Everything happens for a reason. Or, does it? Could it instead be that everything is what you make it? Or, are both of these sayings true? If both, can both sayings be applicable in relation to the same situation? Is one of these sayings more predominantly applicable than the other? Should we default to using one over the other for any particular reason? At the outset, we can be sure that these two sayings are intended to improve the spirit, perspective and outlook of the victim who is the recipient of these sayings.
To say that “everything happens for a reason” acknowledges a lack of personal control over a situation, and influence and exertion on a situation from an external force(s) – by which I mean things like fate, intelligent design, a universal life force, a world spirit, the gods, a divine being, a supreme being, God, and the like. Otherwise, why else would we invoke the saying “everything happens for a reason” if we could take control of the situation, block out external forces, and avoid the feeling of disappointment and/or grief that give rise to this saying? If we had control of everything in our lives, then the “reason” in the saying “everything happens for a reason” becomes ours, which would then make the saying blatantly obvious and unnecessary.
So, what does the operative word “reason” mean? Quite simply, “reason” means to have basis or cause, as for some belief, action, fact or event. It is apparent then that reasons are rooted in standards and purpose. And, it would follow that in order to say “everything happens for a reason” with conviction, it must be believed that the outcome is contrary to the victim’s will and that the victim is incapable of reversing the outcome. It must also be believed that the external force(s) acting upon the situation has standards and/or purpose for everything that happens.
Now, what about the saying “everything is what you make it?” What does this saying mean? I understand it to basically mean make the most of everything, even if the outcome of the situation is undesired and causes disappointment and/or grief. It is as if to say: understand that somethings are outside your control, there is nothing you can do to undo what has already been done, learn from situations no matter how difficult they may be to handle, and respond to challenging situations by intentionally growing intellectually, relationally and spiritually. It is as if to say: try to find the reason for everything.
So, it appears that the sayings “everything happens for a reason” and “everything is what you make it” should ultimately give rise to the same questions. What is the reason? Why is it the reason? From where did the reason come? It is this common bond that make these sayings both true, both applicable, both equally valid, and even for the same situation. Both of these sayings should cause us to acknowledge that there are things much bigger than ourselves and prod us to actively search for the reason everything happens.
For those willing to go a bit further, I’d like to say that I believe everything happens because of God, which means that the reason for everything is defined and made possible by God. Perhaps it may sound as if I’m saying that everything that happens is God’s Will or God orchestrated, however, I don’t believe that is always the case, or at least not directly. Not in contention with God’s omnipotence, I believe God’s Will is comprised of at least two parts, which for lack of better terms I will describe as de facto and post hoc. I know this may sound quite strange to some Christians, or perhaps all Christians, or perhaps everyone, but please consider my thoughts with an open and critical mind.
In brief, I believe God’s de facto Will is consistent and representational of God’s very essence, character and identity. Because I believe that God’s Will is in perfect harmony with Godself, I believe that God’s Will cannot contradict Godself. If Godself and God’s Will contradict each other, then I’d argue that one of the two does not exist. One would be practical and the other theoretical. In fact, in reality, in actuality, or whatever word you want to use, God and God’s Will are inseparable. Therefore, whatever God is, so is God’s Will, de facto.
Now, because I believe that God is the origin and standard of everything, and that it is God’s Will for all things to reflect God’s nature, and that God is righteous, I believe that God desires all things to love and live righteousness. So, it would logically follow that I would also describe God’s desire for us to live a particular manner as being God’s Will. I would describe this as God’s post hoc Will, meaning that God desires for everything that follows God’s Will to reflect God’s Will/God.
I suspect that it is terribly obvious that not everything that happens reflects God’s Will/God. I would attribute this to our free will. I believe it was God’s Will for God to grant us free will. In doing so, God made opposition to God’s Will/Godself possible. It is after God’s Will/God granted us free will that things against God’s Will/God can happen. Free will is unconstrained, so it would follow that we can use our free will to act against God’s Will/God, even though it is God’s Will/God that enabled our free will.
So, why does this all matter in relation to the sayings “everything happens for a reason” and “everything is what you make it?” It matters because if the point of these sayings are to encourage us to find the reason for everything, then we might stop at God’s Will and think it is God’s de facto Will. This may lead us to believe that God is maliciously orchestrating disappointment and grief in our lives, when really it is likely just the nature of a fallen world running its course.
It is a fallen world not directly because of God’s Will/God, or because God’s Will/God enabled our free will, but because we’ve used our free will to sin. This fallen world was ushered in by the sin of Adam and Eve, something to which we are corporately responsible. Things are not how they ought to be. Things are in need of God’s redemption. To say that the reason for undesired outcomes, disappointment and grief is God’s Will would be like biting the hand that feeds us. And, I don’t think that’s a very good reason, or the right one.
In our search for the reason, in response to the sayings “everything happens for a reason” and “everything is what you make it,” I hope we find that the reason for undesired outcomes, disappointment and grief is not God’s de facto Will, but rather the result of our free will (which we should be glad God’s post hoc Will enabled) being in opposition to God’s Will/God. Ultimately, it’s my hope that we would use our free will to desire, love and live God’s Will/God more fully. And, that’s a worthwhile reason to invoke either of these sayings.
*Origin of Discursion: Listening and analyzing the advice people give in response to undesired outcomes in my life.