Everything Happens For a Reason

When something bad occurs, a frequent reaction I have seen is for the affected person to say: “Well, this happened for a reason.” And, more generally, they adhere to the idea that “everything happens for a reason.” This seems, in my experience, to be especially prevalent among Christians who obviously believe in a God who is involved with the world and has ultimate control. This is the doctrine of Providence, but the assertion is intended to go beyond generality. It’s supposed to mean that this specific bad thing has happened for some good, albeit perhaps as yet unexplained, reason. Then, of course, any pain is more bearable, at minimum because the sufferers can view themselves as participants in God’s plan of redemption. Soldiers under enemy fire can hold together better if convinced that their trauma is for a noble cause. Consequently, for both pragmatic and philosophical reasons, a Christian “under fire” would find “everything happens for a reason” to be a valuable, comforting viewpoint to adopt.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11729

Thanks for the article. I have long believed the phrase was a cop out for not truly understanding the difference between good and bad. It paints a wrong picture of God. For someone having cancer and dying from it, is good for whom?


Thank you Rich Hanson for a very insightful piece on the problem of evil and why bad things happen to good people. It is one of the best illuminations on the subject. From my experience ‘in all things’, it is God who is good, and I find great encouragement comes by knowing that evil in this present age is what Jesus has ultimately overcome and it’s fullness will be realized when he returns and makes all things new.

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Anyone who has read any of my comments in this forum knows that I am not a fundamentalist and that I reject any notion of scriptural inerrancy.

That said, I take quite literally the claim that humans are created in god’s image, the implication being that even though each of us is fantastically small, we are still reasonable replicas of our creator. And since this also seems to have been verified by many different scientific observations, (e.g., each of us originated from something as small as a desire or minute as a physical urge and grew exponentially from there), all one need do in order to understand his maker is to consider one’s own life circumstances and patterns.

Thus, I know that god is not eternal and that he did not have a preordained plan for the universe. This because I had a beginning and undoubtedly will arrive at an end point, just as I know that I was not born with-and still do not have-a precise prospectus for my future.

I also don’t possess infinite knowledge and instead have had to acquire whatever understanding of things that I do have as a part of growing up. So it is reasonable to deduce that god didn’t always know what he knows now and instead believe that his or it’s mind is evolving and developing just as do most humans.

Further, while I have the power to control many aspects of my like, I have absolutely no say in others areas, from which self-knowledge I extrapolate that our creator is decidedly less than omnipotent and that he, like every other human, can’t fix some problems while also being continually fascinated by the things we can and are learning to improve simply by “following the science”.

I could go on (and have elsewhere!) as the ramifications probably are eternal but I’ll stop for now, as I would like to address Melanie’s predicament.

A few years ago, my wife and I boarded a tour bus for a drive along the Amafli Coast. (I’d never want to make the drive myself, as the treachery of navigating the traffic, pedestrians and narrow roads would have negated any chance of my absorbing the indescribable beauty of the place!)

However, as delightful as were the surroundings, we ultimately found that our the tour guide was one of the most memorable and enjoyable parts of the trip as she was not only well versed in the scenery and history of the place but she had a biting sense of humor.

(One blissfully unaware pedestrian who walked in front of the bus was better off not knowing that she-I think sarcastically?!?!-encouraged the driver to “Just keel ‘im Umberto!!!”)

And as I think that experience might have related to Melanie, our Italian narrator had a novel way of dealing with the fact that while she routinely saw and talked about mansions, yachts and cars affordable only by the mega wealthy, she herself drove an unreliable Fiat and lived in a small apartment in Naples.

Luckily, her grandmother had provided her a coping mechanism.which involved looking at those big houses critically and trying to find something she wouldn’t like, such as “Who would want to wash all those windows” or “Think of how hard it must be to paint,” thus convincing herself “I wouldn’t want that,

Similarly, big yachts were either too blindingly white and light-filled, unimaginatively black and overly dramatic or they didn’t provide a place to drive one’s expensive car.

Conversely, driving a car capable of incredible acceleration and high speeds on roads limited to 30 or 40 mph would not only seem boring and wasteful but would also subtract from the time available for sailing on one’s yacht or sleeping in a most sumptuous bed.

The point being, and as.any parent knows, having a baby and raising kids comes with many significant downsides and even non-parents learn that there is no such thing as something that is easier said than done! My mom wanted and had five children but I’m sure she would have told Melanie that all five of us found different ways to cost her money, cause her concern and/ or break her heart.

