Everything Happens for a Reason… or does it?

Everything happens for a reason.  It’s a quote I’ve heard a million times, and one I’ve repeated quite often.  It’s something I’ve always believed, and why not?  If God is all-powerful and all-knowing, and He has a master plan for the world, then why wouldn’t it?  Well, now I’m not so sure.

Today marks four months since Stephanie died.  I try to use that “harsh” language of died because that’s the fact.  Other ways of expressing it may be more comfortable to us, but they can confusing for kids, and what’s comfortable about it?  We’re just trying to lessen the blow that someone we loved so dearly and cared so much about is gone.  I miss her terribly every day.  So back to the title.  Over the last four months, I’ve received many items in the mail: cards, gifts for Sarah, letters, books, pictures.  One of the books someone sent me (and I honestly can’t remember who, so if it was you, please let me know, and thank you) is called “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” by Harold S Kushner.  He’s a rabbi who’s son was diagnosed at the age of three with progeria, or “rapid aging”, and they were told he would not live past his teens.  Throughout the book, he discusses and explains how he came to understand the universe, with God still at the center of it, and how he made sense of everything.  I strongly recommend reading it, because it will be more thorough than my takeaways.

Anyway, I wanted to share my thoughts on the book.  I was looking into the book in two ways: why did the bad thing of cancer and death happen to Stephanie, and why did the bad thing of losing a spouse at such a young age with a young child happen to me?  “It’s all a part of God’s plan” is something Stephanie and I talked about often, but it just doesn’t make sense.  With a loving and forgiving God, it just doesn’t make sense that His plan is to cause pain and suffering and to take us away from our loved ones causing more hurt and pain.  If it was, then we’d be justified to be angry at God when something like that happens instead of wanting to turn to Him in our suffering.  He compared coming to the realization that misfortunes don’t come from God to when we were kids and believed our parents knew all and could make everything better, then we grew up and realized that wasn’t the case.  Instead of blaming God and asking “Why did you do this to me?” we can instead turn to Him saying “God, see what is happening to me. Can you help me?” (Kushner 51)  That let’s us turn to Him for comfort and strength instead of in anger.

For me personally, it means a lot in regards to Stephanie.  I’ve struggled throughout this journey trying to wrap my mind around how Stephanie being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and given 15 months to live with us in a wonderful marriage and with a precious little girl was in His plan.  Just as humans are given free will to choose God or not, to walk or to run, and to perform violence on others or not, God is not going to interfere with nature to stop earthquakes or tornadoes or viruses.  Kushner says “I don’t believe in a God who has a weekly quota of malignant tumors to distribute, and consults His computer to find out who deserves one the most or who could handle it best.” (69)  And I have to agree, because that just doesn’t make sense of the God I believe in.  It was easy to agree with it all being His plan until I was faced with a scenario like this, but now that’s challenged.  So if it wasn’t His plan, does that mean that her suffering and pain was for not since it wasn’t all part of “His plan”?

Kushner would again say no.  He proposes the idea that “the bad things that happen to us in our lives do not have a meaning when they happen to us.  They do not happen for any good reason which would would cause us to accept them willingly. But we can give them a meaning. (…) A better question would be ‘Now that this has happened to me, what am I going to do about it?'” (149, emphasis added)  So while Stephanie being diagnosed with cancer didn’t have a meaning, she gave it a meaning with how she handled the situation.  Her attitude, the Faith, Hope, and Love that she spread despite the situation, that’s what had meaning.  Instead of being down and feeling sorry for herself, she made a point to maintain a positive outlook, which I’ve been told has been an inspiration to many.  Some people have shared with me how Stephanie affected them, and I hope there are many many more stories I haven’t and may not hear.  But while it wasn’t God who gave her this suffering, Stephanie had the free will to choose to use it for good to praise God instead of turning against Him.  And that choice that she made is what God wants from each of us every day, whether we have the best luck and circumstances in the world or the worst.  God is on our side in our pain and suffering, and wants to help us if we let Him.  And while it won’t necessarily be in the way we hope, because God won’t grant every person in the world a miracle when they ask, He is there for us for spiritual guidance, hope, and happiness.  Stephanie could easily have gotten sour and pessimistic and self-wallowing.  But instead, she chose to turn to God and probably lived some of her happiest days after her diagnosis.

