By Greg Baer M.D.

December 30, 2016

I hear this question a lot. Why did this bad thing happen to me? Why did God let this happen? Why did this good thing happen to me (rare question)? The other day somebody asked me “why,” and I said, “‘Why’ is often a useless question. It’s far more useful to ask what our next productive choice might be.”

He responded with another question: “Does everything happen for a reason?”

That is a very common belief, often intended to convey that God—or the universe, or fate, or some cosmic force—somehow guides everything that happens. If that were true, then we would all be little but puppets, or billiard balls set in motion by a power greater than ourselves, without the ability to make our own choices. So no, I am certain that we are not controlled in this way, but I do think everything happens for a reason; just not necessarily the reasons we think.

Things happen because:

  • We were stupid, and we experience the natural consequence of our choices.
  • We were smart, and we experience the natural consequence of our choices.
  • We reacted to a series of events and judgments from so long ago that we can’t recall them.
  • God put an opportunity in our path, and we made use of it.
  • God put an opportunity in our path, and we blew it.
  • God simply rescued us in some way (rare, or we’d become objects or pets).
  • Somebody else made a choice, and we are affected by the consequences of it.
  • The natural laws of the universe never sleep. Why, for example, did this hurricane happen to me? Oh, it didn’t happen to ME. No, hurricanes are the complex result of simple physics. The sun evaporates gaseous water from the ocean surface. The water condenses into vapor, releasing latent heat that provides energy to the clouds and rain that also form. In the right season, low pressure areas form, into which air spirals, causing winds. Add the Coriolis force and other influences, and you just get a hurricane, which has no intended object, like us—no matter how important we think we are.
  • For a combination of the above reasons, and many more.

For many “things” that “happen”—especially if they involve human behavior—it is usually quite impossible to discern which one or more of the above reasons are operative, so asking “why” is not useful. For less complicated events, “why” IS a useful question:
Why is my car slowly stopping on the highway?
Why have I been fired from my last five jobs?
Why did the vision in my right eye sudden fade to nearly nothing?
Why is water dripping from my ceiling onto my head?

When causes are relatively easy to identify, “why” is useful. Or when a pattern of events keeps occurring, like why my last eight marriages ended in divorce. But sometimes we simply can’t identify “why,” and then we can waste a great deal of time with that question, time and energy that could be applied far more effectively to the solution of the problem at hand.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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