Does Everything Happen for a Reason?
How many times have you heard people say, “Everything happens for a reason.”? This popular saying almost has a religious ring to it and it is usually repeated after something bad happens! Just this morning in church a friend of mine said, “Everything happens for a reason,” right after another friend explained that years ago his son had broken off any contact with him. I jumped in and argued that God didn't allow that to happen for a reason!.
The idea that “Everything happens for a reason,” has been popular down through the centuries. But let's take a step back. This idea implies that God preordains bad things. Or causes them to happen! That bad things are sometimes part of God's will and plan. But Scripture tells us that God,”makes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)
Scripture tells us that God is just and holy and cannot do evil acts. We misuse the holy Name of God when we say that He plan bad things to happen for a reason. God is good and merciful and loving and just and forgiving. “Everything happens for a reason.” Does it really? Jesus' answer is a definite “No.”
Along with this idea is a similar idea that bad things happen to bad people. In Scripture we read that Pilate put to death some people from Galilee who had been worshiping and offering sacrifices to God. (Luke 13:1-5) Some of the Jewish people came to Jesus asking, “Were these people from Galilee worse sinners than others because they suffered such a terrible thing?” (Luke 13:2) These folks who questioned Jesus had interpreted the deaths of their fellow citizens as God's punishment for their guilt.
But Jesus answered them:””I tell you no, but unless you repent you will perish. Remember those eighteen people on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them. Do you think that they were worse sinners than any others in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will perish.” (Luke 13:3-4)
Jesus does not agree that suffering happens to an individual person because of their individual sins. But He does remind the Jewish people that life is short and challenges them to turn from their sin while they are still alive and able. The sudden deaths of these people who Pilate killed can be a reminder to them that life is fragile and that now while they are living is the day for salvation. At that time the nation of Israel was not accepting their Messiah and Jesus was warning them that they needed to turn back to God.
Another time Jesus was asked this same kind of question by his disciples. Jesus healed a man who had been blind from his birth. (Luke 9:1-13) And the disciples came to Him and asked what caused this man to be born blind, his sin or his parent's sin. Even the disciples seemed to believe that illness and suffering were caused by the afflicted person's sin. Jesus answered them: “Neither the man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” (Luke 9:3) Every time Jesus spoke about this subject He made it clear that the people in life who suffer the most are not suffering because they are being punished for their own personal sins. That God was into forgiveness and not retribution.
We humans sometimes blame God when things don't go the way we want, and judge Him as if He were a person..And when some folks can't understand God they refuse to believe in Him. We try to make God fit in our little boxes of reason and insist that He must answer our prayers the way we expect. But The God of heaven and earth and the Creator of the universe cannot be corralled or squeezed in our little boxes. If we could understand God then He wouldn't be God. His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. And His mysteries are past finding out. We are called to trust Him. God promises to be there for us and answer our prayers if they in His good will. But His time frame is not always our time frame. Sometimes our prayers are answered after we die and when we reach Glory.
Scripture says: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Scripture tells us that all of us will die physically and that death has come upon the whole earth because of our collective sin. But death does not have the final word. God loves us and wants us to have eternal life in a sinless world after death. We can take this gift from God by obeying and wanting to turn from our sin and by believing and trusting in God.
The book of Job deals with the subject of God's justice in light of human suffering and sin. In other words, why do bad things happen to good people? Job was a Gentile (non Jew) who lived perhaps 4,000 years ago in the land where Syria is today. Scripture says that “Job was “blameless and upright, and feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. Job was the greatest man among all of the people of the East.” (Job 1:1-3)
But terrible trouble and grief swiftly came down upon Job all on one dark day. All of his camels and oxen and donkeys and sheep were stolen or died and his servants were killed. His ten children were all together on that deadly day when a storm arose and blew away their house killing all of them instantly. Job tears his robe and shaves his head – signs of deep grieving in the ancient world. Then Job falls down and worships God saying: “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:20b) Job has lost all of his children and all of his wealth but he has not lost his faith in God.
A few days later Job is afflicted with painful sores from head to toe. (Job 2:6-7) He stumbles around desperate and sick and in terrible pain and finally sits down in a heap of ashes. He finds a piece of broken pottery and he scrapes his oozing sores with it. Then his wife comes to him and encourages him to “Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9b) Job is at his lowest point and three of his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar come to visit him and be with him in his suffering.
After awhile Job's three friends tell him that he must be suffering because he has sinned. Here again is that popular idea that a person's personal sins may cause God to afflict him with something terrible. Job's friend Zophar says: “Know therefore that God exacts from you less than your sins deserve.” (Job 11:6) Job's other two friends agree with Zophar and insist that God shows His disfavor on sinful people by allowing trouble and suffering. They don't take into account that God's blessings or punishments might extend past this present life. Job's proud friends have God and His ways all neatly figured out!
Job lashes back that he hasn't done anything wrong and that even though he doesn't know why he is suffering so, he still trusts God. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” Job professes (Job 13:15) He will always trust God, no matter what happens! That's just the way it is. But then Job adds that God owes him an explanation. Yes that's it, Job wants to question God! God needs to answer for His ways.
About this time God shows up! He shows up and speaks to Job out of a whirlwind! “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself as a man: I will question you, and you shall answer Me. Where were you when I laid the earth's foundations? Tell Me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!” (Job 38:2-5b) God goes on listing some of the things He has created: birds, animals, stars, etc. Does Job understand the many details that go into these creations or how God provides for the needs of His created ones? If Job can never begin to understand how God works in the physical world, how can he judge God's actions in the moral and spiritual world?
God doesn't attempt to tell Job why he is suffering. It was not for Job to know the reason why. Some things have to be taken on faith. But now that Job had seen God he no longer wanted an answer from Him as to why he had had such losses. It no longer mattered. Job answered God: “Therefore I uttered what I did not understand. Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know...I have heard of You, but now my eyes see You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:3 and 5)
Job recovers from the sores covering his body and God gives Job back twice the wealth that he had had before. He is given fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand oxen and a thousand donkeys. And in the latter part of his life, Job has ten more children – seven sons and three daughters. The book of Job ends with Job living to a ripe old age and dying after a full life.
What can we learn from the book of Job? First we learn that Job's faith was a great treasure to God. We learn from reading the book of Job that God doesn't give Job an answer for why he suffered, and God may not give us an answer for why we suffer either. Can we trust God like Job when we are put to the test and don't know why? We learn that Job loved and trusted God just because God is who He is – good and loving and faithful. God promises to be with us and be our strength and our shield. To give us eternal life. He tells us that that nothing can separate us from His love. And God calls us to trust Him no matter what happens.
We live in a sinful world. God gave us free will to sin if we wanted to sin. And we did. Mankind rebelled against God's laws and bad things always happen when our world is outside of God's will and laws. Bad things happen to good people in our world because our present world is sometimes run by bad people- not God- and it is under the curse of sin. These bad things aren't God's will and they don't happen for a reason in our lawless imperfect world. But the day is coming when God promises to change all of that! Scripture says that on that day Jesus will come in power and glory and there will be a great judgment day and then there will be a new heaven and new earth. God will rule this new earth and no more sin or bad things will happen anymore. In a sinless world, only good things will happen. And then everything will happen for a reason!