The last point Kushner made I feel applies more to me, the one who suffered not from the ailment itself, but from having lost someone due to something that seemed unfair and undeserved.  He says “the one crucial thing we can do for (those we loved and lost) after their death is to let them be witnesses for God and life, rather than, by our despair and loss of faith, making them ‘the devil’s martyrs.'” (152)  Stephanie’s message and spirit in how she lived after her diagnosis is how we need to try to live ourselves if we are to honor Stephanie’s memory.  She gave meaning to her disease and suffering in how she lived.  Now we need to give meaning to her death by how we continue to live as she did.

Now that’s much easier to read and say and agree that “that sound’s good” than it is to actually do.  I’m struggling on a daily basis to even be the happy person I was before this whole journey began.  But I know it’s not something that can change overnight, and rather I’ll need little changes over long periods of time.  I’ve previously posted about the novenas website that e-mails you prayers.  The current one is to St. Peregrine, the patron saint of cancer, and someone who Stephanie and I asked to intercede for us daily in our rosaries together.  Another way I’ve found to help improve my prayer life is to use a daily devotional that a friend shared with me, “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young.  It does a good job addressing someone going through difficult and challenging times, and it’s a quick daily read.  You can read it in under a minute and then reflect on it for no time if you’re on the run or for hours.  The bible verses at the bottom have helped me open a bible to read and gives me a place to start each day.  I encourage each of you who are still reading this far in to take a genuine, hard look at how you’re living today versus four months ago and see if you’ve changed and how you’ve changed in your daily life to honor Stephanie’s memory, and then look to see what you can do to continue to grow to live the way Stephanie did.

We miss you every day, Stephanie.  I love you.

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20 thoughts on “Everything Happens for a Reason… or does it?

  1. Thank you for your wonderful expressions of your love, faith, and understanding.
    God directs us to share ourselves and His love with others, to help others.
    Continue doing so and know He (and we) stand alongside you in the hard times and hood times. God bless you as you journey on!

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  2. This was such a blessing to read! I am so glad and thankful someone sent you that book. Amen! I will try to live my life to honor her life and yours.

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  3. Just as I considered Stephanie to be my touchstone and continue to do so today, she helped me to look deeper into my faith, and to never question His divine will. So with that being said, I feel that you too are my touchstone, you have continued to be strong and faithful in His plan. I find it beautiful and it warms my heart to see you and Sarah together, and to see Stephanie in Sarah’s eyes. God Bless

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  4. Thank you so much for continuing to post inspiration, thought-provoking posts. I did not ever know you or Stephanie but my husband also had glioblastoma and passed away almost 4 years ago after only 5-1/2 weeks of knowing that ANYTHING was wrong. It’s a horrible cancer. I have grown much more spiritual because of losing my husband. The great-niece of my best friend told me about Stephanie right at the beginning of her illness and I followed this blog throughout, and still do. Thank you for continuing the blog and I do feel that this is what Stephanie, above, wants. I hope you can feel her presence in your day-to-day life as I feel my late husband’s presence in mine.

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  5. I have never been one to believe everything happens for a reason, or it’s all part of God’s plan… or when it’s your time to go… honestly I struggle with those statements because like you said, why would God do those things to the people he loves? I was also raised that it’s all day to time and unforseen occurrence.. anyway, I am still praying for you and your family.. sending love and hugs during this journey.. 💗

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  6. AMEN. Those teachings made a lot of sense to me too and I am glad that someone sent you the book. You are a blessing to share your insights with others. I miss all three of you. Joan (ICC choir)

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  7. Although I am not the person who gifted you with Harold S. Kushner’s book, I am glad that someone did. Reading that book helped me during a time of tragic loss in our family, too. After my son-in-law’s sudden and unexpected death at the age of 29, I had difficulty reconciling a loving, merciful God with one who would inflict so much pain and suffering on those whom He supposedly loves unconditionally. After reading the book and reflecting on its message, I came to realize that my son-in-law’s death wasn’t as a result of God’s Master Plan. Instead, I began to see God’s unconditional love in the support that family, friends, co-workers, and fellow parishioners extended to my daughter and young grandson. Almost six years later, God’s love is still evident in the continued support that they receive as they journey through life without their husband and father. As Sarah and you continue your life’s journey without Stephanie, I trust that God’s love will be manifested in the ongoing support you receive. Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.

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  8. Michael
    Thanks so much for sharing, I know Sweet Stephanie is smiling that beautiful smile right now just knowing you are continuing to share your faith and Gods love for us all. Miss you and Sarah! Hope to see you guys soon. Love, Dodi

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  9. I do not know you personally, but I have been touched by Stephanie’s and now your sharing. I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and the promises He gives us in His Word. May God continue to reveal Himself to you more intimately as you continue to seek Him. I don’t know that we are capable of understanding all His ways and purposes while living in our earthly bodies, but we do trust in his Word which tells us that “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4) and that “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). May God continue to bless, guide, and comfort you and all who miss Stephanie.

