I’ve not a fan of that old adage, “Everything happens for a reason.” Usually when people say that, they are blaming God for some bad thing they can’t explain any other way. They may not even realize they are doing it, but that’s the upshot. “I don’t get this and I don’t like it, but God let it happen so God must be behind it and so clearly, God wants to make me miserable for a reason.”
While it is true, technically, that everything does happen for some reason or another, some reasons stink. Some reasons are my own fault, the product of my own short-sightedness, ignorance, brokenness, neediness. Some reasons are the fault of other broken, needy people who are not thinking about my needs when they do the things they do.
True, some things happen for a reason. But some reasons stink. To believe otherwise — to say that everything that happens is the design (or fault) of God — is to deny human fallenness and the spiritual battle.
That said, I do realize God will sometimes make us miserable to move us on. There is a story in the Old Testament of a time when Elijah experienced a change in circumstance that required interpretation. He was sitting in the middle of a famine, not a comfortable place to be. For a time, God provided miraculously for Elijah, even while others suffered all around.
Then one day, the brook dried up — literally. The brook that was keeping him alive. Elijah was forced by his own survival instincts leave the brook and to go in search of the river.
Sometimes, it is God at work. Sometimes … but not always.
Sometimes the brook dries up because someone (not God) built a dam upstream. In those times, it takes great faith to cling to Jesus while others wreak havoc in our lives. Holiness happens in times like these, when I’m forced to practice patience and forbearance while God works all things together for good. Times like these are what make Psalm 23 so precious to me. It promises that after every valley, there is a feast.
And then sometimes, God dries up the brook so we’ll be motivated to move on. Because sometimes (not always) our misery is God at work. Sometimes the brook dries up because God is trying to get me to move on to the river. To move on. Let go.
Jesus once said that unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it won’t bear fruit. I wonder how often I’ve hung on to things long past good sense for fear of change, when God has been trying desperately to move me on from the brook to the river.
Sometimes, but not always, it is God allowing our misery. When it is, then we can trust that it is always for our good. Holiness will always challenge us to interpret our circumstances with the character of a loving, life-giving God in view.
Is it possible that your spiritual dryness is connected to an unwillingness to let God do a new thing?