So while I understand this may not have been any consolation coming from a man or from a fictional TV character, my basic point is, and paraphrasing Mr. Spock, “Sometimes wanting is better than having.”

The old adage “Be careful what you wish for,” also comes to mind….:innocent:

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As a mother who wasn’t supposed to be able to have any children, who prayed earnestly for her children, dedicated them both to God at birth, raised them in the Lord, and lived for them for 30+ years before burying them both 2.5 years apart, I thank you. This is the very first article I’ve seen in the Christian press — much less the Adventist press — that actually confronts the essential question at the heart of the matter. We have no grandchildren or other family, so our kids were, in a very literal sense, our one ewe lamb. We were a happy family that loved to laugh, loved to spend time together, and never let a call or visit end without saying “I love you.” Yet God “allowed” them both to die, suddenly and without warning, leaving us so utterly heartbroken that even our friends have drifted away. Not that we blame them; we would leave this nightmare too, if we could. And we know our very presence is a constant reminder that a parent’s worst nightmare is not only possible, but actually happens to ‘people like us.’ Yet here we are five and seven years later, facing our old age without any hope of company, our family legacy gone, and no one to leave family heirlooms when we die. Is there a lesson here for two shattered hearts and lives? Please, let us know.


My dear lady…please buy and read a copy of the ‘oldie but goodie’, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” by Rabbi Harold Kushner…it will go a long way to heal your heart.

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What a staggeringly touching letter. Just remember, reunion is coming.


“Everything happens for a reason”…

…and what is that reason? Is the end point of all our comings and goings to be able to live without problems and pain? Is that what worshipping a “loving God” is all about - payment for a problem free life… The daily book-keeping in heaven must be enormous - keeping track of everybody’s lives and making sure the networks of “cause and effect” are kept in control.

If we trust God to be loving, we won’t need to live a life of appeasement. It seems somehow wrong to live a life filled with religiosity so that God will step in and fix all our problems and ultimately pay us with an everlasting and blissful eternity. So what is this all about, anyway? Not that.


There are several translations similar to the NIV version of Romans 2:28, however the majority of English translation are similar to the NJV. Rich Hannon adroitly bases his analysis on the NIV version as meaning something different than the translation of the KVJ. I would agree.
Perhaps a more fundamental question is, why do we apply part of a 2000 year old text to 21st century Christians? “All things work for good to those who love God” hardly seems applicable to failed pregnancies or any other calamities we encounter. Yet we cling to this phrase as assured guidance in our ives not willing to consider Paul was writing to the a group of Romans. We don’t know if Paul was addressing a situation among the Romans or was giving a response to his own Christian journey or to whatever . . . Paul’s letters are filled with advice that addresses the situations in various churches and/or individuals. Some of these exhortation do transcend his culture and others do not. Today we say we must understand the context of his words. Such things as women being silent in church, the submission of women in marriage, to his condoning slavery. Roman 8:28 KJV falls in one of these categories: 1. poor translation 2. taken out of context 3. Paul’s personal feelings 4. applicable to the 1st century but not to the 21st. So please don’t take “all things work together for good” as a part of your life’s mantra.


Despite your exhortation, I’m convinced this text needs no contextual exegesis or explanation.

So yes, I do take this as one of the Bible truisms as well as one of my life’s mantras.

This after having seen, time and again, how seeming tragedies can eventually be discovered to have been of great benefit to the point where I now know there is no such thing as a cloud that doesn’t have a silver lining. I find the “all things work together” cliche to be as reliable as gravity and as dependable as tomorrow’s sunrise. With gravity, the effects are immediate while sunrise, especially when you’re sick or in a midnight storm, might require unimaginable patience but the result is undeniably inevitable.

In fact, I’d suggest that this might be one reason why god allows suffering; sort of a “cruel to be kind” type scenario.

Not to be overly flippant, but I’m reminded of an old joke

When asked why he was hitting himself over the head with a baseball bat, the man responded, “Because it feels so good when I stop!”

So just as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore assured his men in Apocalypse Now, “This war’s gonna end one day.” there is nothing more certain in Christianity than that the time is coming when pain and suffering will be no more. And ironically, those who have suffered most in this lifetime will be those who are able to appreciate the resultant relief most deeply.

That is the basis for Aesop’s old “sour grapes” fable. The fox, unable to reach the grapes, declares that he wouldn’t have wanted them anyway. It’s a common coping mechanism, and often has some truth to it.

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