[forthright] A Reason For Everything?

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Fri, 24 Aug 2007 14:57:20 -0500
Forthright Magazine
Straight to the Cross

COLUMN: Heavenly Connections

A Reason For Everything?
by Tim Hall

A phrase I hear with increasing frequency goes
like this: "Everything happens for a reason." The
words are uttered after an unexpected and
disappointing turn of events. Perhaps a loved one
has died, a job has been lost, or a marriage has
broken apart. "Everything happens for a reason,"
the would-be comforter opines, intending to open
the sufferer's eyes to larger realities.

Such a statement might be comforting if it means
God was not absent during the unfortunate events.
A degree of comfort comes from knowing that the
Lord watches over us, and that his control has
been exerted in any situation. But we also might
wonder what good purpose the Lord had in taking
away a loved one. Why would I want to serve a Lord
who causes pain through tragic means?

Job was blessed to have friends who cared enough
to come to him after his tragic losses. He was not
so blessed, though, when they misrepresented God
in trying to explain the losses. Job's summation
likely can be spoken by many who hurt: "...
Miserable comforters are you all!" (Job 16:2,

Why do some Christians think that God has every
event of our lives planned? One reason might be a
scripture often quoted, Jeremiah 29:11: "For I
know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,
plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you
a future and a hope." The words are presented as
if they apply to everyone. If that be so, then God
has already made plans; my life is mapped out.
According to that view, everything does indeed
happen for a reason.

Maybe we should check the context before deciding
Jeremiah had us in mind. Verse 4 seems to be
pertinent: "Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God
of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into
exile from Jerusalem to Babylon ..." As it turns
out,  God was not announcing his modus operandi
toward all people of all time. The "plans" to
which he referred in Jeremiah were directed
generally toward the nation that had been exiled
to Babylon.

That God has given people freedom to choose their
own destiny is a theme that runs throughout the
Bible (see Deuteronomy 30:19, for example). While
it may seem to relieve us of personal
responsibility to say that "everything happens for
a reason," the statement is not supported by
scripture. My loved one did not die tragically
because God planned it that way. The inappropriate
exercise of free will (sin) is often the reason
bad things happen.

Don't affirm disaster to be an act of God unless
God has specifically told us so.

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