“Everything doesn’t happen for a reason.”
I remember the first time a friend said that to me. I was instantly taken aback. In my head, my first reaction was to be defensive.
The saying “everything happens for a reason” gets thrown around a lot, especially in the face of suffering. It’s a way that we comfort others. Heck, it’s a way we comfort ourselves. Say for instance someone is diagnosed with cancer. A lot of good ends up coming from the situation because the community and family come together. Many may say everything happens for a reason because of all the good that came out of the situation or in hope that good will eventually come. Chances are, many of us have said it before or heard it from someone else.
So why was I (and maybe many others out there) defensive towards hearing that everything doesn’t happen for a reason?
I think what I was clinging to was the good that comes from these situations. I wanted to believe the original saying was true because I didn’t want to negate the belief that goodness can be an outcome of suffering. In the face of suffering, good can surface. And in some way, I believed that all of those unfortunate situations occurred so that those good things could be the outcome. But in believing that, I am implying that those bad things happened on purpose. I am implying that God is willing those bad things to happen in order to bring about something good. And that, I have learned, is quite simply not true.
Not until I truly began to understand human suffering, did I understand what my friend was saying.
I think there is a big misconception of God and suffering. Many people I have encountered struggle with this topic. It is a huge barrier between them and a relationship with the Lord. Why would a loving God make us suffer we ask? Something that I have asked myself in the past. There is something that is extremely important to know and understand, something that has transformed my view of suffering in a radical way: God does not will or desire suffering. If you take nothing else away from this, remember that statement. God has never made you, me, your family, or your friends suffer. God is good in His entirety. Meaning, every aspect of Him is good. Evil (suffering) is against His very nature.
Ok great Michele, sounds good… But suffering still exists, so where does it come from? Great question, thanks for asking.
If we go back to the creation of humans, we see that God made us beings with free will. In short, we were given a choice to follow and love the Lord. He greatly desires us to love Him. But for genuine love to exist, it presupposes a choice. Imagine those in your life you feel most loved by. They are the ones that have freely chosen to love you. Authentic love cannot exist without the choice. And with the choice to love the Lord, we are also given the choice to not choose Him. In the fall with Adam and Eve (remember them from 1st grade religion), the human race didn’t choose God. So that choice allowed evil into the world. That is how suffering and pain came about.
God allows these difficult things to happen. He does not want them to, but He allows them. I’ve often thought wouldn’t it be super swaggy if God could just step in and prevent the bad stuff from happening? But I’ve learned that free will and outside control over our lives cannot coexist. If we’re asking for Him to control certain aspects of our lives (the difficult things), we’re actually asking for full control. And in asking for full control, we’re asking to give up our right to choose, our right for genuine love.
Ok. I know this a lot, but the best part is coming.
The one thing I clung to, was the idea that goodness came out of those situations. And I’ve learned that it still remains true, even with this new understanding of suffering. God can take the worst situations and bring good out of them. He has knack for that. God, in his infinite goodness, brings good out of evil, hope out of seemingly hopeless situations, light out of darkness and love where there was none. He brings good out, despite the evil. And that is beautiful.
In the end, what I was so afraid of losing, was not lost at all.
Now, I know this is by no means an easy subject to grasp or completely understand. It took me time to come to the understanding I have now. I write this because I wish to share the freedom and transformation that has come from this newfound understanding of suffering. We have a God who loves us deeply. He doesn’t impose Himself on us. He gives us the freedom to choose Him. And amidst all the evils that plague our lives, He brings about good.
I am reminded of this in my own life and for that, I am grateful.
“And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him.” – Romans 8:28
Michele Volk, NET Mission Staff