The other day I was thinking about the way we look backwards for explanations when faced with trauma. We want to know the causes of awful events. And sometimes those causes are truly awful.
Today I’m thinking about how we look forward from difficulties. If we must suffer through tragedy, we want to at least know that its purpose is to bring about a brighter future.
Yet I’m sorry to say this is not necessarily the case. There are many unfortunate cases in which one traumatic event begets another begets another. Many of us have witnessed people who, for any number of reasons, have entered a serious tailspin stemming from one particularly terrible event.
“Everything happens for a reason,” we say, assuming the evil of the present will eventually culminate in an aggregate good. But this is far from automatic.
Regarding hardship in all of its forms – be it abuse, witnessing a tragedy, passing through a particular trauma or difficult period – I like to say that what matters is not so much what happens to us, but how we respond to what happens to us. Everyone goes through really difficult times (Some more severe than others, true.), but the truly victorious ones are those who refuse to respond with bitterness or resignation. Most often, those who face adversity with courage and hope and forgiveness and love are the ones who see good come out of evil.
Jesus, after all, faced all sorts of trauma and hardship. Yet he lived a perfectly healthy and productive life. It’s not about what happened to him, but how he responded to what happened to him.
Among Christians’ favorite Bible passages is Romans 8:28, which reads, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (ESV). Sometimes we read this to mean that we will never experience hardship. That’s not what it says. Other times we take it to mean that God is behind everything that happens to us. That’s not what it says. It does say that for those who love the Lord, which is a condition (not an automatic), the Lord labors on their behalf to bring about good, even out of evil events, whatever their original source.
“Everything happens for a reason.” Sometimes you get to decide the reason.