I've had me a tremendous last 12 months: We had to redo our hardwood floors 3x, all because an inadvertent nail in a baseboard happened to pierce a bathroom pipe the first time, and the repairs the second time weren't done right. My truck got hit twice, once at an on-ramp signal going to house church and the other while parked at a Starbucks, coming out of an Oasis meeting. Today, our house got broken into.
I write this not to invite sympathy (I realize these are mostly sufferings of the privileged, compared to the great injustices that exist in the world, but they still have a way of leaving one bruised and feeling vulnerable). I mostly write this to help me remember when all this was going on, to help me process. And how, in the end, I have to admit there is much to be thankful for despite the crumminess of it all. I'd much prefer that all this crap not have happened, but I am grateful for tender mercies nevertheless. Our floors did get fixed and redone - better than ever. My truck looks like new (at least the rear end does), though it's an old '96. And though there is some damage to the house and some rattled nerves, unbelievably nothing was taken and we were not harmed.
Unlike conventional evangelical theology which might suggest at this point that God is causing these things to teach us a lesson, I choose to believe that bad things happen partly because of our choices or the choices of others, but also sometimes because we live in a fallen world where evil and the accidental are a reality. That is not to say I have nothing to learn. Or that God isn't trying to teach me something. But I am saying this is not his method. I am saying that God does not cause bad things to happen so that I can learn something good. This would make God a horribly sadistic deity and I'd have to find some other line of work, because I ain't believing this nonsense and certainly not teaching it to others. Like any good parent, we don't have to cause bad things to happen to our children in order to teach them something good. Instead, we know that they will inevitably get hurt in the course of this life, and sometimes good can come of it as redemptive act - as something learned. A grace. Sometimes.
I don't believe the popular platitude that, "All things happen for a reason." I don't believe it because it's not true. It's nowhere to be found in Scripture. The plain truth is that many crummy and downright inexplicable things happen for absolutely no good reason. Yes, no good reason. So we don't have to feel pressed to turn bad things into good ones because we are convinced there is something God is trying to teach us - if we could only dry the tears long enough to see them. Instead, we can mourn the bad as bad, period. We can call the horrible horrible, the tragic tragic.
What Scripture does seem to reveal, however, is that the God of Jesus Christ assumes a fallen world in which people sin and are sinned against, and where both the beautiful and the terrible happen. The power of God is not to stop all bad things from happening, but that no bad thing can stop God's loving presence in our lives in the midst of bad things. The power of God is not to stop death, but to resurrect the dead.
No matter whose fault all this mess belongs to - you, me, the other guy, or the devil - God takes responsibility for it. First he weeps with us in solidarity with our pain. Then he offers us redemption. Sometimes in the form of healing and glimpses of mercy in this life. Sometimes only in the hope of resurrection in the next. Through it all, I can only confess and cling to the hope that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ - even when the reality of my circumstances seem to betray this truth. "Neither life nor death, nothing above or below, nor anything else in all creation" we are told. Apparently not even a warped floor, a dented bumper, or a broken window in a span of 12 months.