Does everything happen for a reason?
When we ask this question we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. If we say that everything does happen for a reason, that God is ordaining every good moment and every bad moment, we are left having to accept divine involvement in things that are so horrific that to attribute them to God’s wisdom is tantamount to taking the Lord’s name in vain, of misusing the name of God. To assert that God is the author of every rape, every murder and every act of abuse toward a child is to blame God for the work of the devil. God is not bound to a law higher than himself but it seems contrary to his character to rule such acts as the ones listed above as abominable and then to make those things happen for his higher purpose. If God commands us not to sin why would he break his own law?
On the other hand, if we say that there is no purpose behind difficult experiences we run a different kind of risk that leaves us feeling like the events of our life, whether they be good or bad, are random accidents and that God has nothing whatsoever to do with them. God doesn’t have to be the initiator of every experience we have in order to initiate some of them. In spite of this, however, we are confronted with a greater concern which is why did God allow something bad to happen to us, and what do we do with the memories of our past that are so painful? What do we do about fears of the future? Bad things may yet happen to us. How is God involved in our future if we say he isn’t involved in our past?
One “middle way” in this circumstance is to recognize that while God does not cause every thing that happens, and some things happen for no clear reason, God remains connected to us in the experience in such a way that he will redeem it. Rather than orchestrating every moment of our life, programming us like computer code, he is allowing our experiences, our stories to unfold, and through his omnicompetence he redeems every sadness, every injury, every loss no matter how great or devastating.
Does everything happen for a reason? No. Everything does not happen for a divine reason. Yet everything that does happen remains a thread of grace that God weaves in the fabric of a life of grace and redemption.