Monday, November 28, 2016

Does Everything Happen for a Reason?

The rain falls and the sun shines. Plant the seeds, pull the weeds, reap a harvest.  Don't plant the seeds, there is no need to pull the weeds and reap no harvest.

What is the reason that things happen? Is life a predetermined course?  Does God micromanage the affairs of earth and its people? There are people that say everything happens for a reason. Does it?  

Other people take a different approach to the philosophy of life. Not everything in life will turn out the way we plan or want it to.  Why would someone think that God would have his hand in making one person's life better than another's? 

I have noticed in exploring this subject there will be contradictions and questions on all sides of the equation of life.  Isn't that the purpose though, to have faith and act the best we can and enjoy the journey?

The scriptures indicate and I believe that God sends us to earth at times that are pre-appointed. He also holds power over the duration of our life and our death, yet in these cases he doesn't intervene with any frequency unless there is some greater purpose. 

There may be interventions that we may not recognize. We may however be privy to a personal miracle and many tender mercies. The fact is God is not random nor whimsical. The scriptures indicate He blesses the obedient and offers mercy to those that seek it. 

Experiences from my family history have made me think about common clichés like these used by many to convey their outlook on a circumstance, or of life in general.

My grandfather, my dad's father, was struck by lightning and killed when my dad was eleven. Why did this happen? Was there a reason?  Most likely because he was walking home from irrigating in a field with a shovel on his shoulder in a thunderstorm. 

My mother died in a car crash when I was eight. They were traveling on a rural highway in a farming community. The fields were plowed and wind created dust clouds that resulted in extremely low visibility. My dad ran into the back of a car that slowed almost to a stop in the middle of the road. Was that road dusty so my mother could have a reason to die and my brothers and I to be motherless?

The members of my family were in the car except I stayed home that day because for some reason I wanted to stay home and play with friends. I was only eight years old. Had I been in the car I might have been killed or injured.  Was I spared for a reason?  

My dad's mother and stepfather were also killed in a car crash traveling home from visiting my parents. Did God plan or cause him to fall asleep at the wheel? 

One of our granddaughters was just diagnosed in a prenatal check up with a serious heart defect. She had surgery the day after her birth. This condition has only been treatable for about the last 25 years. There are many challenges and uncertainties involved with such a diagnosis and treatment. 

They will grow in many ways as a family. Is this fair to them to have such a challenge or to others that don't and are therefore be less compassionate and appreciative of a tender life? What about all of the babies that died while doctors learned to treat this type of defect or any other illness for that matter?

A few years ago, my youngest son was diagnosed with melanoma. Surgery treated the affected area and then a round of protocol interferon took him out of life for a time.  Did he get cancer for a reason?  It almost seems like he did because many positive things followed from the way it impacted him and many others.  It gave us a new perspective on life. 

Many others may not have an outcome that is positive in that they died? Was there a reason for their deaths or not being healed?  If science or faith had been more advanced would they have lived?

I've thought about these events over the years and tried to put them context of my doctrinal understandings about life as a Latter-Day Saint.  One fact I do try to keep present in my understanding.  All of us  except Adam and Eve were put on earth with death being an inevitability. 

People seem inclined to use these sayings when they don't understand what freedom is or what God's plan really entails. "Everything happens for a reason", "there is no such thing as coincidence" and "If it is God's will", or “God has a plan". Then some ask.  Why do bad things happen to good people or why do good things happen to evil people? Why do we suffer?

Is this a manifestation that they don't want responsibility for their actions? Do they assume that someone else is guiding their destiny?  Would God really create us all as pawns as a random act? How is it that some people arrive at such a conclusion?

I think one reason people will say that everything happen for a reason is that we tend to learn from every experience we go through positive or negative. Did it really happen for some specific reason though? Was it really designed especially for a certain person, time and place?  It could have been.

We should recognize that in this life everything is temporary. The rain falls and the sun shines on the just and the unjust.  The earth would seem to be a neutral place, where choices and decisions can be implemented by the individual. It is the perfect place where freedom of will can be enacted.

Do our choices have natural consequences or not? If not, then God would be a random and whimsical deity. How could he then be just or merciful if his actions are based on random whims?

If our decisions can determine our destiny, then God's plan would allow us to have that freedom. Isn't that why he gave to us? He can then judge the intents of our hearts and individual will at a time he has designated.  Justice and mercy must be reconciled by eternal principle otherwise they they are simply whimsical precepts as I mentioned.

There is a difference between the purpose of life and the reasons that things happen in life.  Of course, God has a plan.  The reason everything happens is because we are alive because of that plan. We will also die according to that plan. The purpose of that plan is to save our souls.

