"Everything happens for a reason!"
I find that it is most often used as a way to comfort someone faced with some sort of trial, loss, or other unfortunate situation. I also find that many Christians quote it as though it were God's word itself, when in reality I think it paints an awful picture of God that is far from His glory.
Maybe I'm a blasphemer, but I just don't believe that God purposes trials or has predestined "reasons" for them. I don't think He's looking down on us struggling or suffering, hoping we "get it" and learn the lesson our situation is supposed to teach us. He may not take our suffering away when we call on Him, but that doesn't mean He willed it. He just wants to be the One we call on when we're going through all our junk.
He gets it! He gets our junk. In fact, He so gets our junk, that He fatally nailed all of it to His own Son. He knows life gets hard, and wants to walk us through it and give us strength and peace. He wants to fight beside us and be there when we need someone to run to. He wants to be the one to carry us and catch all our tears. Jesus himself said this:
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." - the Gospel according to John, Chapter 16, verse 33
Jesus clearly separates His doing from the world's doing, and the troubles of the world from His desire. Why would He have to overcome troubles that He Himself purposed in the first place? He wouldn't! He doesn't want us to look at our troubles as lessons to learn. In fact, He tells us here that He gives us His word so that we can have peace through our trials knowing that He has already given us victory.
What if, instead of telling people that "everything happens for a reason" when they come to us faced with tragedy, we tell them to "take heart"? What if we told them that our LORD is sovereign and good, and that He already beat this world and all the stuff it throws at us thousands of years ago. What if we told them He cant wait for us to experience His gracious and compassionate love (Isaiah 30:18). The phrase "everything happens for a reason" is a lie that needs to stop!
It's not just a lie we often tell others; it's a terrible lie we often tell ourselves. Have you ever felt like you were going through tough times because you did something wrong and God is "mad" at you? It springs from the same exhausting concept. Yes, exhausting. Awfully exhausting. We trap ourselves in this worldview that if life sent us into a rut, it's because God is disappointed in us and He's trying to teach us something. Cause and effect. Everything happens for a reason.
How exhausting! God never wants us to feel like we are constantly disappointing Him, especially when life isn't going "our way". He wants to be our Rock, our Foundation, our Guidance, our Everything. He wants us to hand it over to Him and trust Him, even if things don't change. That's the whole point of our faith, right? We follow God because we love God and know He is true even if we can't always see it. We walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
There is an Enemy who doesn't want you to have the peace of heart that Jesus promises you. There is an Enemy who does want you to feel like God is disappointed in you and "punishing" you through trials and tribulation. He is a cruel, evil Enemy and a oppressive, hateful Enemy. And he can get you so frustrated because you feel like you're doing everything "right" but God still isn't pulling through for you and is instead punishing you for not working hard enough. He can make you feel like you're never doing enough for God, and that's the "reason" life isn't happy.
He can't, however, pluck you from the Hands of your eternal, divine, loving Daddy because no matter how much he tries to hide from it, Satan is a defeated, overcome Enemy. Jesus paid too high a price for God to let you go down easy (or at all). If there is a "reason" at all you're going through tough times, it is not God's doing, it is the doing of the Enemy and of this broken, fallen world. Ever since Adam and Eve, man has been giving evil an open invitation to pervert God's word, design, and creation, which He all has called "good." God is not the cause or reason for your sorrow.
No matter what, there is always good news. Very good news. Jesus. Jesus has overcome this entire world and everything that makes us feel anything short of peaceful. He overcame it all and gave Himself for us, and now we share in that victory. Don't let the Enemy trap you in exhausting, unhealthy thinking, but rather let the power, love, and grace of our LORD give your heart rest and your spirit peace, knowing that many like you are suffering as well, and that God sees and cares. You can have peace knowing that God carries you through the storm and hurts when you hurt, and that your name is written in Heaven, and that one glorious day, He will bring you home (my apologies for the run-on, I got a little carried away there...).
But not before He does great and mighty things through you right here.
Photo taken during the spring of 2013 of an oncoming storm at Fort Mountain State Park
"[Satan's] cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do [God's] will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys." - C.S.Lewis