I deeply struggle with the saying that everything happens for a reason. When I think about this, I think, “What a terrible disservice to God.” If everything happens for a reason, then God was pulling some cosmological strings to make the Holocaust happen. And, if you take this logic to its end, when people overdose on drugs, when people die of starvation, when people are diagnosed with cancer, then this all happened for a reason?
I’d rather say that everything happens with a reason. When I hear this, I think, “Only God would seem to use the things we throw away.” This gives credibility to our stories. God gains glory not from causing the Holocaust, but from all the ways society reacts to it and makes changes because of it. God gains glory not through Hitler, but through people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, or people who were in the concentration camps like Etty Hillesum, who said, “Despite everything, life is full of beauty and meaning.”
The God who is working despite everything is clearly seen in Jesus Christ, who is not flexing his bicep over the world and looking to cause all of these terrible things, but is there grieving, communing, and healing those who are wounded on the path of life. When everything happens with a reason, as Richard Rohr says, “Everything belongs.” We can use the painful, sinful, broken times of our life, not discredit them. Despite the many failings in Plan A, God is working in plan B, C, D, all the way to Z, to use all the broken areas of life and to help people make sense of the pain that not only this world brings on people, but the pain they cause to themselves. If everything happens for a reason, then there is something driving a great injustice. But, when everything happens with a reason, our lives gain a deeper meaning and purpose, even if we may not understand why things happened the way they did.