Have you ever encountered some setback, problem, challenge, or even tragedy, and some well-meaning person says to you, “Everything happens for a reason.”
Other versions of this philosophy are expressed this way.
“God doesn’t make mistakes .”
“God must be up to something.”
“You must be very special for God to trust you with this.”
“One day, you will realize this was a blessing in disguise.”
So, does everything happen for a reason?
Some say, “Yes.” Others say, “No.” But what does the Bible say?
There are competing issues involved in this question. That makes it complex and somewhat difficult to answer. At least, in some situations.
We’re familiar with God’s providential work in the life of Joseph. Many bad things happened to him early in his life. His father’s favoritism. His brothers’ envy. Being thrown into a pit to die. Finally, being sold as a slave and ending up in Egypt. Then he was falsely accused by Mrs. Potitpher. Thrown into prison, where he languished for two years.
Ultimately, of course, the story ends well with his promotion to second in command behind Pharoah. When his brothers came to Egypt during the famine and Joseph revealed himself to them, he tells them not to fret over their past, evil intentions. He then says, “And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance (Gen. 35:7).
Clearly, God can provide a good outcome even when others mistreat us. His providence may ultimately bless both us and others. Even when bad things happen to good people, God can work good through something that is unpleasant.
However, is that always the case? Does everything happen for a reason?
Our text in Ecceliastes 9:11-12 would suggest not. The ancient Preacher offered this insight into “life under the sun.”
I returned and saw under the sun that —
The race is not to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong,
Nor bread to the wise,
Nor riches to men of understanding,
Nor favor to men of skill;
But time and chance happen to them all.
For man also does not know his time:
Like fish taken in a cruel net,
Like birds caught in a snare,
So the sons of men are snared in an evil time,
When it falls suddenly upon them.
The most talented team doesn’t always win. The best athlete may get beat. The stronger may fall prey to someone weaker. Fools may enjoy wealth. While good, godly people are poor. A dishonest person may get a promotion and the Christian may get fired. Discerning people can become victims of unscrupulous con artists.
Like our children, we may shout, “But that isn’t fair!” Of course, that’s Solomon’s point. Life on earth isn’t always fair.
Time. And Chance.
Our timing may be off. We may be at the wrong place at the wrong time. We may have zigged when we should have zagged. We make a wrong turn. Or step into a hole, either literally or figuratively. We bought the property when the market was high and had to sell during a recession.
Some things in life are just random chance. An accident. A fluke. Or a fortuitous decision that we make on the spur of the moment. A chance meeting. Or a convenient series of beneficial events.
God is not sitting in heaven micro-managing our lives at every single twist and turn. I doubt that He’s interested in who won the Super Bowl. Or why Indiana lost to Ohio State in overtime last night. Nor is He directly guiding your investment portfolio. It may have been pure chance 25 years ago that you invested 10K in Apple stock instead of GE stock. Or visa-versa. The time was right for the former, and not so much for the latter.
What is important is our faithfulness to God regardless of what happens “under the sun.” He can use us to accomplish His ultimate purpose regardless of what time and chance bring our way. It is also important that we are not allowing the randomness of life to discourage us, depress us, or derail our faith.
Let’s avoid the two extremes of thinking that “everything happens for a reason.” Or ignoring and discounting the presence, power, and providence of God in our lives.
God is the giver of good gifts. And He wants the very best for us. But we live in a fallen, sinful, broken world. Satan’s schemes are at work. Our free will allows for mistakes and misjudgment. And then there are these two variables–time and chance.
Time and chance happens to all of us. Sometimes.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman