A couple of weeks ago while driving my normal route to work, in an area I don’t spend too much time in except to cut through to the highway, a detour was placed on the exact roads I needed to take to get to that highway. Furthermore, this detour was taking place in an already congested area, so this was doomed from the start. What would normally take me twenty minutes to get out of this town and onto the highway, took me nearly an hour due to all the traffic this detour caused. Not to mention my commute is already over an hour long to begin with on a normal day. So needless to say, it wasn’t the greatest start to my morning.
Here’s what I know about that situation. It sucked. Here’s something else I can be certain of. It most likely did not happen for a reason.
If God created the Heavens and the Earth, created everything in it, and knew of everything to come before it ever got here, I can say pretty confidently that on this day in 2014 in Karen Veenstra’s life He did not decide to have this traffic nightmare enter into my morning causing me to be two hours late for work for an extraordinary, spiritual reason. It was simply a traffic jam. In New Jersey, that’s a normal day.
For twenty-six years now, I have whole-heartedly believed in the concept that everything happens for a reason. What a line. I loved it. Quoted it. Wrote about it. Spoke it. Truly believed it. But as I have grown to learn more about God and about our relationship with Him, I’ve taken some steps back to evaluate the situation. Perhaps, everything doesn’t happen for a reason. At least, not in the way we thought.
It used to roll off my tongue so smoothly and quickly when bad things happened to others or to myself. But recently something has switched. When I hear someone say those famous five words, I cringe. I get upset. I even get a little angry. I’ve stopped myself from saying it that at times I’ve become speechless in horrific situations because I was so used to letting it flow off my lips like a go-to catch phrase a sports announcer would become famous for.
Something is wrong. It just doesn’t feel right to me anymore. And I think that’s because it’s not.
When someone loses a loved one, especially too soon, and we tell them it happened for a reason, I believe we are lying to them. First of all, it’s the last thing they want to hear. What we should be doing is letting them grieve because their loss hurts. This life is hard. And sometimes there is just no explanation for that loss. It didn’t happen for a reason.
Before I’m pegged as being insensitive, let me explain.
I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason. I believe that bad things happen, and then God creates a reason.
When evil men decided to hijack airplanes on September 11, 2001 and kill thousands of people, I don’t believe that happened for a reason. We live in a broken world where evil, disease, poverty and war exists and it’s because of this that 9/11 happened. When we say things happen for a reason, I feel we are sometimes pointing a finger at God and acting as if He caused it. He’s allowing this to happen to me so I can learn something from it. This must be God’s will for me. He has a reason for all of my suffering. It’s thoughtful and sometimes true, but God is only good. He does not cause evil to happen in this world. But He will create good out of it.
And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him… (Romans 8:28)
God works. He works in bringing good out of bad. He creates reasons for everything.
Do I believe there are things in life that do happen for a particular reason? Absolutely. God is God and frankly He can do whatever He wants. God does not cause any bad thing to happen, let’s be clear. But sometimes He may allow something for reasons we may never know until the day we get to personally ask Him ourselves. Just read the story of Job in the Bible.
This is plan B. Our world is not perfect and God is working to redeem it day by day until the final day. Unfortunately the world we live in will continue to produce bad things at every turn. Unfortunately bad things will continue to happen in our lives. You may be facing a horrific loss right now. Or a bad diagnosis. A broken relationship. A lost job. A lost dream, perhaps. Whatever it may be, God is actually grieving with you. He is literally crying, weeping, actual tears over every death, pain and sin in your life and here on this earth. It is only natural for Him to want to make things right. He made that abundantly clear for us when He had His own Son die on a cross.
So the question is, how do we know the difference? But I’d ask, does it matter? Whether it happens for a reason in the first place or God creates a reason, it’s always going to be good because God is good. And in all things, He works for the good of those who love Him.
That doesn’t mean all things are good. I will say it again. That doesn’t mean all things are good. Even if we faithfully trust in our hearts that good will come out of our bad situations, that doesn’t mean our situation isn’t bad right now. It doesn’t make it any less hard. It doesn’t make a death of a loved one sting any less. In our moments of grief, nothing does.
Finding a reason for our pain isn’t so that we’ll grieve less. It’s so that we’ll hope more.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Revelation 21:4)
He is making everything new. Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true… (Rev. 21:5, paraphrased).