There are three reasons/types of people [who] say that:
- “That means it may happen to you but the prosperity gospel will keep anything bad from happening to me.”
- “And it will all turn out fine in the end.” “So don’t expect me to do anything about it.”
- “The reason is that the world is flawed, fallen and God causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust.“
What is your experience? Does that capture it or have I missed something?
I have a couple of responses.
1. In responding to the recent events in Texas, I’ll take a firm stance in saying NOBODY SHOULD USE THIS PHRASE! No further comment.
2. In day-to-day language the way that I’ve heard it used the most is to mean, “God is involved in all the nitty-gritty details of your life, so God must have wanted this to happen for your benefit.” Which I don’t believe. (I could be wrong, but I believe that God set up the whole system, and that He loves us, but that He’s sort of a hands-off God as far as causing things to happen or preventing them.)
My favorite way that I’ve heard this phrase be construed is “God/Christ didn’t want this thing to happen to you, but if you turn to them then they can take any bad thing that happens and heal you and help it to work for your benefit.”
This morning, I read a FB post by an LDS person who wrote about the killings in Uvalde. Their post was all about how such things are God’s Will and how fortunate we all are that God has a different and safer plan for our children. The message to Uvalde seemed to be “It Sucks To Be You.”
Within LDS culture, I am seeing a trend towards Calvinism. The five principles of Calvinism are:
1. Total depravity. In LDS culture, it is taught as The Natural Man.
2 Unconditional election. In LDS culture, by having the basic LDS ordinances completed and being active in a congregation, members are taught that they are headed to the Celestial Kingdom.
3. Limited atonement. In LDS culture, too often the atonement of Christ is not enough for immediate forgiveness. People need to go through a lengthy and punitive repentance process.
4. Irresistibility of grace. In LDS doctrine, this is taught as Eternal Progression.
5. Final perseverance of the saints. It is taught as Endure To The End.
Calvin is especially known for his focus on Predestination later in his life. Predestination seems to be in vogue right now in LDS culture.
I have heard so many lessons, talks and comments that focus on predestination. Some examples:
— God knew us before we were born and knew what we would do. Nothing that happens is happenstance.
— Any trauma or tragedy is part of God’s Plan. It was meant to be.
— We were individually pre-ordained for greatness.
— If God had wanted them healthy and alive it would have happened. Their death was obviously God’s will.
I find the focus on Calvinism makes me very uncomfortable. Free Will is no longer a thing. Apparently, it does not exist. For many, it appears to be difficult to be truly empathetic when one thinks the situation is just part of God’s Greater Plan. Add a heavy dose of prosperity gospel and the church culture has become uncomfortably focused on appearances, social success and financial worth.
As a religious culture, we can do better.
Definitely don’t believe everything happens for a reason, but I believe something can be learned from every experience, especially the capacity to feel empathy, compassion, hope, perspective, other. The word “allow” seems a more appropriate way our heavenly Father deals with the goings-on here in our mortal experience. Free agency, the freedom to do what we want, and accountability for those choices, is a vital part of an eternal plan that needs to play out. Devine intervention IS a part of our sojourn here, but it seems it is infrequent, allowing choices made, to run their coarse, good or bad. Free will, I feel, is often surrendered to evil influences, because of bad choices made, allowing those evil influences to take over or be a significant controlling factor on the actions of individuals. You see it play out in the Book of Mormon very clearly. The city of Ammoniha (spelling) comes to mind. A terrible event of unjust innocent life destruction was allowed to play out to allow justice on the perpetrators to run its course. Our finite minds have trouble reconciling or coping with these incredibly herendous events knowing an all-knowing, loving God is at the helm. Eternal perspective is a difficult but necessary way of enduring senseless tragedy.
Everything does happen for a reason!
But the reason isn’t “Because God . . .”
That phrase infuriates me because it is a thought stopper. We are absolved from investigating the real reason why things happen. We are able to avoid all responsibility for contributing to or failing to take action to avert the “bad” that happens in life.
Sometimes we ARE personally responsible. Sometimes we’re NOT. But we can always seek to understand why, determine what we can personally contribute to a solution, and decide if we will or won’t do anything.
