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Tell Me Again… WHY Does Everything Happen?

I’ve reached the limit to my tolerance. I’ve heard the platitude one too many times. “Everything happens for a reason,” a friend smiled sweetly, just a few days go, yet her words seemed to freeze the air between us.

I don’t remember why she felt the need to “console” me in such a manner. Perhaps, she was explaining away some situation over which we had no control. I just remember the cliché.

I also don’t remember when I first heard this life philosophy/theological bent, but I do remember that it made me cringe. It may have been in 1978, when my stepdad died. After ten years of illness and seven major surgeries, his body worn out by constant pain, nausea, and the sheer willpower it took to get through each new day;  his stamina gone from years of working to maintain a career and be a great husband and father, he left this earth. His mind was ready to continue the battle. His body was not. At which point, I frequently heard, “Everything happens for a reason.”

I heard other things that made me want to scratch people’s eyes out, but that’s another story. It is this particular phrase that lingers throughout the generations and cultures that needs to disappear. Unless, of course, we take a very good look at what we mean when we use these very simple words… everything happens for a reason.

Stick figure holding a beaker. Caption reads "Stand back, I'm going to try science."
Science! Image courtesy xkcd.

Logically, it is, of course, true that everything happens for a reason. If we borrow from Newton’s third law of motion, we can explain many occurrences in life. “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

Whether we’re applying the law to physical movement or words that are spoken, things that take place in our world evoke response. If one makes even the slightest movement, the air is displaced. This changes the world, in however miniscule a way.

If someone succumbs to an illness, it changes the world of the people around them in an enormous, tragic way. The laws of nature are at play. We see that the human body is vulnerable to disease, bacteria, decay, and time.

If one crashes a car, it can change the world in an enormous, tragic way. At this point, the laws of physics are most apparent. In such an instance, we’d go back to Newton and talk about things like inertia and velocity and mass and force.

If a family disintegrates, it changes the world of those family members in an enormous, tragic way. The laws of family dynamics, psychology, and sociology are at work.

If we take a look at the activities in our lives and elsewhere in the world around us, we see reasons for why things happen the way they do. Granted, science is still searching, learning, discovering more as each day goes by. But more answers will come.

Someday, we will know why a disease strikes one member of a family, yet leaves others untouched, even when genetics indicate a different outcome. Someday, we will have a broader understanding of climate change and the cycles of the earth. Someday, we will know so much more about so many things. And, someday, we will stop blaming our Creator for the many tragedies which befall us.

Blaming God is So Convenient!
Blaming God is So Convenient!

“Everything happens for a reason.” The words are generally spoken as a faithful, loving attempt to bring comfort to one who grieves or is caught up in life’s perplexities. “Everything happens for a reason” goes hand-in-hand with, “It’s God’s will.”

Is it God’s will that babies will be stillborn or be born with difficulties that will bring them challenges throughout their lives? Is it God’s will that children are dying, decade after decade, in worn torn and famine ridden lands? Is it God’s will that so many of us live in comfort and plenty while others are living in their cars or under overpasses, just a few miles away?

Everything does, indeed, happen for a reason. Sometimes, it is Mother Nature’s way of saying, “I’m still in charge and I’m a force with which to reckon.” Sometimes, it’s because we are careless or foolish or cruel or oblivious or selfish or somehow just caught up in the daily moments of our lives and we let things happen around us that should not happen.

Everything happens for a reason because the universe was created with certain realities, certain laws and human beings, being what we are, continue to muddle our way through our centuries, impacting everything and everyone around us.

Everything happens for a reason. The good news is, we are powerful, ingenious, compassionate, creative beings made in the image of God. For some unbelievable reason, we have been entrusted with the care of this incredible creation. We are able to use the brains and abilities God has instilled within us to make this a better and better and still better place. So that, when things do happen, we can honestly say that we did everything we possibly could to make sure it happened for the right reason.

By Tamalyn

Still seeking a world of peace & justice, this minister, mate, and mom - an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), finds great happiness and God's presence in many places: from sandy beaches to the top of a Teton, soup kitchens to used bookstores. Tamalyn embraces the philosophy that "Life is Good," but we have much work to do.

12 replies on “Tell Me Again… WHY Does Everything Happen?”

Oh, that phrase. I can’t with that phrase.

I’d be a bit more mellow about it if that phrase wasn’t used exclusively for bad things. Like, if it was used for the mundane or the good.

Example:

“I just got a new kitten!”
“Oh, great! Everything happens for a reason!”

“They were out of the coffee I usually get, so I’m trying a new coffee and I really like it.”
“See? Everything happens for a reason!”

…But I think overall, we could just kick that phrase out of the vernacular. It makes me tired.

I have come to have a visceral, negative reaction to this phrase. My father, aunt and pet passed away all within six months of each other back in 2007, and that’s when I heard around every corner “everything happens for a reason.” I understand why people say these things. They want to be helpful; they want to be consoling. But, I found it such an empty, useless, cliched response to my pain and the pain of my friends and family that even hearing it now makes me angry. Anyway, great post.

Oh, what a painful time for you. I’m so sorry. I had a similar experience one October, when I lost my dad, my grandma, and my great-grandma and everyone around me seemed to throw platitudes in my direction.

I sincerely hope that you and your family were able to surround yourselves with truly compassionate and loving people to help ease you through that time.

Just finished “Children of God” by Mary Doria Russell, and I was definitely reminded of a quote I read there just now. “Rain falls on everyone, lightning strikes some. What cannot be changed is best forgotten. God made the world, and He saw that it was good. Not fair. Not happy. Not perfect. Good.”

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