Everything Happens for a Reason
We were a small group of women introducing ourselves. Rita (not her real name) told us her husband had died from cancer ten years before. “Tom kept telling the doctor about stomach pain. The doctor wrote the complaint in his notes but didn’t do anything. When the pain got so bad that Tom consulted a specialist, the cancer was too advanced to treat.” Rita started to cry. “If the doctor had taken Tom’s pain seriously the first time he would still be alive today.” She dried her eyes with a tissue and added, “I know I shouldn’t be angry at the doctor. Everything happens for a reason. It was God’s will for Tom to die then.”
While Rita didn’t connect her story to scripture, the Bible verse most often used to support the idea that “everything happens for a reason” is Romans 8:28- …all things work together for good to them that love God (KJV). Most people combine those ideas and conclude what Rita did: everything that happens is God’s will. The problem is that ten years later we’re still weeping.
I was in my late thirties when I faced a situation I knew wasn’t God’s will. After an angry divorce, my ex-husband and I were in a custody battle for our only child, a four-year-old girl. Dragging on in court for eighteen months, the struggle left me financially, physically and emotionally bankrupt. It also left my daughter in her father’s care.
The reasons for this outcome were complex, and it took me years to fully understand what happened in that courtroom. But I knew one thing beyond a shadow of a doubt: neither the divorce nor the custody battle were God’s will. Everything does happen for a reason, but sometimes that reason is human sin.
Translation Matters: Who, not What
Many of us memorized scripture from the translation ordered by King James. To put the language of the KJV in perspective, consider this: It was completed in 1611, the same year Shakespeare wrote The Tempest. Contemporary versions of the Bible translate Romans 8:28- …in all things God works for the good of those who love him (NIV). The new translations change the sentence from passive voice (what happens) to active voice (who does it).
While the passive sentence asserts that things will somehow work out, the active sentence reassures us that God works for our good no matter what happens.
Rita’s husband died too soon because a doctor was negligent, but God was there working for good. Rita remarried and went on with her life. My marriage ended in a custody battle that left scars on all of us, but God was there working for good. When I emerged from the dark night of the soul my divorce triggered, I knew God was with me and together we stitched the scraps of my life into a colorful quilt.
God Is Able to Orchestrate Everything
Recently I encountered a new version of the Bible called The Voice (2012). These translators used the active form with a poetic verb to capture the Apostle Paul’s meaning: We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan.
Friends, we can live fearlessly not because everything will work out but because we know when we love God and give him our lives, God is able to orchestrate every single note into a beautiful melody.