Everything Happens For A Reason
Everything happens for a reason.
Is that true, or is it just a simple platitude to help those who are suffering cope with the reality being dealt to them?
I will start by saying what I'm about to write is directed toward anyone regardless of their religion, but for the sake of simplicity I'll be assuming we are both Christian (or at least, have a solid understanding of Christianity). I was raised Christian, and during my high school years I stopped believing. Only during adulthood have I started to believe again, and I've experienced one hell of a rollercoaster in order to make that happen. My personal beliefs are beside the point, but I will credit Jordan Peterson and Terry Davis for making me really think about these things in the first place.
God can be understood as "external forces beyond one's control." Especially randomness. I have had too many things happen in my life that are so improbable that I couldn't believe they really did happen. A highly improbable event actually occurring is what we call a miracle. So it is no surprise that the son of God is the one who creates miracles. And as Christians we hold ourselves to the standard of the son of God, being people who, if we act Christ-like, are fully capable of creating miracles in the real world. This is what it means to allow God to perform miracles through you.
When I was 7 years old, my parents divorced. At the time, it was a horrible thing for me to go through. But there was also a lot of good that came from it. So listen carefully.
It was painful because I was really close with my dad. I still got to see him, just not as often. He lived only ten minutes away. But then he decided to move an hour away, for his own justifiable reasons. Of course that made me even more sad, but I understood.
When I was 14 years old, just starting high school, things got even worse. My mom had been bringing home this really awful guy, and my life at home was getting worse. And the high school was horrible, and I had zero friends there. I was so sad that I talked to my dad about this and we decided that I should go live with him.
Amazingly, the court agreed that I could go live with my dad, and so that's what happened. The new school was significantly better, and I was able to make some of the best friends I've ever had there. I learned so much, not just academically but socially. My home life was also better, as my dad gave me freedom and independence and I was able to explore and learn things on my own.
Then, when it came time for me to go to college, I had a massive advantage. My mom lived in one state and my dad lived in a different state (remember he moved an hour away from her) and so because I was now living in the other state, I could get in-state tuition rates from the university I wanted to attend. That university was a huge step up from the only other university I would've been able to go to for a computer science degree, had I still lived with my mom. And of course at university I'd go on to meet even more friends who are still some of my closest friends today. And when employers look at my degree, or really just anybody looks at it, and they see it came from that university, they're always impressed, and it's opened a lot of doors for me.
Think about that. If my parents hadn't gotten divorced, my high school and college experiences would've been significantly worse. Plus consider the ramifications of not getting the degree from that college, and not making any of the friends I had made along the way, and not getting the jobs I've had. It's certain that my life would be completely different from what it is now, and not in a good way. It's hard to imagine what would've happened, but I probably would've just had a very lonely high school and college experience, going to really bad schools, and being very socially stunted compared to everyone else my age. Beyond that, I really can't say.
So my point is that even if something bad happens in the short term, it can be a good thing in the long term. This is what we might call "God's plan" or "God's will." We don't know at the time why bad things need to happen, but ultimately there is a good reason for it.
By the way, I've only mentioned how it has been good for my life, but clearly it was also a good thing for the lives of others. I was able to meet my friends and enrich their lives and teach them things just as much as they taught me. And the things I've learned at university will no doubt allow me to positively impact an untold number of people in the future.
So then you might say, there are exceptions to this, where something truly awful happens -- someone is hurt, abused, or even killed. And you ask, what good can ever come from that?
I have known some people who have passed away too soon, and though the reason(s) may still be unclear, I am sure that it has motivated me (and many others) to make certain decisions that they may not have made otherwise. And that the accumulation of these decisions may lead to some greater, even if seemingly unrelated, outcome.
One of my close relatives was killed when I was only two years old. This meant I spent a good deal of time as a toddler around police and in courtrooms. It also meant that my mom would take me on vacation to make up for it. It was on that vacation that we learned about cable channels on TV, which led to me watching many of my favorite childhood cartoons and anime. Now being older, it may be the case that those childhood memories (of both the cartoons and the courtrooms) resurface into my creative work, such as a book or a video or a game, which (in some way I can never actually know) helps a significant number of people all around the world. This is only one out of the many potential consequences of that tragedy.
Generally speaking, some of the greatest advancements of our civilization have come from such tragedies. They spur people to create change on issues that they would otherwise ignore. How many people had to die from car crashes before someone decided that seatbelts were a good idea? How many people had to die of some disease before enough scientists became inspired enough to look for a cure? Just think of all the problems in the world. Those problems inspire people to become problem-solvers. Like Batman, right?
And what if we are the ones who caused the tragedy? How can we live with the guilt? It requires forgiveness, which can only occur through spiritual growth and character development. In fact, the reason for any of these problems will boil down to character development.
You can see this most clearly in any fictional story. All good stories are about character development. Meaning, what choices does the character make? And why does that character make them? So something happens during the story, usually a conflict (or in other words, a bad thing), and this conflict is what motivates the character to go on their journey of self-discovery and become a stronger person than they were at the beginning of the story. The idea being that, as a stronger person, the character can more positively influence the world. So even though something bad happened to the character, it ultimately becomes a net positive for the world.
Now of course, not everyone figures this out. Not everyone takes a bad thing and tries to turn it into a good thing. They plan revenge, or they plan to make worse things happen. But two wrongs do not make a right. The people who go down this road suffer both externally and internally. These kinds of people are their own worst enemy. They sabotage their own efforts at success. And unless they repent and change their ways, they are doomed to lead lives of ruin.
When you have truly understood the meaning behind your suffering, you will become a stronger person for it.
That's why the Bible essentially acts as an instruction manual for living a good life. It tells you what to do and what not to do. And it's backed by the wisdom of the people who wrote it, who were, of course, "inspired by God" to write it. Think about what that phrase means. It means the people who wrote the Bible must have gone through many horrible tragedies in their own lives, and through them they were able to write the exact words needed to help an endless number of other people deal with their own, even thousands of years into the future.
Are you still not convinced that everything happens for a reason?
It seems there is no end to the suffering we must go through in our lives. But this faith in the long-term outcome, this "faith in God" is what can allow us to more easily survive suffering. From an evolutionary standpoint, faith must be an adaptive strategy to survive hard times.
Recently I witnessed something crazy on the road while driving, and I was upset that I didn't have the memory card in my dashcam (I had left it at home by accident). But then I realized that if I had taken the time to grab the memory card from my computer and put it in the dashcam, I wouldn't have been in the location where the event happened, which meant I wouldn't have been able to capture it on video anyway.
Our universe is deterministic. We are the people we are right now because of everything that has already happened. We are only able to experience a positive moment as a result of all the events that have led up to that moment, including the negative ones. If the negative moments didn't happen, then that positive moment wouldn't have happened, either.
When something bad happens, I would advise you to be aware that as much as it hurts, it is all part of God's plan, and it has happened for a reason. It may even take many years for the reason to become clear, but there is a reason for it. Remember that strength is only built through adversity, and strength is necessary for survival.
As we continue our descent into the collapse of our civilization, because weak men have led to hard times, remember: "God gives His hardest battles to His strongest soldiers."