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  10. Michael, like many, I also have not met you or Stephanie but have followed your journey. However and without question, Stephanie certainly affected my life. My original plan was to retire Dec 2018. Unfortunately, in Jan and again in Mar of 2017 my husband’s health was severely compromised with unexplained bleeding (a side effect of blood thinners) which resulted in critically low hemoglobin. I had a epiphany…what the heck was I waiting on??? Lord knows what I would have done had I lost him during that time up thru Dec 2018!!??!! Soooo….I quit my job effective 1 May 2017 and NEVER looked back. He deserved all my time and attention and that was all there was to it…only wish I made the decision sooner!! Thankfully in Jun he had a Heart Watchman inserted and he was able to come off of blood thinners. The procedure was only approved by the FDA in 2015 and many people have never heard about it. You can go to http://www.watchman.com where there is a little over 4 minute video that describes the procedure. I wanted you to know that following Stephanie’s story was also an impetus for my decision to retire early and enjoy life with my husband more. Time is guaranteed to no one. Thank you Stephanie.

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  11. Michael… I have to agree with you on this. Since my husband was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, liver and now in his pelvic bone and lungs, I feel that there are so many people following us to see how we are handling all of this. We could crumble under the weight of it all, or give it to God, and watch to see what he does with it all! Bless you and Sarah… One day at a time… That is my new motto!

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  12. Michael,

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful testimony. Although I never met Stephanie, her faith and love of God gave me strength and courage. Praying for you and Sarah.

    God bless,
    Rowena

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  13. The love Stephanie showed for Our Lord and for her family was a blessing to each of us. It inspired me to look deeper into my own relationships with my family and Our Saviour.
    Your blog today says it all. We still grieve yet we know our Lord is walking with us every step of the way. He never leaves us.
    Thank you for your honesty, your openess to share, your love for Stephanie, Sarah and for God.

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  14. Michael, I am so happy to hear that you are not blaming God. Here is something I would like you to consider along with all of the well thought out statements you made. If God’s will is being done on earth right now, why do we still pray for His “….will to be done on earth as it is being done in Heaven”? Matthew 6:9,10 And Ecclesiastes 9:11 tells us “……because time and unforeseen occurrence overtake them all.” But He promises there will come a day when “He will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will there be mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4 Jesus showed on a small scale what he will do for the entire earth one day when he is king, when God’s will is being done on earth. He healed the sick and he will then Isaiah 33:24, the blind and deaf Isaiah 35:5, he will heal the lame, the speechless, the earth itself Isaiah 35:6. He will again resurrect the dead John 5: 28 “…the hour is coming when all those in the memorial tombs will come out. Those who did good things to a resurrection of life.”

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    1. Dear Michael, we are so blessed by your words. Thank you.
      I read that book many, many years ago and it has definitely helped me to look at God and suffering in a way that fits with my experience of God as loving and merciful.
      You continue to be in our prayers.
      Peace, Katherine & Brad

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  15. Michael-I’m so glad you read the book. I actually had it with me when I came to the funeral. I just felt so weird giving it to you then… I didn’t want to overwhelm you. When I bought the book, I bought it for you, but then I bought myself a copy too, because the title spoke out to me…. It’s just how I felt. It’s such a fantastic book and those I’ve talked to about it have enjoyed it as well. You do not know how glad my heart is knowing that you’ve read it and how it has helped. ☺️
    Now, I can’t believe you forgot it was me that sent it. Although, I have to admit, I did send it with a buck of other stuff to. So, that’s okay. 😉
    You’re always in our prayers, and so is Sarah. 💙❤️
    Love you!!!!

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  16. Michael, I am off to a Funeral this week. My Best Friend’s Father has died. He lived a long, good life. However, his wife has dementia. We are all worried about her care. She was the love of his life. Your story, your blog, Stephanie’s Faith told me to get on a plane to be there for them. I am off to purchase this book for them. I am friends with Karen and she was so good to my daughter, I love your family and my heart hurts for you. You ask for stories. Stephanie’s story has helped me to be thankful for every precious moment. It has helped me to slow down to cherish the time, to Thank God and take time to reflect in the moment.You and Sarah are in my heart.

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  17. What an excellent essay and command for us! I have prayed and hurt with you and Stephanie this whole time, and I so appreciate reading your words.

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