Everything Happens for a Reason?


This Sunday we begin a new sermon series based on the Adam Hamilton book Half Truths. Learn more about the full series here.

We begin the series with an exploration of the commonly heard phrase, “everything happens for a reason.” Often I heard this phrase intended to offer some measure of comfort in difficult times, but we don’t often consider the broad implications made by this simple phrase. It is possible that our attempts to comfort with these words can cause harm?

Deuteronomy 30:15-20
LIFE AND DEATH
15Look here! Today I’ve set before you life and what’s good versus death and what’s wrong. 16If you obey the Lord your God’s commandments that I’m commanding you right now by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments, his regulations, and his case laws, then you will live and thrive, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. 17But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen, and so are misled, worshipping other gods and serving them, 18I’m telling you right now that you will definitely die. You will not prolong your life on the fertile land that you are crossing the Jordan River to enter and possess. 19I call heaven and earth as my witnesses against you right now: I have set life and death, blessing and curse before you. Now choose life—so that you and your descendants will live— 20by loving the Lord your God, by obeying his voice, and by clinging to him. That’s how you will survive and live long on the fertile land the Lord swore to give to your ancestors: to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Consider these questions:

  1. Has anyone said this to you? What were the circumstances? How were you feeling before this was said to you?
  2. How did you feel right after this was said to you? Did you feel any sense of comfort? Something else?
  3. Consider the broader time after this experience. Did this phrase continue to offer comfort? Did it cause you to think about the deeper implications or assumptions behind this phrase? How did this inform or affect your faith life and/or your relationship with God?

Post-sermon update on 5/2

This past Sunday, Pastor Bob shared perspective on this phrase that may be heard in ways that could be damaging – even though people who say things like, “Everything happens for a reason” are generally good intentioned and often come from a perspective of faith! Even with this intention in mind, I don’t read my Bible in a way that reflects this. The scriptures below offer some additional perspective:

  • Galatians 6:7-10 – This passage reminds us that our own choices can have lasting impacts on our communities and relationships.
  • Job 4:1-7 – The story of Job evokes so many questions, some that parallel our own questions in times of grief. In this passage, a friend of Job’s reminds him of his faith.
  • Job 42:1-8 – Nearing the end of the Job story, Job responds after finally hearing God’s voice. In hearing God, Job affirms his trust and faith.
  • Exodus 34:5-9 – After the Israelites lose faith and make a golden calf, God responds by renewing the covenant already made with them.
  • Matthew 5:43-45, Luke 11:11-13, 13:1-5 – Jesus taught in a number of ways the importance of love and the nature of God’s divine love for all of creation.
  • Romans 8:22-28 – Paul expresses an enormous sense of hope and faith, and argues that the church in Rome – and we today! – must do the same.

Consider these questions:

  1. How does this scriptural exploration affect your view of the phrase, “Everything happens for a reason?”
  2. What do you think about suffering in the world? Can you explain why suffering exists?
  3. If – like me – you find some ambiguity or mystery about the “in-between-ness” of God’s infinite power and the responsibility God places on us alongside free will, are you able to remain in hope and faith? How does this affect you (if it affects you at all)?

3 Comments

  1. I know of many times where this statement has been used and caused more in the way of anger and hurt towards the person stating it and God than it did in providing comfort. On the flip side, this phrase has been said to me recently in a discussion about how awful occupancies in my past have shaped such positive things in my present. This served to offer connection and a feeling of awe toward God.

  2. I have learned to NOT appreciate that phrase when stated to me. And I try NEVER to use it for anyone else. As Beth stated, sometimes good can come of unsettling or tragic events, but do not think that phrase helps.. instead provokes doubt and anger.

  3. Usually, this statement implies that the “reason” is God’s reason. But I’ve always found that hard to swallow. Sometimes I think the “reason” is either the chance occurrence in a universe God created to follow physical laws (so-called “acts of God” like earthquakes, hurricanes or tornadoes); or, the “reason” is simply that somebody made a bad choice, like the drunk driver who causes a fatal accident. In either of the later instances, this statement is NOT comforting and may lead to bitterness and anger.

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