I am a Christian. I believe in God and the saving grace of Jesus Christ. I do not believe that "everything happens for a reason".
I used to believe that everything happens for a reason. That God was behind each and every moment in our lives, like a puppeteer pulling the strings. I have a wonderful family and have had a great life so far, but I wouldn't say that its been free from adversity. I have had some valleys in my life to get through, and yet those tough moments never tested my belief that "everything happens for a reason". That was until July 2, 2013, when my absolutely perfect healthy daughter died without explanation. Certainly there is not a reason that God would make that choice for my life.
In the months following Emma's death the questions began to come. My faith and beliefs that I had grown up with were shaken to the core. I questioned everything I ever believed, and I felt like I had to start all over again. I wasn't ready to give up on my faith, and although it wasn't with a truly genuine heart, I began to seek out the word of God. I decided that going through the motions was better than doing nothing at all. I read books, participated in Bible studies, read online articles by Christian authors, and consulted my study Bible.
Through my time spent studying I developed a new, or perhaps refined, set of beliefs. To be honest, I do not share these things with you to invite discussion or debate. If your beliefs are different I respect that and will not question them. I ask you to do the same for me.
I believe that sometimes things do happen for a reason. There are cases when God uses circumstances to further his plan for us and the world. There are times when God brings us to a place where we will be forced to return to him and atone for sinful choices and behavior.
I believe that sometimes things happen that are not at the hand of God. We live in a fallen world. Satan is "the god of this age" (2Co 4:4) and his evil abounds in our world. As a Presbyterian, Satan is not a common topic in our Sunday morning messages, but the proof of his domain is clearly written in the Bible.
Finally, because we live in a fallen world, there is going to be pain, sorrow, conflict, and suffering. It's not that God chooses every bad thing that happens, but sometimes bad things just happen because that is how the world is. I think many of us go through life thinking that we should be untouchable. That we should be protected from bad things because we are good people. Unfortunately, that is not how life on Earth works. Life is hard. There will be pain and suffering. We have to persevere and make it through. When we get to Heaven is when we will finally have a peaceful pain free existence.
Now we are left to wonder, what about God's providence? The care and guidance of God in our lives, the belief that things happen because God allows them, though he may not directly cause them. Could God have intervened in Emma's death? I suppose he could have, but again, I choose to believe that the world is a tough place and bad things sometimes just happen.
I do however believe in God's foreknowledge, that God knows everything before it happens. While bad things will inevitably happen (not necessarily because God "made them happen"), God knows about them ahead of time. I don't imagine God would be taken by surprise, "oh crap, well that happened…". I think that for some people God's foreknowledge allows him to provide that person with intuition that helps prepare them for the bad things that will happen. I have talked to several moms whose children have died who say that they had "signs", feelings, or experiences that hinted at the loss they would suffer. Often times these signs are small things that only are pieced together after the loss.
I myself think back to the ten months of my pregnancy and wonder about some feelings and experiences I had. Is my broken heart and human mind just grasping to make sense of a senseless tragedy, or was God providing me with the intuition that things were not going to work out? Most days I think it was intuition. I think about the lack of reality I felt during my pregnancy. I remember saying, even at the very end, "I just can't imagine that in a few months, a month, a few weeks that we will have a baby here". I think about how I never got the nesting urge, the motivation to prepare our home for baby. I think about how at my baby shower I sat opening gift upon gift and none of it felt real to me. Like I was on the outside looking in. Was I just an overwhelmed and scared first time parent? Perhaps. I'm sure mothers whose babies come home alive from the hospital have had these feelings too. Or, maybe it was that still small voice letting my mother's intuition tell me that things weren't going to end the way they should. One last moment I think back to was late spring last year, just a few months before Emma was due. In one of our garden beds a big beautiful clump of forget-me-nots appeared. We had not planted them. Sure, a bird could have dropped some seeds. The interesting thing is that the garden bed where they bloomed is the area which would become Emma's memorial butterfly garden. This spring the forget-me-nots did not bloom in her garden. A small clump bloomed on the outside of the barrier to her garden and then they were gone.
Although God may not cause all bad things to happen, he does promise to be with us and bring good from everything. So whether what happens in our life is by God's hand or not, he is there with us not only to help us through, but to bring beauty from the ashes.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."