I overheard my oldest son say a popular phrase that made me cringe—“Everything happens for a reason.” His recent sports injury had led to three surgeries, an uncertain future, and the possibility of not being able to do what he loves most. The idea that that my son’s injury was part of God’s plan just didn’t quite sit well with me. Maybe you’ve faced a similar situation, where life wasn’t going the way you had hoped and a well-meaning friend tried to comfort you with those words. The idea that all things happen for a reason just isn’t helpful. Thankfully, though, I’ve found a better quote.
Let me back up. My son loves soccer—it’s his passion. He played on a competitive team his senior year of high school. He was looking into colleges with his friends and envisioned a future heavily focused on the sport. Everything was exciting and going according to plan—until it wasn’t. His goals, dreams, and passions were broken, and it’s hard for me to believe it happened for a reason. Are you facing a difficult situation and wondering where God is in all of it? Find hope in the reason Jesus came—to give you an abundant life (John 10:10).
But Jesus’ gift of abundant life doesn’t mean that life will always go according to your plan. It doesn’t mean that you won’t experience pain and brokenness. But it does mean that you can trust the character of God even when your circumstances are crumbling.
After my son’s injury, he was taken into surgery—the first of many. I had prayed for healing, but unfortunately, that’s not what happened. In those moments, I questioned God. I remember crying out to Him in the hospital bathroom, “I have seen the miraculous, and I don’t understand why we’re not seeing healing!”
My mind was brought back to a devotional we had read a few weeks earlier, and in that moment, I knew God was reminding me that He was the Creator who had the power and ability to create new cells and to bring healing to my son.
In my moment of weakness and questioning, God gave me a clear answer—He loved my son. And despite my doubt, God showed his love for me by reassuring me that he heard my prayers and would heal my son. He is the Creator and Healer!
But eight weeks later, the surgery to repair my son’s injury failed. Have you been there? Has there been a time when God gave you encouragement, reassured you, and then seemingly didn’t come through? Have doubt or disbelief crept in? Have you defaulted to “everything happens for a reason” so you don’t have to be disappointed in God?
Finding peace in His sovereignty is perfect, but I stand on what he told me in that bathroom. I’m reminded of Psalm 30:2 ESV: O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.
See, I don’t believe God caused my son’s suffering, but suffering is a part of this life (John 16:33). It’s not God’s design for us, but when sin entered the world, so did tragedy and death and brokenness. My son’s injury isn’t a punishment nor a consequence of lack of faith. But I do believe God will use it to make my son feel His love and to build his faith.
My son’s injury will take two more surgeries and 12-18 months of recovery before he can return to full activity—not what we were praying for. But the day before his second surgery, two of his best friends showed up to pray with him. I watched those boys circle up, heads together, and pray powerfully for his future—with or without soccer. They continued to pray for full healing for him, and that was only the beginning. His girlfriend continued praying for him, as well as other friends, his homeschool co-op, and his LifeGroup. Following surgery, his coach texted him words of encouragement and promised to help him do whatever it took to get back to soccer. I saw God using this thing for His purposes.
The story isn’t finished yet, but through it all, I have been overwhelmed by how much God loves my son. The enemy meant to isolate him, but God planted him in community. Something beautiful has come out of something broken. Maybe you’re walking through tough times right now, and you feel alone. But God is with you. And He plants you in community, too.
So here we are, the third surgery complete, and some would say, “All things happen for a reason.” But I say, “Out of His abundant love for you, God works all things for good” (Romans 8:28).
I am reminded of Joseph’s story (a quick refresher on that here). He was wronged by his own brothers and suffered unjustly as a slave and prisoner—but ultimately God put him in a position of power and used him in His plan to save a nation (Genesis 39–Genesis 50).
Prayer, faith, and God’s love are powerful. Maybe you’re dealing with an injury too; or for you, maybe it’s a job loss, a troubled marriage, your child’s health—or any number of seemingly broken situations.
But no matter what brokenness or pain you’re walking through, God can redeem it for His good and His glory. That doesn’t mean your prayers will be answered the way you want. But it does mean that even something that might not be from God can definitely be used by God.
Although this injury isn’t what we wanted, I’m reminded of how deeply God loves us. Romans 8:38-39 tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing is too dark to divide us from God’s presence. No situation is too dark for God to redeem. So, I’ve found something better than “all things happen for a reason.” Instead, I’m choosing to believe the promise that in all things, God is working out something good according to His purpose.