We could go into a lengthy discussion about these terms and their implied versus actual meanings. I will avoid that for now. Suffice it to say, I do believe the statement is factually correct. Everything does happen for a reason. Every effect is the result of some cause. And those effects ripple through generations all the way down through history. So when things happen, good or bad, they do originate somewhere. Study chaos theory and the “butterfly effect” for further comprehension of this concept.
I believe that when good things happen they are the result of some inherent good woven into the fabric of Creation by the Creator or by good choices that are made by the creatures He designed. So when the weather is perfect and the flowers are beautiful and the creatures are full of joy this stems from the goodness of God woven into the fabric of His design. When one human reaches out in humble service to another creature, they are intentionally or unintentionally reflecting the goodness of the One whose image they bear.
When bad things happen they are the result of the corruption of the Fall of Mankind through sin. This is true of ALL bad things. Before the choice to sin, the nature of man was never corrupt. Before the choice to sin there was no possibility of death. Before the choice to sin there was no pain or sickness. Before the choice to sin there was no destruction or decay. Before the choice to sin even nature itself was in perfect balance with no storms or earthquakes or volcanoes or any other destructive force. So before the choice to sin there was no disease, there were no hurricanes, and there was no corruption, harm, or suffering.
Conclusively then, one can truthfully say, “everything happens for a reason.” It does: good or bad it does result from the good or bad in the universe one way or another. The problem is that I don’t think this is the rationale behind the statement when people make it. What I think people mean when they say it is this: “All the bad stuff in life happens for reasons I can’t understand or explain but I choose to irrationally believe even bad stuff somehow has a meaningful purpose that will work out somehow in the end.” The problem is that this is untrue and unbiblical.
The Bible is clear that we live in a world shattered by sinfulness. Every horrible thing we experience in one way or another is a rippling consequence from that first sin compounded by the sins of us all. Without some spectacular intervention from outside our vicious spiral into destruction and despair, utter doom is the only reasonable expectation. That is what is glorious about our God. He is the Great Interposer. He alone has the power, authority, and ability to change the trajectory of devastation. The key is that we must permit Him to do so. This is why Romans 8:28 is so specific: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
God makes no promise that He will turn the circumstances of wicked people into good – though He reserves the right to do so. He only promises that He can turn to good all the circumstances of those who love Him and are the called according to HIS purpose (study this verse in context for all the theological implications). Notice he does not promise to remove the possibility of bad things affecting His children. He only promises to work ALL things for good to them. This makes me rejoice to know that in the midst of a world shattered by sin and suffering, if I place my trust in Him, He alone can take the bad things and use them for our good and His glory.
Practically, this means that hurricanes will come but in the aftermath we can stand in awe of Providence that both spoils and spares. We can discover His grace and learn about His judgment. We can observe His power, and see His mercy. We can see the destruction and encounter rescue, rebirth, redemption, and restoration.
Practically, this means that harm may happen but God can use it to teach us valuable lessons about life and maybe open new opportunities for growth, joy, and future strength amid even greater storms. It means a new opportunity to learn new things about Him and about ourselves and about how those perceptions influence who we are in the world.
Sometimes, though, we may never know the full scope of good that God will bring until eternity. This is where it is hardest: when we must trust what we cannot see – which is the essence of faith (Hebrews 11:1 & 6).
Everything happens for a reason = Every effect is the result of some cause.
Everything happens for a reason ≠ God will unconditionally and mysteriously work every little detail of my life out for some higher purpose that is somehow good for me.
Ultimately, we must surrender every facet of ourselves and every detail of our lives to His good hand. When we do this – accepting His free gifts of grace, salvation, and sanctification – we abandon ourselves into the mighty hands of Providence Who is unfathomably all GOOD all the time without any exception ever. Whatever may come in life, I am willing to place my trust in Him.
And those are my thoughts…for whatever they are worth. :0)