When my close friend died, I was devastated. I grieved for a long time and a part of me still grieves his death to this day. I am a much better person now than I was before he passed away. I appreciate life more, I treat everyone with more respect, and I have learned not to take anyone or anything for granted. But if I come across someone who believes that everything happens for a reason and if I ask them why my close friend passed away, will they tell me it's because his death made me a better person? Is that reason reasonable? Is the improvement in my behavior really worth the cost of my friend's life? Isn't it possible that I could have improved myself by learning in another way? I think the answer is obvious...
Accepting that we are imperfect and therefore our world is imperfect brings more peace to me than trying to rationalize all the irrational events in this fallible world. While I may not believe that everything happens for a reason, I definitely believe that there is a lesson to learn in every situation. So when I hear on the news about another woman being raped, instead of trying to justify the irrational "reason" behind it, I'm better off remembering to take my mace with me next time I leave the house because sadly, unreasonable things happen in this unreasonable world.
I understand why people like to believe there is a reason for everything that happens. The statement brings with it a shadow of light in a world of darkness. But that's just the problem, it's a shadow of light, it's not actually the light itself. It's not real, not for me at least. But hey, to each their own. If believing that everything happens for a reason is what helps some people get through the day, then more power to them...whatever helps you sleep at night.
I've had these thoughts for a long time and only now I am posting a blog about this because I finally came across an article that shares exactly how I feel (of course, in a more eloquent way). I'd like to share that here in case my explanation was too direct, vague, or simple for those who may not quite be convinced. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who thinks this way…
by John Pavlovitz
We’ve all received it personally gift-wrapped by well-meaning friends, caring loved ones, and kind strangers. It usually comes delivered with the most beautiful of intentions; a buffer of hope raised in the face of the unimaginably painful things we sometimes experience in this life.
It’s a close, desperate lifeline thrown out to us when all other words fail:
Everything happens for a reason.
I’ve never had a tremendous amount of peace with the sentiment. I think it gives the terrible stuff too much power, too much poetry; as if there must be nobility and purpose within the brutal devastation we may find ourselves sitting in. 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.
It serves as an emotional distraction, one that cheats us out of the full measure of our real-time grief and outrage. We stutter and stop to try and find the why’s of all of the suffering, instead of just admitting that maybe there is no why to be found and that perhaps this all simply sucks on a grand scale. May you feel permission to fully acknowledge that profound suckness.
Any even if somewhere beneath all of it; far below all the dizzying trauma that we experience here there is a fixed, redemptive reason for it all, it’s one that will likely remain well beyond our understanding so long as we inhabit flesh and blood.
Deep within the background operating system of my faith there’s a buried, fiercely protected trust in a God who is good and in an existence that matters. But this core truth doesn’t come with the assumption that all things, (including all the horrors we might encounter here), have a purpose. It doesn’t come with a hidden silver lining always knitted into the fabric somewhere, if only we can uncover it.
To believe that, is to risk painting the picture of a God who is making us suffer for sport; throwing out obstacle and injury and adversity just to see what we’ll do, just to toughen us up or break us down. I find it hard to reconcile that with the necessary belief in a God who is not out to squash me.
It’s exhausting enough to endure the dark hours here and not lose our religion, without the addition of a Maker who also makes us bleed. Instead, I prefer to understand God as One who bleeds along with us; Who sits with us in our agony and weeps, not causing us our distress but providing a steady, holy presence in it. This still leaves me with the nagging question of why this God can’t or won’t always remove these burdens from me, but it does allow me to better see the open opportunity provided in tragedy.
There’s an oft-misused excerpt from a pastor’s letter to his faith community found in Scripture, where the author Paul writes:
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28
This isn’t a Heavenly insurance policy paid with faith and exempting us from anything unpleasant, but the promise that if we choose to respond to all things from a place of love and goodness; that we, not necessarily our circumstances will be better for it.
In this way, I believe in suffering as a sacred space; one where we get to choose.
It’s not a supernatural cause-and-effect experiment from the sky, specifically designed to do something to us or in us, but it is a time and place where we can respond and as we do, we are altered. Our pain does not have a predetermined purpose, (otherwise we would be straddled with the terribly complicated task of figuring it out in a billion small decisions every single day), but that pain will always yield valuable fruit.
As much as I hate to admit it, my times of deepest anguish have almost always been the catalyst for my greatest learning, but I could have easily learned different lessons had I chosen differently. Yes, I certainly grew tremendously in those trying times, but I could have grown in another direction altogether with another choice. In that way, those moments of devastation held no single, microscopic needle-in-the-haystack truth to hunt for while I grieved and struggled, but there was still treasure to be found in the making of my choices and in their ripples.
No I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason, but I do believe there is meaning in how we respond to all things that happen to us, even when they are not at all good things.
Be encouraged as you suffer and choose.
See full article at: http://johnpavlovitz.com/2015/05/29/why-everything-does-not-happen-for-a-reason/