Throughout the week, I teach Bible Study on Tuesday mornings and Discipleship many Monday nights. We just began reading a book by Rev. Adam Hamilton (Senior Pastor of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City) in Bible Study called Half Truths: God Helps Those Who Help Themselves and Other Things the Bible Doesn’t Say. Rev. Hamilton wrote this book to challenge sacred cows we all hold to be true (those things that we believe are above question or criticism.) He chose particular sayings to explore because they aren’t truly Biblical and they can hurt people.
This week we discussed the phrase “everything happens for a reason.” Maybe someone has said that to you in a time of crisis or maybe you’ve said it to someone else. We mean it in a well-intentioned way. Though Rev. Hamilton explores why it’s a half-truth by relating that the phrase eliminates the concept of personal responsibility for our actions, it makes God responsible for everyone’s actions, and it can lead to fatalism and indifference. If I believe that everything happens for a reason, why wear a seat belt when driving to protect myself? Why eat healthy and exercise? When it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go. If I’m diagnosed with cancer, why see an oncologist? Seeking treatment would resist the will of God. In addition, saying to a grieving parent who lost a child (for instance) that everything happens for a reason is quite cruel when we stop to consider how this statement is received. Do we actually believe that God willed the death of that child?
As Rev. Hamilton reflects, “I don’t believe God gives his children cancer. I don’t believe God causes people to commit murder. I don’t believe God’s will is for someone to die in a car crash. But even in all these terrible occurrences, God has a way of forcing good to come from tragedy when we trust him with it. As I look back on the most painful experiences in my life, I can see how God used them to bring about something good and beautiful.” (43) For what it’s worth, I’m with Rev. Hamilton on this one. I don’t believe God is slinging lightning bolts to intentionally hurt God’s own beloved children. Though I do believe that when we allow God into our lives to mend our broken hearts, we can become all the more compassionate as our lives can be truly transformed.
(This Week’s Thoughts 11.29.18)