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.