to do with humbly affirming God’s character (sovereignty, goodness, wisdom, etc.) and trusting him and his plan for your life,” says Cosby.
Secondly, there is the active response. This response includes such practical actions as “Communing with God by reading and meditating upon his Word”, “Individual and corporate prayer”, ”Resting in the assurance of his promises through the Lord’s Supper”, “Reading helpful literature on the subject” and “Repenting of any particular sin that has become evident during your trial.”
When going through a trial, it is actually comforting to know that we don’t need to search for transcendent meaning in the midst of the pain, but also comforting to know that God always has the purpose of making us more Christ-like, whether in the valley or on the mountaintop.
In this way, there is a reason for all things that happen, even the bad things, but this reason is not a mystery and we are not detectives.
We are children of God who live in a fallen world, awaiting His ultimate renewal of all things, and that should give us greater hope than anything.
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: February 17, 2016
Veronica Neffinger is the editor of ChristianHeadlines.com