I was shocked by what I was hearing at the ladies’ lunch that day. One of my new friends began to explain that her husband of 15 years had been having an affair. He was divorcing her and moving in with the “other woman.” She started to cry as she talked about their two tweenage sons. Life was a mess. She proceeded to tell us that she was quitting her job that she loved. She’d be taking the alimony to go back to school in order to provide for herself and kids. Then, in an attempt to wrap up this ugly package with a beautiful bow, the words came out of her mouth.
“Well, I guess there’s a reason for everything.”
I bit my tongue. Oh, I have walked in those shoes! I have let that phrase rattle around in my head as I dealt with the fastball sting that life hurled into my glove. While I pondered my own struggle with “everything happens for a reason”, one of the other gals spoke up.
“Oh no…” she said. “Don’t put this on God.”
When people say, “there’s a reason for everything” or “everything happens for a reason” I hear the struggle. Let’s be honest, sometimes God doesn’t make sense. Life can hurt and it’s confusing. The precious innocent seven year old girl that dies from brain cancer. The pastor whose son dies of a sudden heart attack. Or the church goers who were killed while worshipping God last week. Although my life’s problem weren’t nearly this tragic, I confess. I searched and searched for REASON.
When my 20 year marriage first fell apart, I calculated in my head that the “reason for everything” was that now my ex-husband would be an involved, engaged Dad. I was so happy for my sons. I didn’t even care that weekends were with Disneyland Dad, and I was the Homework Hound and Chore Nazi. The time my sons were spending together with their Dad was quality like never before. My equation went something like this: bad thing happened so that this wonderful thing could happen and that is the reason for everything. God is good.
But that reasoning didn’t work for very long. My kids’ Dad committed suicide after his quick second marriage began to fall apart. This messed up my equation — among other things. I could no longer say there was “a reason for everything.” Surely this was not God’s plan.
I had a choice.
I could walk away from God sure that this “good God” did not exist.
Or I could walk away because I was so angry at Him for what He dealt me.
But did I really want to walk away?
Could their be another option?
Was I correct in thinking that His hand was on this mess of my life?
I was trying to comfort myself with “everything happens for a reason.” But it seemed to imply that God was the master conductor of this concert I was calling my life. With baton in hand, I imagined that He took all the different instruments, all the sharps and flats and ugly notes of my life. He told them when to come in loud and strong and when to not come in at all. I reasoned that everything would end up in this beautiful symphony that I would hear and see and understand before I left this earth.
God is so brilliant at bringing good things out of bad situations, this seemed to make sense. But after the suicide, I could no longer accept this thinking. Although I don’t understand a lot about God, I knew a few truths:
First, I knew He loves moms and dads staying together and He wants children to be protected. I knew it was NOT His will that my family break up. That was not the way he designed families. Instead, I knew that He was broken hearted with me. He was crying with me. And He would help me navigate through the mess.
Second, I knew that God would never have wanted my ex-husband to take a gun and shoot himself, forever robbing my kids of a dad. The God that sent his own son to die for my kids’ souls would never have orchestrated such tragedy. No. He cried with us. He provided for us. And He held us together. And He still does.
Can good things come out of tragedy? Yes, I’ve seen it — hundreds and hundreds of times. But with some of the big stuff, the good things will never, ever overshadow the tragedy. The tragedy is just that devastating. This past week’s shooting of people in a church is an example. Some could say, “But look at the exposure the church is getting.” Or “Look at the way the loving community has surrounded these people.” Which is really great stuff. Unless, it was your loved one that’s having a funeral. I hope no one says to them, “Well, you know…everything happens for a reason.” If anyone says that, I hope they get punched in the face. The silver lining is just that. It’s a tiny small line around a big dark cloud.
Truth is, we may never even see any “silver lining” — at least not in our lifetime. As I started to scrub the mud off my own life and my kids’ lives, I had to ask myself. “What if I never see any good thing come out of this? What if things continue to go downhill from here and I never see any golden nugget out of this tragedy?”
“Am I going to be ok with that?”
I was reminded of the story in the Bible of Naomi. Oh, the tragedy of this woman’s life! A husband and two sons dead. On top of it, there’s no food. And she blames God. “Because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.”
Naomi trudges through the rest of her days watching her former daughter-in-law marry another man. Although a really good man, it wasn’t her son. The book wraps up with her holding a baby on her lap. A baby that’s not even her biological grandson. I wonder at the end of her life if she thought, “Um…God? Where’s the reason for my tragedy? This is a nice baby, but I lost everything! Why couldn’t I have gotten a grandson through my own son? And why couldn’t my husband be here to enjoy it with me?”
So when she died, as far as she knew, her life was just really, really sad. We know the rest of the story, of course. That Jesus Christ would come through that baby on her lap. That the Savior of mankind was going to come through the lineage that was being lined up with that birth. And that this Naomi, with this very sad life, would appear in the Bible for millions of people for thousands of years to read about her.
But she didn’t know that.
All she knew was that her life was really hard.
And she thought God dealt it to her.
God’s plan for mankind – as I see and understand it – was for things to be Garden of Eden perfect. So that he could hang out with us. But when sin came into the world, scratch plan A and move to plan B. After that, there would be disease and death and tornadoes and hurricanes. And shootings at church. Good people would die. Innocent children would suffer from cancer, Dads would put a bullet in their chests. People worshipping God would be gunned down. And for my new friend at lunch that day, husbands would have affairs and walk out the door. In fact, shortly after being expelled from the Garden, there would be murder and death. Cain and Abel. Two parents lost a son – tragically.
And all of this would break God’s heart. Why had I been blaming God for all of this? Why had I been looking for a reason for all of this? Instead of just settling with the fact that it was tragic and sad and unfair. And God was hurting with me. And this world was full of sin.
I guess there is a reason for everything: sin. Plain and simple. Broken world. Satan is alive and well. Not just sin, as in people doing sinful things. But sin as in bad things entered into the world. Less than Garden of Eden perfect stuff came into mankind.
And that’s not on God. That’s on Satan.
And he’s really good at what he does.
He not only brings about the tragedies in this world, he interjects some stupid statement like “there’s a reason for everything” in order to plant the seed that would separate me from God who loves me. Satan would send me on this insatiable quest for reason. So I would not only blame God, but I would consider walking away from the Great Comforter. The only thing that would even begin to soothe the ache of tragedy.
Truth is, I’ll never be ok with cancer, suicide, heart attacks, divorce, hurricanes and shootings. I’ll never again shrug my shoulders and say, “oh well…there’s a reason…” And I don’t think God’s asking me to do that. I don’t have to suck it up and be a strong Christian and respond to the tragedy with “I guess everything happens for a reason…”
I will be angry at the darkness and brokenness that is in this world. I’m going to be mad at the hurt that is here. And is very real. I will search for and celebrate silver linings. But never pretend they are better than the tragedies. Instead, I will look forward to the day when the sufferings of this stupid world are over.
This life will never make sense. And finally I’ve stopped trying to get it to.
If you’re reading this and know someone who has just experienced a devastating loss, please don’t join them on this quest for reason. Join them, instead, in anger towards this broken world. Cry with them. Bring them closer to the God that hurts with them and is “close to the brokenhearted.” (Ps. 34:18). Tell them He cries with them and has always wanted something better. He’s made that place. It’s called heaven.