When I was a young woman, I was one of ‘those people’ who said everything happens for a reason. I’m not sure I genuinely believed that; I think I was mostly repeating what I had heard other Christians say. Fortunately, I got a big wake-up call, courtesy of my then-future husband, when I tried that line on him after his father became disabled:
“That’s the most idiotic thing I’ve ever heard! Why would God cause this to happen, knowing the pain it would cause my family? Do you think my family is better off with my dad at home on disability? Do you think my father is somehow happier not being able to shave his own face or remember what year it is? I don’t think God had anything to do with it. Sometimes, crappy things just happen. There is no reason.”
What he said instantly made sense to me, as well it should have. Did I honestly think my molestation as a child was part of some divine plan? Did I sincerely believe that it was God’s will for innocent people to be killed by drunk drivers? Once I stopped to think about it, it didn’t make any sense.
I’ve been particularly thoughtful this week, because this was the week I was supposed to bring home my second child. My due date was February 27. But I found out at my 17-week check-up in September that the baby had stopped growing 4 weeks earlier. There was a surgery, and I was sent home with an empty womb. I was devastated.
On the day I received the sad news, the doctor asked if I wanted to speak to a counselor or the hospital chaplain. Hoping to receive some words of godly encouragement, I asked for the chaplain. The chaplain, a woman and a mother herself, came in and began to counsel me. She told me how her first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. She was young at the time and not quite ready for the responsibilities of motherhood. She said God had a good reason to take her baby away.
I didn’t say anything, but I was mortified at what I was hearing. This woman is telling me God killed my baby? I did not, could not accept it.
After studying the Bible, I’m perplexed as to where this idea that God causes everything to happen comes from. It’s certainly not supported by scripture:
For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life […] (John 6:40).
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).
So God’s will is that everyone comes to a saving knowledge of Christ. How does rape or murder accomplish that? God desires His people to have hope. How does crippling illness and death give people hope?
Certainly, God can take terrible situations and make them work out for the best. The Bible says,
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
But I don’t believe God causes terrible things to happen. That would mean He causes people to sin, because the consequence of sin is death. Can we say that it’s God’s will when a person drinks themselves into a stupor? Can we say it’s God’s will for a person to shoot up drugs or rob a convenience store? Because that’s what we’re saying when we say an innocent bystander’s abuse or death was God’s will. I believe that if we have hope in these situations, it’s in spite of them, not because of them. And in that, the true power and compassion of God is revealed.
Back in September, God reached out to me in my grieving and healed me of depression. But God didn’t kill my baby. My God isn’t small and petty like that.