Photography by Deb Diasparra, www.diasparraphoto.com. Used with permission
“It’s all a part of God’s plan.” “Everything happens for a purpose.” These are sayings we rattle off to each other when things go wrong—when someone is ill, dies, loses his job or even when someone’s brain malfunctions and he kills randomly.
Does God have a plan for my life? I believe He does. Does he have a purpose for my life? I am certain he does. But I’m not convinced that everything negative that happens to me— physical or mental pain, horrendous accidents, heart breaking loss or brutality—should be interpreted as something God planned. I’ve heard this said in hospitals, at funerals, etc., as a way to rationalize events. I think it can be perceived as devoid of compassion—even though it may not be meant that way. Does it help the lost? Grieving? Injured? I rather think it strips them of what they need most to recover: trust in God.
How does one trust in a God who has turned on you or is less interested in you as a person than in using you to achieve some existential plan? At least that is the effect these statements have on me—and I suspect on some others. I imagine people of all faiths struggle with this. Calling every event a part of God’s plan and purpose may also be a way to blame God for all the hardship or evil in the world. But does it acknowledge the presence of evil that has nothing to do with Him? We have free choice, and some people make evil choices.
This has special meaning for me personally. I suffered from a painful, abusive childhood and have taken a lifetime to recover from those events. I don’t believe God planned them. It was God who lifted me out of that world and placed me in the loving place I now occupy. His love has carried me through my pain, and His love will eventually take me home.
The truth is, even though I am a follower of Christ, Jesus doesn’t promise me a life without pain and loss. Rather, He promises me His presence with comfort, hope and grace. Jesus said he would be with us always—to the end of the world (Matt 28:20 ). I personalize that to mean the end of my world—my time on earth.
Is the pain in my life part of His plan? I think not. Perhaps I’m wrong; I’m not a theologian. I don’t have all the answers. In my morning prayer, I give my day over to God and His will for my life and let go of my concerns and let God help me through them. I don’t hold Him responsible for everything that might go wrong.
However, I can discover purpose in all things. For example, in loss, I can give purpose to pain by helping others with similar experiences. A brutal world can motivate me to be kinder and gentler within my family and community. Any anger in my loss can be directed to implement change–both in myself and in my world. The pain I suffer in this life can define me for the better or worse. Much of that is up to me. I am convinced we can find purpose in all that happens—even the devastating things that are not from God.