Purpose in the Pain
by Peace Amadi
I’m going to admit something now you may disagree with. I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason.
If this distresses you, I get it. I have been an active member of the church my whole life. I’ve listened to the church people say time and time again that there is a reason for everything and that God is behind it. I understand the appeals to trust God in his sovereignty and wisdom. I know that God is ultimately in control and wholeheartedly agree he has a lofty plan for our lives.
But I’ve also seen a whole lot. I’ve been in the trenches with victims of rape, sexual abuse, and harrowing family violence. I’ve cried alongside children who’ve lost parents and parents who’ve lost children. I’ve interceded for friends when loved ones get their terminal illness diagnosis. I literally know of kids raised like dogs.
That these things all happened for some “reason” never worked for me. A reason has a why, and I never knew a person who could find one for these things. A reason also has a reasoner, and if that person was supposed to be God, well then God seemed quite cruel. The only image these ideas conjured up for me was God sitting up on his throne, premeditating pain for his children. Or God at his vision board cutting up images of school shootings, helicopter crashes, and abuse.
If God wanted to somehow teach us a lesson or cause us to draw nearer to him, I’m sure in his infinite intelligence and creativity, he could have found a few other ways.
I much more resonate with the speculations that suffering is a consequence of a fallen world and free will. For reasons we may appreciate or not, God has set this world up so humans are free to do what they wish. And for reasons that may comfort us or not, this means bad things may happen to us or our loved ones, and he may allow it.
God doesn’t cause us pain, but the sin and brokenness of humankind will. It’s kind of all part of the human package. But here’s one really positive thing about that human package: purpose.
See, I don’t believe everything happens for a reason, but I do believe that in everything we can find purpose. God has given us the ability to create purpose out of our pain. In fact, God himself does this for us. I believe this message is what is at the heart of Joseph’s words when he said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20). Or when Paul said in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
I don’t know who or what is behind your pain and trauma, nor do I want to believe something easy. But I do know God says he will take it all and cause good to happen to us regardless. He will create some good out of it. If we let him.