We should try to do something meaningful in between birth and death.  If we are mere pawns created out of nothing, then nothing meaningful can happen. The fact is we learn from everything that happens to us, whether we apply it to our betterment or not is our choice.  We came from earth from a premortal existence with God to learn, We were not created from the random nothingness of a void to suffer. 

There would be a lot of inequitable scenarios if God were dictating the outcomes of our decisions or planning the details of every action and life. He gives laws and commandments so we can choose to follow them or not, but we are not punished here and now in such a way that causes us to change our behavior.  We are invited to follow Christ, but not forced to, and will eventually face a time of accountability.

What are the ramifications if God dictates the normal occurrences of life?  It would mean we aren't free beings.  Life is meant to be carried out in an environment of freedom, only then can learn from experience and by exercising faith. 

Earth is a perfect place for with opposing forces that allow this to happen. God can guide our choices but doesn't make them for us. He doesn't intervene without our seeking it subject to his will. Sometimes when someone that loves us seeking it with great faith he may also. He responds to faithful asking, to teach or to resolve depending on what will be our best learning experience. 

The law of the harvest applies to life. The parable of the talents applies to life. Life is about us choosing, not about God controlling.  He intervenes to accomplish his overall purpose of saving us as he gives us his word and direction.

When we covenant to follow Christ, we receive guidance from the Holy Ghost, but we still need to choose to follow it. To be guided by God and receive promptings that will help us and bless others, we must first covenant with God and exercise faith to ask him for such.

Some things may happen for some reason, but not all things happen for a reason other than we are alive. The consequences associated with a choice and act become reality. Life is a complex intermingling of wills, actions and consequences.

Life is a test and we shouldn't be surprised when the answers get more difficult to explain. We become something more by living, and who we become is determined by our decisions to either act as making choices or receivers.

The reason we can choose our destiny is because there is a reliably predictable outcome to certain actions and choices. God established laws.  There are blessings concordant with obedience to those laws. If there is no law, then there is no sin.  If there is no sin there is no need for a Savior.  If there is no Savior, then we are damned as to any spiritual progress and death is the end.

There must be opposition in all things, otherwise there is no experience or choice.  If good is eternal then evil must be as well, otherwise God would have been its creator.

Without pain and suffering there is no appreciation for health and well being. Without sorrow, there would be no joy.  The sadness in death is only so because we love the one leaving us.  There is no love without service and helping another to grow through their trials.

Good health and fitness are the result of proper diet and exercise. Wealth is the result of proper financial strategies. Good relationships are from developing proper attitudes towards others.

Even so there are factors we cannot control.  Such is life in a fallen world where individual agency and free will exist. Even though some agnostics will tell us there is no free will, what do they really know other than their opinion? They are much like religious scholars and clerics that preach their own opinions mingled religious philosophy. The difference is that the atheist has nothing to base his opinions on while others proclaim some source that they declare to be authoritative.

A more important question to ponder would be as to what the purpose of life is.  Is there a divine purpose or simply a random occurrence of cosmic insignificance?  Did God make some people smart so they could have all the money and others stupid so they would be poor. Does he cause a person to be mean so that innocents might suffer?

Doesn't the diversity of wills tell us something about God?  Maybe God didn't create us out of nothing at birth like Bible scholars have said. Mormons believe our souls have an eternal nature, much like God's. If he made us out of the nothingness of a void it would seem to be an experiment gone wrong. Such is that teaching of some Christian scholars.

One reason people are tempted to use cliché statements like this is because sometimes there are consequences from the choices of others that have an impact on us.  These would be for the most part unexpected consequences from many choices that others make.  We don't seem to have much control over them other than how we react to them.

While life is a complex intermingling of consequences and wills, it is certainly not God forcing his will upon us.  If that was the case, we would not have freedom nor behave as we individually might choose.  It seems self-evident that we can behave as poorly as we desire or as good.

God does not stop evil, or conflicting choices or the consequences.  The short-term afflictions of righteous souls and the temporary prosperity of the wicked are not the eternal outcome.  Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people but only temporarily.  Some things do happen for a reason, they are mostly written in scripture for all to see.

All physical sufferings and perceived prosperity end at death. Death exists so that it might end these things and then be overcome by the Savior. Mortal life exists so that learning can take place.  Such is the manner of God's workings among his children on earth.  Letting them fall so that he can redeem them. Letting us suffer so that we can love one another as he has loved us.

If there really is a judgement day for all people, do you think anyone will excuse bad behavior by saying "everything happens for a reason"?  Isn't every person accountable for their own decisions and the consequences that follow?

Revelation 20
12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

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