I was talking with an old friend the other day who was grieving the loss of a relationship. As I listened to him share his heart and process his grief, he commented that someone once counseled him by saying, “everything happens for a reason.”
This comment took me aback for a few reasons. One, I realized how many times I have uttered that very phrase simply because I wanted to say something that was remotely comforting. Two, as I heard this common quip framed in this context I didn’t find it remotely of sound theology. And lastly, for the first time I heard just how damaging to the situation such phrases can truly be – especially when it is cloaked in a veil of Christian faith.
There certainly is cause and effect at play which should necessarily prompt one to do some soul searching. But to imply that such and such was meant to happen or that it was pre-ordained by God is lazy at best and dangerous at worse.
Pain is a part of our fallen human condition: it is something God uses to direct us. It is something He sometimes allows to persist in spite of offering the best prayers we can muster (2 Corinthians 12:1-10). It is sometimes a direct consequence of our actions, and other times something we experience through no fault of our own. But whatever the reason – or lack thereof – God is not looking down on us willfully dispensing pain. God allows pain and He uses pain, but most importantly – if we allow Him – He redeems our pain.
God gave us Jesus who advocates for us (1 John 2). We also have an adversary who accuses us before God’s throne day and night (Revelation 12:10) Our enemy seeks to use pain as a means to distract us, to discourage us, and ultimately to destroy us.
But, the good news of the hope of Christ it this: He is compassionate (which literally means to join us in our pain) and when we trust Him with our pain He will use it to draw us, and ultimately others, to Him, bringing to bear the truth of Genesis 50:20 in our own life story.
You planned something bad for me, but God produced something good from it, in order to save the lives of many people, just as he’s doing today. (CEB)