"Everything Happens for a Reason"

Stop Saying this to those who Grieve

By Catiana Nak Kheiyn

A friend posted an article from Tim Lawrence's blog, The Adversity Within, entitled "Everything Doesn't Happen for a Reason." The title threw me a little because I do, in fact, believe that everything happens for a reason. But after reading Mr. Lawrence's post, I came to realize this was not exactly his point and got me thinking about the triteness of that phrase.

I've always been a proponent of the idea that "everything happens for a reason." No misfortune in life is too terrible or tragic to keep God's light from shining through in some way. Romans 8:28 says that all things work together for good purposes. It's true. I fully believe that. But the "reason" for our suffering is seldom good enough reason for us in the moment of our grief. Life hurts. Suffering hurts. Pain often makes no sense whatsoever.

When children die, when gunmen murder, when marriages fall apart, when the economy leaves a family destitute, it's hard to find any goodness. Yes, God sees a much bigger picture than we do (Ecclesiastes 7:14), but we don't have the benefit of that perspective. We're still here, stuck in the confines of time, looking bleary-eyed through the days of dusky grief and feeling nothing but confusion. When everything's gone wrong and we or the people we love are suffering, it's hard to be comforted in the knowledge that "everything happens for a reason."

The first time my faith in that phrase was shaken was several years ago when a dear friend lost her daughter. This friend was one of the godliest women I knew. She raised her kids on Veggie Tales and bedtime prayers. But even after learning that almost a dozen people accepted Christ at her daughter's memorial service, in the rawness of her heartache, she told me she didn't care. The salvation of those souls was not a good enough reason for her daughter to be taken away at the age of six.

Freshly-crushed hearts can only see a world spinning out of control in numb disbelief of a new reality. A person hurting hard doesn't need to be told "it's going to be okay." Because sometimes it isn't. They don't need to be told "this happened for a reason." Because whatever that reason is, it won't take away this moment of misery. While I do believe that tragedy affords an opportunity for God to do beautiful things, that doesn't necessarily mean it was "meant to be." No matter why God let it happen, our lives will still be changed forever. The "what could have been" will no longer be. The memories we expected to make will no longer come to pass. The opportunity to live life "how it should be" is now gone.

To one who is grieving a loss in his or her life, don't say "everything happens for a reason." Don't say "at least this" and try to put a silver lining on the biting, bleeding thorns of pain. Those are conclusions they may come to in their own time (Proverbs 3:5-6). But they don't need to be told, in a sense, "This is fine, this is normal, it was meant to be." Those words bring NO peace, because the reality is that pain is NOT normal and it is definitely not fine.

Instead, acknowledge their loss. Acknowledge their pain. Acknowledge that, yes, it hurts and it is terrible and horrible and senseless. Acknowledge that, yes, it would have been better if it didn't happen. Don't negate the profound sense of losing everything they thought they knew about their future.

Be present in their grief. Let them cry and cry with them. Even if you don't know what to say or what to do, just be there. Don't let them be alone in their pain (Psalm 23:4).

As my 18-year marriage crumbled before my eyes over the last year, God encircled me with loving, encouraging, and supportive friends. When one friend saw me cry for the first time since we'd known each other, she expressed how powerless she felt. She'd never been married and had no advice, she said. But she was already giving me exactly what I needed. She was present with ready hugs and would feel anger with me, listen to my rants and agree that the situation was awful. With my heart rent and my emotions rollercoastering into murky depths, what I needed were hands to cling to as my life plummeted, stretched, and metamorphosed into a new thing I never saw coming.

Yes, I'm thankful for what I've learned, what I've gained, and what I've discovered through my own experiences of loss. But that doesn't mean I don't still grieve the life I expected to have. My marriage was supposed to defy the "high school sweethearts" stereotype that those couples never last. My kids were supposed to have two godly parents raising them together for the rest of their lives. But those things are lost now. They will never be. There's a new reality in play now, but it's not one I would necessarily have chosen—if afforded that indulgence.

Does everything ultimately happen for a reason? Yes and no. I fully believe that nothing happens without God's allowance of it (Proverbs 15:3; Psalm 147:5). I fully believe that God is in control (Romans 8:28) and will bring beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3). I fully believe that if we allow ourselves to work through our grief, we can eventually find goodness and purpose in past shadows of pain (Jeremiah 29:11; Proverbs 19:21).

But these are all things one can only unearth over time. When our wounds are fresh, when our souls anguish, we do not need to know "there's a reason" in order to find comfort. Those words provide no comfort. We simply need hands to grasp tight as the days dive into dark obscurity and for another human being to meet our eyes and say, "Yes, I know it hurts. I'm here."

Image Credit: skeeze; untitled; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | Hardships  | Personal-Life

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Published 12-21-15