How involved do you think God is in your life? Does he seem distant? Or does he seem close? Maybe he shows up, but only rarely?
With this post we begin a series fact-checking common sayings related to God’s interaction with the world. This is very much related to what we talked about in the previous series of posts, as we talk about God’s involvement in our lives especially when we are going through difficult times. We start wondering what God thinks about our pain, and what he might have to do with it, and if he will step in and free us from our pain. When the answers to our musings don’t come easily, we can spout ideas that make us feel better. But are they true? Let’s take a look at the phrases we’re going to be fact-checking in this series:
- Everything happens for a reason.
- God is in control.
- Let go and let God.
- God works in mysterious ways.
You might be surprised to see some or all of these included in this list! Why would a Christian possibly need to fact check the phrase, “God is in control?” Am I suggesting that God is not in control? We’re going to find out! But we start with…
Everything happens for a reason. Does everything actually happen for a reason? By asking that question, I don’t mean to insinuate that everything might not have a cause. All things have a cause. When we say “everything happens for a reason,” however, we are usually looking for the good that could come out of a difficult time. The silver lining, we call it.
In fact, when we are going through a hard time, we often NEED to think that everything happens for a reason. We need to make sense of pain and difficulty. We would struggle even worse, emotionally, theologically, and philosophically, we think, if there was no reason for the hardship we’re facing.
So are there any passages in the Bible that could support the idea that everything happens for a reason? The go-to verse is Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” It sure sounds like this verse supports the phrase “everything happens for a reason.” But does it?
Scan through the whole chapter, and you’ll see that Paul is talking about suffering and how the Holy Spirit actually prays for us when we don’t know what to pray.
The NIV starts a new paragraph at verse 28, and I would like to suggest that might not be a good editorial choice, as it seems that Paul was actually continuing a line of thinking throughout the whole chapter. Look at the near context, for example, in verses 26-27, and you’ll find Paul teaching that the Holy Spirit is praying that God’s will would be done in our lives, and thus it follows in verse 28 that we know that all things work together for good to those who love God.
That doesn’t mean that we will agree with God’s will for us, or that we will even know what God’s best for us is. God doesn’t promise in this passage to explain it all to us. Instead, what Paul is saying is that we can trust that there is definitely spiritual work going on in the spiritual realm, and it is for our good. We just might not now realize it.
This morning’s devotions from An American Lent (Sun. March 17, 2019) spoke to this when they said, “But, he is also the God who is able to reveal his goodness in the midst of the most horrific circumstances. He is everywhere and so his goodness can be found there too.” But we might not always find it.
To say that all our sufferings happen for a reason places a far too heavy burden on us to figure it out! Sometimes, and maybe even most times, bad things happen because the world is a fallen world. What does it mean that the world is a fallen world? That it is always bad, always evil? NO. But instead a broken and fallen world demonstrates at least three tendencies, and we’ll review those in the next post.