When we see people going through tough times, or when we are in the midst of them ourselves, we like to have something to say. Often we don’t know what to say, so we toss around platitudes like “Everything happens for a reason.” It gives us a bit of comfort, some sense of control, or an illusion of understanding. Experience tells us that it has to be true, and of course it’s biblical...at least we think it is.
But it’s not! This bit of earthly wisdom is not only unbiblical, but also leads to a misunderstanding of who God really is. What we’re saying is that God causes everything that happens to happen for a reason.
If we take that line of thinking to its logical conclusion, we are really saying that God causes the typhoons, or earthquakes, or job losses, or deaths, or hammer-hitting-finger incidents, for some greater purpose. At best, it makes God the author of suffering and the perpetrator of evil. At worst, it makes God out to be a sadist, enjoying the pain and suffering of other, taking pleasure in causing pain.
But you see, Scripture does not teach that…not at all. The bad things in life happen not because God orchestrates it all, but because of us and our sin. The effects of sin are severe! When we chose to follow our ways instead of God’s, we had to deal with the consequences: disaster, destruction, abuse, neglect, struggle, pain, and loss. Our sin--our hurtful, selfish, greedy actions--cause a lot of bad things to happen in this world. It’s our sin, and the sins of the other 7 billion+ human beings on this earth, that cause the bad we see all around us.
John 10:10 states that it is not God’s purpose to “steal, kill, and destroy,” but to give us a “rich and satisfying life.” And Romans 8:28 gives us this beautiful promise: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”
That doesn’t say that God causes everything, but that He takes everything, all the good and especially all the bad, and works in it and through it to bring about His ultimate good for those who love Him. It doesn’t say that those who love Him are not going to experience the bad…quite the opposite in fact. Jesus spoke very clearly when He said to those who choose to follow Him, “here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows (John 16:33).” But in the midst of it, God is going to be working for our good!
So what about those times when we are sitting with a grieving parent who just lost their beloved child to cancer? What about when we ourselves are facing that cancer diagnosis? Or the call from the police that our loved one was killed in a car accident? Or the mounting bills with no job prospects? Or the kids who throw their lives away and turn from everything and everyone who loves them? What do we say or do for them when we don’t know what to say?
First off, don’t say that everything happens for a reason! Don’t lie like that! What you can do is be there for them. You can agree with them about just how difficult the situation is, about how unfair it is. You can be with them, grieve with them, and suffer right alongside them. You can tell them about the God who loves them, the God who is Love. You can tell them how God didn’t do whatever it is they are going through, but that His heart is breaking because of it. And you can assure them of God’s promise, that even though this is bad, God can and will work good in it and through it.
Everything doesn’t happen for a reason! So stop believing it, and stop saying it! Instead, acknowledge that God does in fact work for the good of those who love Him!
Sermon Notes for “Biblical Mythbusters: Myth #1” from Feb 9, 2014
Biblical Mythbusters Series:
Exploring 5 myths that too many believe, Christian and non-Christian alike!
Little morsels of worldly wisdom that pass themselves off as godly-wisdom
During this series, we will:
Unravel the myths that keep us from true faith by discovering what the Bible really says!
Everything happens for a reason
Experience says it has to be true, and we all assume it’s biblical
How do we use it?
To explain why bad things happen:
Trivial life events, Coincidences, Tragedies
What do we mean by it?
There are no accidents
Some higher power, God or something else, orchestrates every event for a reason
God intends for everything to happen that happens
Why do we say it?
Gives us sense of comfort, numbs the pain, helps to find meaning in difficulty, gives illusion of control
But what does it really do?
Leads to mistaken understanding of who God is
Who is God?
God is Creator of all, who took time and care to create everything (Genesis, Psalms, Isaiah)
God loves that creation, called it very good, takes care of it, nurtures and guides it
Everything that God does is out of love
God cares so much for creation, loves it so much, that He sent Jesus to die to save and redeem it
God does not will calamity, death, and destruction, just the opposite
God’s heart breaks for the evil this world, and we who live in it, are capable of committing
What about the bad stuff? Can’t God prevent it?
Sure He can, and His grace prevents much more evil than we realize from taking place
But we have free will, we have the capacity to make our own decisions
God didn’t create us to be puppets, but to choose to follow, to love, to care, or not
And free will also brings consequences that we have to deal with
God works for the good of those who love Him
Read the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-50, especially 50:22b
Even though our circumstances change, even though bad things come and go, God’s will is always for whatever is best for us, working for the good of all those who love Him
Read this article by Asbury Seminary professor Dr. Ben Witherington III: “Good Grief: Soundings, Part One”
Cori Cypret is the pastor of The United Methodist Church of Coopersville.