Sadly, so many of those who say God controls outcomes are using the name of God to control us. “Everything happens for a reason” is code for “I am the keeper of the secrets that influence God’s actions”. Things fall your way – “I can show you the path to keep the prosperity coming”. You’re up to your armpits with alligators – “I have the keys to the escape room door”.
“Everything happens for a reason” is also LDS-speak for this idea that God has some sort of highly intricate plan for the larger things that happen in this world as well as the most infinitesimally small and seemingly trivial aspects of life. I remember a roommate once telling me that a speaker at church must have felt inspired to bear her testimony in Spanish at the end of her talk because it ended up touching the Spanish-speaking person next to him, because then she was able to understand some repeated empty platitudes that you hear several times a month from every pulpit once a month in every Mormon chapel.
“Everything happens for a reason” is also a way to passive-aggressively shut down people who are complaining about events and occurrences that conservative (always conservative) cultural dictates prescribe that we don’t complain about. I remember calling my mom in mid-March 2020 to process with her the pandemic. She shut me down, saying, “well, the prophets have foretold of the last days.” The church in her mind was the only reliable thing. Everything else was the world. The church culture had instilled in her for decades the idea that mainstream culture is “wicked” and by extension, the public health officials intervening in people’s lives over a pandemic were “wicked.” How dare we complain about coronavirus, try to understand it, take action against it, or listen to public officials trying to take overly aggressive and ridiculous action to stop a virus. In her conservative mind, government intervention for purposes of public health were all wrong. Now, government overreaction and engagement in overseas military conflicts, that’s a different question. The Iraq War 2003 was perfectly justifiable and moral to her. US troops should have stayed indefinitely in Afghanistan and fought a never-ending war against an unconquerable enemy, the Taliban.
And such is the case with the Uvalde shooting (by the way there have been 200+ mass shootings, meaning shootings with at least 3 shot victims, in the US in 2022 alone). Conservative culture dictates that we not ever complain about guns because of the sacrosanct 2nd Amendment (not that they actually care about the Constitution when Trump loses an election, also nevermind the fact that the Constitution can be amended and was amended to include the Bill of Rights). You must accept that a school shooting “happens for a reason” that isn’t related to gun-lobby-fearing Republican officials not lifting a finger to pass legislation that might actually prevent shootings and lower their frequency in the US. Republican legislators can’t even bring themselves to pass legislation requiring universal background checks or that would prevent someone who is on the terrorism watch list from acquiring a weapon. We must accept that school shootings happen just like tornados happen and mourn and sympathize with those who lost loved ones, sending them thoughts and prayers for a news cycle. We also must admonish people to purchase more guns to protect themselves and arm teachers and lunch ladies, because hey, if everyone had a gun the world would be more safe, except of course at NRA conferences where dear leader Trump and his lackey Greg Abbott are attending, then guns must be prohibited (wouldn’t more ‘good guys’ with guns at that conference be safer for the dear leader? Hmm.)
Reminds me of Job’s “friends”
Jessica, Job’s friends at least had the presence of mind to mourn silently with him for several days.
I hate this quote! It does nothing to help in the midst of despair and gives those not effected by the tragedy (illness, death, etc.) an easy answer they don’t have to contend with. It is dismissive of others’ pain.
Damascene wins Comment of The Week. It’s so good that instead of a reply I’m going to do a new post.
+1 to OP for giving us something to think about. Sometimes it’s surprising how much can be packed into a few words.
+1 to each commenter so far.
Another +1 each to both Damascene and John W.
A very good book on this topic is When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Rabbi Harold Kushner.
People often try to use this phrase “Everything happens for a reason” to stop grief, but grief needs to be felt and processed.
If “Everything happens for a reason”, then god is a truly cruel being. If “Some things happen for a reason”, then god is not only cruel but also capricious. I prefer “Nothing happens for a reason”. I can live with the implications of no god or an uninvolved god, but not with either of the first two.
