Making Sense out of the Senseless

Often after a tragedy we hear people say something like “I believe everything happens for a reason.” Really?

  • A child killed by a drunk driver
  • A family lost to a terrible storm
  • A young man opens fire in a crowded mall

Is there a reason behind all this?

Reason is defined as “The basis or motive for an action, decision, or conviction.”

In other words, reason implies that a rational mind lies behind these things.  If that is true, then this rational mind has control over all things.  It then follows that this being has the power to

  • Direct a drunk driver to impact the child at just the right place to cause death.
  • Move a hurricane or tornado to impact the home that a family has taken shelter in with enough force to kill them
  • Cause a young man to steal a gun, load it with ammunition, dress in body armor and head to the mall to cause mass killing and death before killing himself.

If we want to say that there is a reason for everything we must acknowledge that a supreme being with the power to make these things happen is causing them to take place.  And we wonder what kind of being would causes such suffering.

The bible does not say that there is a reason for everything.  The truth is that we live in a fallen world that is inhabited by fallen people.

When the LORD saw that man’s wickedness was widespread on the earth and that every scheme his mind thought of was nothing but evil all the time, the LORD regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.  (Genesis 6:5-6 HCSB)

What was happening that caused God to be grieved over man?  Let’s take just one example from Gensis 4. Did God have a reason for Cain to kill Abel?  Did God inspire Cain to kill him? No, in fact, God warned Cain about the path he was on.

“If you do what is right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”  (Genesis 4:7 HCSB)

Did God know what Cain would do? Yes he did.  Could God have stopped Cain from doing it? Yes, he could have.  Why didn’t God stop Cain? We will never know for certain.

My Free Choice

No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God.” For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone. But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15 HCSB)

God gave humanity the choice to sin and the choice to obey.  The fact that he gave us a choice speaks volumes.  It says that God respects my free choice to obey or not.

If I go down to a bar and get very drunk tonight and then drive my car into a vehicle killing an innocent child God may not stop me from commiting that kind of evil.  God will allow some family to experience the great pain and loss of this unspeakable tragedy.  Could God have stopped me?  Sure he could have.  He could have made somebody at the bar call me a cab.  He could have made me crash into a pole and not hurt anybody else.  We may never know the ways in which God prevents tragedy but one thing is certain God does not prevent all tragedy.

God Works Good

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28 HCSB)

We know (oidamen) means to know by perception or intuition rather than by experience.

that all things work together for the good of those who love God.  All things – senseless tragedies to our happiest joys

work together – sunergeō – a fellow worker.  The circumstances we face are changing us constantly like a river shaping a gorge.  This verse says that God works alongside our circumstances.

And are called according to His purpose.

called – kaleo – means that this promise applies only to believers – the called same term as in Rom 8:30 – those whom he predestined he also called (kaleo).

His purpose – prothesis – God has a purpose.  He knows the end from the beginning and He has a purpose.  And what is His purpose?  His goal is to bring the called to perfection in His presence.

From the murder of Abel to the most recent murders of Christians around the world today God knows what is happening.  He is not suprised by the senseless but his is also deeply grieved by the evil that is done around the world.

Unsearchable and Untraceable

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments and untraceable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Or who has ever first given to Him, and has to be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36 HCSB)

As Paul is contemplating the problem of the unbelief of Israel – his fellow Jews – he ends this section with these three verses.

His judgements? Unsearchable.  The word anexereunetos means “not searchable.” You want to understand the reason behind God’s judgement?  Google cannot help you.  Bing cannot find it.  It is unsearchable.    Perhaps this is like trying to explain a internet searches to a slug.  The slug does not have the capacity to understand it.

His ways? Untraceable.  anexichniastos means “not trackable.”  You can’t hire a tracker to find God’s footprints in this situation.  You cannot see what things he did or did not do.

What can we say then?

But Jesus responded to them, “My Father is still working, and I am working also.” (John 5:17 HCSB)

God is working.  He is always working to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10) and to work all things according to the “counsel of His will” (Eph 1:11).

The ways in which he works are untraceable.  The reasons why he does things are unsearchable.  We will never know this side of heaven but he calls us to trust him and be faithful with what we do know.

Is there a reason for everything?

If by that we mean that God has ordered every act of sinful man and every tragic consequence of this fallen world then I say no.  Some bad things just happen.

When some disciples begain asking questions about this Jesus had a perfect opportunity to explain it.

Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. “Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1-5 NASB)

Jesus is addressing two tragic events where people lost their lives.  One was the result of the evil acts of man where Pilate had some worshippers killed.  The other was the result of building collapse.

Jesus said that in both cases if people assumed that these innocents died because they somehow deserved death because of their sin that they were wrong.  Why did he say this?  Because people at that time (and today as well) naturally assume that if something bad happense to a person that somehow they deserve what they got.

The world would make more sense if bad people got bad things and good people got good things but the world just doesn’t work that way.  This is why I am so bothered by people who imply that sickness is God’s judgement on those who have weak faith.  Those who don’t have enough strength to appropriate the faith to be healed.

Why were those people killed by Pilate?  Because Pilate was a sinful man who didn’t care about killing as long as Rome retained their power.  Did God make Pilate kill them? No – he didn’t have to; Pilate was doing just fine at killing.

Why were those people killed by the tower?  Perhaps it was nothing more than random chance.  Perhaps the workmen who built the tower used inferior materials.  Perhaps there was a slight earthquake or a stiff wind that day.  When the tower fell, someone just happened to be in the way and they died.  Did God push that tower over?  Did the people who died somehow deserve what they got?  No.  It just happened.

We don’t like random tragic events.  They make us feel that the world is somehow out of control.  We like to imagine our loving heavenly Father pulling levers and pushing buttons to keep us out of harms way and giving us smooth sailing but that doesn’t always suit his purpose.

Everyone who reads this will one day become sick and eventually die.  Some will die “old and full of years” and others will die young… too young.  Some will pass quickly and some will suffer an for an extended period.  Suffering and death are just a part of life that everyone will face.

When you face it, you will be tempted to look for the reason.  Surely there must be a reason?

We die because we live in a fallen world where everything is crumbling.  Where particles from distant stars pass through our bodies and collide with DNA resulting in mutations that lead to hideous diseases.  Did God send that particle? Did he have a reason?

Even if he did have a reason, you will never know what it is.  It is unsearchable.

What you can know and must hold on to

  • God is both righteous and just
  • God is working all things together for the good of those he has called
  • God is perfecting us by the things he allows into our lives for our good even when we do not understand why

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