Updated: Apr 6
Does everything happen for a reason?
It's an age old question, and an incredibly important one.
If the answer is no, and we are simply victims of bad circumstance and timing, it would be difficult to face life's uncertainties with any amount of confidence.
If the answer is yes, and all things have a purpose, then what are we to do about life's inevitable pain and immeasurable suffering?
If the answer is no, there is essentially no reason for most of the suffering in life.
It serves no greater purpose and simply exists as a byproduct of man's free will in this broken world.
You can learn lessons albeit, and try to avoid the same hardship in the future, but the concept remains - pain is an inanimate force that indiscriminately punishes those caught in its path by matter of coincidence.
But, if the answer is yes, then there must be a purpose for absolutely every hardship that enters your life.
There is no halfway measure here, there is only random chance or divine purpose, but there simply cannot be both.
"Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew 10:29-31 NKJV
A copper coin was the currency equivalent today of half a penny.
An almost immeasurably small amount, the value of which is hardly worth the labour of any kind.
And yet, Jesus speaks an incredible truth in this story.
That a single sparrow, two of which are worth virtually nothing, does not fall form the sky apart from the Father's will.
Take note of the language. He doesn't simply say that they don't fall without the Father knowing, He says that not one falls apart from his will.
His will denotes much more than merely observation, but instead - direct involvement.
'For I know the plans I have for you,” reads Jeremiah 29:11 (emphasis added)
Each day, every single circumstance you will encounter, every moment; planned.
Had it been only known, God would simply be an observer; a victim of his own universe when things turned for the worst.
But it is made clear that there is a plan, masterfully crafted by the author of all things.
A story from the book of Job reaffirms this concept with great clarity.
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Job 1:9-12 NIV
This story shows first shows that God has chosen to put protection around Job, very clearly because he has followed the Lords commands and pursued the path of Righteousness.
It also shows that Satan asks for permission to harm Jobs family because The Lord must give permission for anything to happen to him.
An important distinction, as the Lord himself will never harm you, but he will allow you to endure hardship.
And so we are brought to the root of the question we are exploring.
Hardship, pain, suffering, loss - why would the Lord allow it?
Romans 5:3-5 says: "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."
And if Hebrews 12:1 says. "And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" How can we then possibly run the race without perseverance?
How can we possibly receive perseverance without enduring pain?
How can we fulfill the purpose the Lord has for our life without the perseverance that we had gained through that pain?
It's like we have forgotten why we're here.
Why we're really here.
It's for one reason and one reason only.
To become like our saviour, Jesus the Christ.
And what is Jesus like? Among many attributes, he's a man of great sacrifice.
And he only became a man of sacrifice because of the awful pain he endured during his life on this Earth and death on the cross.
You hear people say of others, "This person is brave. That person is tough" but you aren't either of those things by just saying them.
You have to endure fear to become brave. You have to deal with difficult times to become a tough person.
There is a plan for your life, formed before the foundations of the Earth were laid.
When God wrote that plan, he put pain into that plan.
Likely a lot of it.
And you should be thankful he did.
Being the author of your story and being responsible for your well-being, He said "yes" to allowing that pain in your life knowing that as it says in Romans 8:28 " for those who love God all things work together for good."
Not just some things. Not just the things that didn't hurt too bad. He didn't just say the good times work for the good. He said all things.
To say that there is no reason for it, would be to walk away from the most important moment in your life. It would be to leave one of the most important lessons of your life unlearned.
Still, we are shaken to the very core of our being when disaster strikes and we lose someone we love.
How could a life ending in tragedy possibly be for any greater purpose?
That is the worst possible outcome, isn't it? Death?
We think that maybe some sufferings in life can produce character - but what happens when someones life is cut short? How can that possible work out for their good?
There is much talk in the scriptures of the threshing of wheat, and how the hardships we endure actually help separate the wheat (the things of the Spirit) from the chaff (the things of the flesh).
Isaiah says in Isaiah 28:28 (NASB) that,
"Grain for bread is crushed,
Indeed, he does not continue to thresh it forever.
Because the wheel of his cart and his horses eventually damage it,
He does not thresh it longer."
So it becomes clear that there is a time in both the act of threshing and in our spiritual journey where sufficient pressure has been applied to separate the wheat form the chaff, and that anything further would only damage what has been made useful.
It also says later in Isaiah 57:1 (NIV, emphasis added) that,
"The righteous perish,
and no one takes it to heart;
the devout are taken away,
and no one understands
that the righteous are taken away
to be spared from evil."
The Lord will never allow you to endure anything beyond what is within your capacity to bear.
The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV) that,