Does Everything Happen for a Reason?

Minnesota Golden Gopher basketball star Trevor Mbakwe’s virtually unprecedented sixth year on the college round-ball scene is in the books. He has made peace with the circumstances that undoubtedly delayed a professional career on the hardwood. “I definitely didn’t plan on being in college for six years,” Mbakwe told a reporter, “but everything happens for a reason.”

Everything?! Most people who think long enough about that notion cannot live with the discomfort of it. Within this subset, those unwilling to identify blind, impersonal chance as the reason behind everything that happens, generally prefer a God who is—in one way or another—incapable of stopping the bad things that happen to good people.

Reasonable arguments could be marshaled in defense of the “everything happens for a reason” position, including the notion that a personal, sovereign God furnishes the reasons. But here, I simply relay a story.

A pastor friend of mine took a position at a church in Pennsylvania a quarter-century ago. In the summer of 1990, Bob directed an inner-city outreach to teens living in challenging circumstances. One of the teens Bob’s ministry touched was of Puerto Rican heritage and qualified as “at risk” in more ways than can be enumerated here. Formidable obstacles stood between him and a “normal” life. Personal deficiencies further compromised his prospects. But under Bob’s leadership that summer, Jorge placed his faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. A new hope was born in this young man’s soul.

Recognizing Bob’s unusual influence upon her son, Jorge’s biological mother made a difficult but loving decision. She signed over her son’s “care and control” to Bob and his wife Terri who became Jorge’s legal guardians.

Not everyone in Bob and Terri’s life thought the decision to bring Jorge home with them was a wise one. The risks were substantial. Bob and Terri were starting a family of their own. Was this a responsible decision for their little children? Were they, as a young couple, allowing emotions to prevail over level-headed wisdom? This was a troubled teen they found on the streets, after all. What assurances could they provide that this relationship would prosper?

In the grace of God, Jorge worked out. When he moved in with Bob and Terri, he was deficient in his capacities to read and write Spanish, let alone English. But through perseverance, and with Bob and Terri’s unflagging support, Jorge gained a Master’s level education. He serves today as a pastor in a Spanish speaking country along with his wife and children.

Bob and Terri’s labors with Jorge were richly rewarded. But as with all heartwarming stories in this waking world, dark clouds of bitter providence have also overshadowed their lives. In recent years Terri’s kidney function has plummeted steadily. It has become progressively evident that her only hope is a kidney transplant.

The process of locating a willing donor who is a match for her is indescribably complicated and the percentages disconcertingly low. None of Terri’s family was a match. The window of opportunity to receive a kidney transplant has steadily closed as her life ebbs away.

Then Jorge stepped forward. Most people are eliminated by a simple phone interview. Jorge passed. Then there was a rigorous screening stage at a hospital in the country where he lives. He passed. Jorge traveled to the U.S. and subjected himself to a second phase of intense testing. He passed again. A third phase subjected him to the highest level of scrutiny. To everyone’s astonishment, Jorge’s kidneys were a match for Terri’s!

On February 26 a kidney was surgically removed from Jorge’s body and transplanted into Terri’s, giving her a new lease on life as she had once given to him. Both the extraction surgery and the transplant surgery were textbook.

Bob describes Jorge’s kidneys as “extremely healthy, large, and productive”—generating, in the words of medical personnel, “abundant, beautiful, clear urine.” The medical staff has raved about Jorge’s kidneys, claiming they have not seen a transplant recipient released with fewer anti-rejection medications to take. Prior to the surgery, Terri’s hospital stay was estimated at five to seven days. She was released after three.

Taking an at-risk 17 year old off the street and into your home is a bold move; but it is the kind of move grace rejoices to take. And yet, although firmly believing themselves that everything happens for a reason, Bob and Terri could not have imagined one reason they took Jorge into their family those many years ago. But God did. Everyone could see from the outset that Jorge needed Bob and Terri’s love and support. God alone knew that Terri would need Jorge’s kidney 25 years down the road.

Anecdotal evidence cannot supply objective proof that everything happens for a reason or that God works all things together for good. We must rely on the voice of God for that one (Romans 8:28). But such stories certainly do nothing to dissuade such notions. You can assign this account to blind chance or random luck, if you wish. It made me double-take—pretty sure I caught a glimpse of the passing shadow of God’s helping hand.

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There are 9 Comments

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Of course for every story that works out even better than we could have possibly imagined, there are a hundred that go horribly off the course the we anticipated and hoped spiraling in some terrible, unwanted direction. This does not change the fact that everything still happens for a reason. It only highlights the fact that God's plans are not always the same as ours and that we don't always see clearly what is actually eternally good and right in a situation as God always does. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Aaron Blumer's picture


It's interesting to me how many people affirm that everything happens for "a reason" who are not sure they believe in God or anything else. I've read the work of atheists who still want to cling to "for a reason," but they'll speak of "the universe" shaping events. It's fascinating to me that even though people want very much to believe in purpose they simultaneously want to reject a personal God--as if there could possibly be any another place for purpose--ultimately--to come from/reside.

G. N. Barkman's picture

I think most people want to believe that everything happens for "a reason" that they consider beneficial to themselves.  Of course, without a Biblical perspective, people don't really know what is beneficial.  Is it beneficial , to win the lottery, even if it eventuates in the dissolution of my life and the destruction of my family?

The only reasons that ultimately matters are God's.  Christians believe that everything happens for a divine purpose.  God has a wise reason for everything, and He rules His universe so as to perfectly direct every event into conformity with His purposes.  Without a godward focus, "everything happens for a reason" is not much better than wishing upon a star.  It's meaningless unless God uses it to prompt people to think about the implications of their deep seated need of believe in a reason for everything, and direct their thoughts ultimately to God.

G. N. Barkman

Mark_Smith's picture

We've got a predestination/God's will/decision-making theme going huh? 3 threads and counting!

Jim's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

We've got a predestination/God's will/decision-making theme going huh? 3 threads and counting!

A rare S/I "trifecta". It only happens when the planets align and there is a blue moon.

G. N. Barkman's picture

Perhaps we can turn people's "everything happens for a reason" comments into witnessing opportunities.  I would suggest a couple of questions:

1) Why do you think everything happens for a reason?

2) How do you think this happens?

I don't know how one could reasonably answer such questions without saying, "God."  What an opening!

G. N. Barkman

Aaron Blumer's picture


They are good questions. Thanks.

B Toothman's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

I think most people want to believe that everything happens for "a reason" that they consider beneficial to themselves. 

You hit the nail on the head and drove it home.

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