Monday, November 4, 2013

Does everything really happen for a reason?

I remember hearing of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings on the news last year. I couldn’t bear to watch the chaos unfold. Frantic parents waiting to hear the names of the children who had survived…and those who hadn’t. My heart was broken over the evil that is all too present in our world. I felt the same way in April when I got a phone call from my brother who had been a few blocks away from the bombings at the Boston marathon. Runners who should have been exhilarated at the end of the race were instead laying in a pool of blood, fighting for their lives.

While discussing these tragedies with several Christian friends, one of them said, “I sure don’t understand it, but I know everything happens for a reason.”

This statement did not sit well with me. How could everything happen for a reason? Are women raped and children murdered for a reason? To believe this would imply that God is the author of evil, which contradicts Scripture.

James 1:13 says, “God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.”

1 John 1:5 says, “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.”

We cannot take an evil, sinful act and attribute it to God's "sovereign will." God HATES sin. It is never His desire for us to do evil. That’s why He calls us to “be holy, as I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:16. He created the world to be good, yet humankind went against His perfect plan and brought sin into the world with the first bite of the forbidden fruit.

We cannot lazily go throughout our lives assuming that our actions are acceptable just because God allows them to happen. Some will say that it is impossible to go against God’s will. From what I see in Scripture, we go against God’s will every time that we choose to sin.

John Calvin states it well, “. . . the Lord had declared that "everything that he had made . . . was exceedingly good" [Gen. 1:31]. Whence, then comes this wickedness to man, that he should fall away from his God? Lest we should think it comes from creation, God had put His stamp of approval on what had come forth from himself. By his own evil intention, then, man corrupted the pure nature he had received from the Lord; and by his fall drew all his posterity with him into destruction. Accordingly, we should contemplate the evident cause of condemnation in the corrupt nature of humanity-which is closer to us-rather than seek a hidden and utterly incomprehensible cause in God's predestination. [Institutes, 3:23:8]

With that being said, God, in His sovereignty, allows evil to happen. In His infinite wisdom, He allows humankind to make decisions and ultimately uses all things to bring Him glory. Even this has been hard for me to grasp at times, but I have to remember that God’s thoughts are not my thoughts, neither are his ways my ways (Isaiah 55:8). 

While God allows evil to unfold, He does not create it. He doesn’t delight in it. I believe it breaks His heart. I can imagine God weeping with the families of those who died in the Boston bombings.

Jesus tells us that in this world we WILL have many troubles (John 16:33), “but take heart! I have overcome the world.” We will always have tragedies and heart aches and evil on this earth. That is the result of sin. I take great comfort in knowing that God does not delight in these things, but He has overcome them! 

Romans 8:28 is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It says, “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him.”

My friend James is from Rwanda. During the horrific genocide, 11 of his relatives were brutally murdered.  He was devastated, he was angry…he wanted justice. But as a believer, in Christ, he chose to see how God would use his terrible situation to allow something good to happen. Years later, he went back to the village where those who had murdered his family lived. He didn’t fight back. He didn’t even show hostility. Instead, he did the unthinkable…He forgave them. Then he shared with them the Good News about Jesus who had forgiven him of his sins. He told them that since God had forgiven him, he also wanted to forgive them. The murderers were so struck by his act of grace and forgiveness, that they each chose to follow Jesus. That village in Rwanda is now growing as more and more people come to know the Lord. It’s only a small glimpse of how God is working for good in that situation.

So does everything really happen for a reason? I don't think so. But is God always working for the good in all situations? Yes. Even when God allows tragedy to strike, and even when our sin gets in the way, He will always work it out. We may not always see it, but He is working in ways that we cannot even imagine to accomplish His will.