“Everything happens for a reason” is false doctrine and absolute blasphemy. It took me some time and life experience to arrive at that understanding. But in my less-mature TBM days I sincerely believed this lie because it was a way of using the Gospel and the Church to help me make sense of the messiness of life. In that way, it was strangely comforting. But it also requires one to believe in predestination and a cruel, arbitrary Old Testament-style God, and comes with a lot more screwed up mental gymnastics about how the world works. If you truly believe in a God that uses mass murder of innocent children and war and genocide to accomplish His purposes, then that probably says a lot more about you and your belief systems than it does about the exact nature of God.
Unfortunately, the current president of the Church seems to believe in this pernicious teaching, though to what extent, I’m not sure. He has remarked several times in his life about how his proudest accomplishment was performing a crucial life-extending heart operation on Spencer W. Kimball in 1972, who would soon after become the Church president and was probably the driving force behind appointing Nelson into the Q12, setting in motion Nelson’s eventual rise to the top spot himself. The narrative, as told by Nelson, smacks of predestination and is incredibly self-serving.
Phrases I can’t stand include
“everything happens for a reason”
“God is involved in the details of our lives”
None of these statements is provable. Is there truly a reason why I had a bagel for breakfast?
We all want to make sense out of life, find meaning in our existence, and intense purpose for our being here among billions of other humans. But it really is just best to keep our mouths closed instead of using these phrases as a way to comfort someone. It’s truly much better to simply say we are sorry they are hurting and sit with them in their hurt.
Perhaps a fourth reason/type of person (or a subset): “I want to be seen as though I care about your suffering by offering empty platitudes, but in truth, I don’t want to be contaminated by close proximity. ” All the reasons seem to be a form of “othering” and self-protection. There’s a reason this happened to YOU, not me, whew.
That saying triggers me.
It was emphasized for some time in my ward. I think mostly people used it in the first-world-god sense:
Someone bears his testimony about a job he needed, having car trouble on the way to the interview, getting a better job because of a coincidence that arose when sitting in the car repair shop.
What about the other people who needed a job?
It is falsifiable: just find one example that negates it, and *poof*
It also caters to our inherent narcissism. But if I care about people who are in difficult, or abusive, or other conditions, then I recognize its wrongness. Sometimes things don’t get better. Sometimes innocents are harmed.
As a friend of mine would say, “Everything happens for a reason. And that reason is capitalism.”
Damascene: If ordinances are required, those are conditions. Not Calvinist at all, really.
I think you are just mincing words.
Everything happens for a reason.
Things like the Uvalde and Buffalo massacres happen because people let evil enter into their hearts, and our larger culture refuses to confront that evil, and the evil spreads. There will be future Uvaldes and Buffalos, until we take effective steps to control the unconscionable gun culture that infects us.
Please do not attempt to implicate God in all of this. That is awful blasphemy. God is working to redeem the world from evil, but the evil that rages in the heart of men an women, which is not effectively opposed by the rest of us, makes His work harder and slower.
I grew up in Germany immediately after WW2, and saw first-hand the disastrous results of evil that was not resisted soon enough. History is being repeated in Ukraine, because the world couldn’t be bothered to stand up to a madman.
The slaughter of the innocents is awful, heart-rending, stomach turning and evil But, not a hint nor mention of societal problems, mental health issues, safety, security, and moral depravity – it’s always someone else’s (Inocuous corporation’s – Evil Republicans) fault. So with over 300,000,000.00 weapons in the country..and growing, what’s your solution? Do we honestly think that this many weapons are somehow going to be confiscated? Or willingly surrendered? Your rant may have made you feel better…..but beyond that?….
LHL, why do Republicans cut mental health funds, see e.g, recent cuts in mental health funding in TX? Which societal problems are conservatives actively working to ameliorate? Health care? Environmental degradation? Mental health? Poverty? Homelessness? Racism? Lead contamination in water systems? Unsafe bridges? Is there no depravity in Denmark, where for some reason such slaughters are exceedingly rare? How about France? Why are such slaughters rare in countries with a smaller number of believers than the US? Why is the United State far less safe than other countries? Please specify the “innocuous corporation to which the shootings in Uvalde have been attributed. And finally what are the Republican proposed solutions for gun violence?