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"Everything Happens for a Reason"

We often hear people use the expression: "Everything happens for a reason!" This saying is the postmodern, New Age version of the old religious saying: "It is God's will!" Is this true? Is there a reason for everything? Does God's will regulate all things?

First, some things happen because the Lord has placed certain 'natural' laws in place that cannot be violated without predictable results. For example: a man breaks his leg. Why? What was the reason? He stepped off of a ladder and the 'law of gravity' prevailed. In this sense, we can understand and acknowledge that this 'happened for a reason,' though we doubt that this is what the postmodern crowd means when they use that expression.

But, we must essentially protest the claim that God has totally predestined our lives, or that His 'will' controls every aspect of our existence. The Scriptures make it clear that God gives people choice. Joshua's famous statement makes this abundantly clear: "Choose this day whom you will serve" (Joshua 24:15). We know that the invitation for salvation is open to all, but each one must decide: "The Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come' … let the one that desires take of the water of life without price" (Revelation 22:17). So, obviously, God has not predestined everything, else these statements about our freedom to choose would be senseless.

Further, we know that some things do, in fact, happen as a consequence of the choices God allows us to make. Good choices typically bring good outcomes, and bad choices produce bad ones. Many are suffering the ill effects of things they chose to do or not do, while others are enjoying the benefits of wise selections. Moses advised the Israelites: "I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live" (Deuteronomy 30:19). To put it simply, choices have consequences. And while this is a definite rule of God, the specifics are determined by us and our free will, not His.

Finally, we must note that there is not always a clear, one-to-one corollary to be seen in every event in our lives. Sometimes bad things happen to good people, and vice versa. Why? Frequently we can 'see' it, but often we cannot answer, other than to lay it to the reality of living in this present world with its physical suffering and death. We may not be able to explain them, but we can use even the 'bad things' to provoke us to do what is right and just — as we seek for a world where such will never happen again (2 Peter 3:13).