Sunday, January 29, 2012

I am late for my appointment because I chose to hurry up and finish this blog post before leaving my house

Do you know what I hear a lot that makes me want to scream?

"Everything happens for a reason."

When someone says that, it is usually the most ridiculously wrong time to assert my belief that, "Nah, they don't. Maybe some things, but not everything." The sayer has likely experienced a setback or tragedy or difficult time and is trying to find solace through her faith that God is the master puppeteer, orchestrating our daily interactions, choices and consequences of every little thing that goes down on this here planet. 

When I hear an LDS person say that, I get especially frustrated. Doesn't that idea fly in the face of our doctrine? Have we been paying attention during General Conference, or haven't we?

Sure. God can and perhaps very frequently does intervene on our behalf. The power of prayer is real and miracles happen all the time. There are always opportunities for growth and learning and exercising of faith when bad things happen, but does that mean the bad thing happened because specifically so we could have that test or trial of faith or growth experience? I don't believe it. Some things happen, just because they do.

 There is (at least) one experience in my life that I can directly attribute to the Hand of the Lord and I believe that will all my heart. There are countless other times when prayers have been answered and I have have been aware that the Lord has been aware and mindful of me. But I do not subscribe to the school of thought that Everything Happens For A Reason. And I'm fairly confident I could find a giant pile of church literature to back me up on this.

 What think ye?

16 comments:

abby said...

i think the specifics of our setbacks and why they happen are probably not as important as our reaction to them. but it is nice to think that we are each given tailor-made trials, specific to what we need to learn? that seems kind of doctrinally sound, but prove me wrong.

Emily said...

Agency is the guiding principle here. I could have lung cancer, not because I needed to learn something from that experience, but because I smoked three packs a day for 30 years.
We suffer consequences from our own actions and the actions of others and I don't believe that the Lord is acting upon us in every instance. Could I still learn something from going through lung cancer? Of course. Do I necessarily need to look to God to ask, Why did you give me lung cancer? I find a lot of comfort in the belief that God can and probably does intervene in our lives somewhere between never and always.

Emily said...

But, this is my point: I don't believe that it's never and I don't believe that it's always.

Anonymous said...

I could not agree with you more! Big point of frustration for me, too, when I hear that. Things happen. We learn and grow from them.
AG

abby said...

How does inspiration play into this? If I pray for help with decision and I still seemingly make a wrong one, is it because God didn't feel the need to intervene, or was he teaching me a lesson?

Emily said...

Hard to know, Abra.

Emily said...

Maybe it wasn't the wrong decision. Maybe lots of decisions are okay by the Lord. Doesn't mean we'll always be spared difficulties if we get the go-ahead to do something and we do it. People who receive confirmation to marry someone and then later get divorced come to mind. It very well could have been a right decision to make to marry in the first place.

Emily said...

PS -- this post wasn't directed at you, Ab. Not at all.

abby said...

Oh I know! It's just really interesting to me and something I think about often, too.

Jord said...

So Brad N. made a great comment on Sunday that reminded me of this post. The teacher was saying basically this same thought, that ALL things happen for a reason, and Brad said that such a belief is inherently a fatalistic and wrong view of God because it leaves out agency. Like you stated in your first comment, agency is one of the two main gifts we have in mortality. Brad said that he hears many people who are not church members say that "everything happens for a reason" because then it frees them of responsibility for their actions and puts the blame/fault/responsibility on God.

Often bad things happen because of bad decisions that we make, but instead of owning up to it and learning from it we will just say that it happened for God's own reason and leave the responsibility on His doorstep.

I also believe that difficult things will inevitably happen to all of us because we are mortal and that is part of the experience of life. There may not be a reason for everything, but in every thing that happens to us we have the power and responsibility for how we exercise our agency to deal with it, which is where I think the Lord can play a major supporting role if we will let Him.

So personally I'd agree that the "everything happens for a reason" doctrine is false, but the "I am responsible for how I react/respond to the things that happen to me" doctrine is true.

Emily said...

Jordan! Love your comment, love that Brad Nilsen and I are on the same wavelength. Thanks for sharing this.

Neil and Diana said...

Emily, I just read your post. It made me happy.

Jen said...

Um...I believe the big stuff happens for a reason?... Fire away.

We have agency, but our H.F. knows what our choice will be anyway (that whole all-knowing thing). I feel God's presence in my life every day.

But the small stuff, nah, nobody cares about that. Not even me (most of the time).

Kelly(M&M) said...

I love this post, Emily. I read it a few months ago, but did not comment. I really needed this the other day when my neighbor found out she was pregnant with her 6th and was surprised. Her husband said, "Guess this means we are supposed to have this baby." This is a hard one for me to swallow due to my struggles with infertility and a recent miscarriage. I have a difficult time figuring out what is "supposed" to happen. Was my dad "supposed" to get brain cancer? Am I not "supposed" to have more than 3 kids because that is my trial? How much is my faith and how much is just the consequence of a mortal body? I don't have an answer. I just pray for peace and acceptance. I have definitely been the one in my family who believes that Heavenly Father wants us to make choices and use our brains along with the spirit and not just let everything happen. So, maybe this is why I have a harder time accepting the things I can't control. I am not sure how much to let go of because I know that faith does play a role. I am just not sure how big of a role.

Okay, I don't know if any of that made sense. Someday I will have a long conversation with you, Emily! I think you are awesome and I love reading your thoughts. Have fun with Sarah today and give her a hug for me!

Emily said...

Makes total sense, Kelly, and I appreciate your thoughts. I think faith comes in as we recognize and heed the promptings of the Spirit, do our best to accept responsibility and natural consequences of our and other's decisions and the crappy life events that get in our way just because that's the nature of our mortal probation, and then trust in the Lord that He loves us, that He wants us to be happy and blessed, and that everything will be okay.

As for your dad or your infertility, my personal opinion is that those trials aren't handed down from God, unless you have specific reason to believe that they are. I know some people believe with all their hearts that specific events happened by divine direction, and who am I to argue? I just don't think that everything does.

I hope to meet you soon, too, Kelly!

cristie said...

there is a lesson in this experience often means...it happened for a reason. just my way of making sense. xox