A young boy of eleven who was full of life and talent was tragically knocked down and killed the other
day. Everything happens for a reason and I believe that. However, I am having great difficulty in
understanding this reason. Do you have any answers?
I sympathise with your feelings, but find it difficult to understand what is meant by, "Everything
happens for a reason". I hazard a guess that you are referring to some sort of spiritual reason, as the
physical reason for the tragedy could probably be explained by the events and conditions leading up
to the fatality. A long time ago my wife and I lost a daughter at the tender age of seven; the reason
was obvious, she contracted a virus which attacked her brain and led to three years of deterioration
until she died. No one could do anything about it, even the most advanced medical care at the time.
Are we to say that all this was sufficient reason for our daughter to die? If we wish to close the book
on it, the answer is yes. However, if our world view involves a spiritual or mystic dimension the
answer is no. It is this latter view which I believe your question addresses.
The christian religion offers comfort through the belief that God is in complete control over all things,
and can supply sufficient reason for anything that happens. You may say that there is nothing in this
concept to allay concerns and grief, when an explanation is required for taking the life of a child.
However, we are dealing with a spiritual matter, and to come to terms with spiritual matters we have
to rid ourselves of preconceived secular notions received from the society in which we are brought
up. One of these notions is the idea that all humans are entitled to a designated life span. Many
derive this idea from the christian concept of three score years and ten; anything beyond this is a
bonus, anything less and the person has, in some way been cheated: the terms 'unjust' and 'unfair'
are often used. For example, why should David live to the age of ninety and Peter die at sixty,
particularly as David was a chain smoker and heavy drinker, and Peter neither smoked nor drank. Of
course, by worldly standards such a thing is grossly unfair.
Perhaps, then, when society draws a line in the sand, and declares that humans are all 'entitled' to
reach the age of, say, seventy, people are likely to be disappointed or angry when a loved one, or
close friend, is seemingly unfairly cheated out of their entitled life-span, and particularly when the
victim is a child. As we tend to recognise degrees of fairness, the more years lost below the deadline
and the more unfair the situation. Seen as unfair for a person to die at sixty, it is more unfair at forty,
and grossly unfair at the age of eleven. This notion of receiving what we believe we are entitled to
causes great confusion within society, and in the broader concept, between nations. The general
beliefs are, that we are entitled to a roof over our heads, we are entitled to food, clothes, warmth, a
comfortable retirement, a peaceful existence, etc.. A world view like this causes great concern and
agonizing over reasons when a tragedy occurs.
Yet, people who hold secular views, as well as those who hold spiritual views, believe that we live
within the bounds of natural law; stepping outside that law we suffer the consequences. My mother
was killed on the road when she ran from the back of a parked vehicle into the path of a car travelling
at 30 mph. The 'reason' for her death was obvious, natural law does not allow elderly ladies who
collide with heavy vehicles moving at 30 mph. to survive. Followers of religion pose a strong
argument when they point out that God, having given us the laws we live by cannot keep intervening
to change them for specific events: when He does, they are called miracles. Why miracles should be
granted in some cases but not in the majority of others is beyond me. But as many things that happen
in this world are beyond me this is not unusual.
Perhaps this answer still leaves you confused, but it may help to bear in mind that we have still a
great deal to discover about the world, our origins, the purposes of life, and whether indeed this life
we lead is the be all and end all of our existence.
I feel for you, Laura, especially if you were close to the boy.
There are two ways that we can take the phrase "everything happens for a reason". It can mean
"everything happens for a purpose", or it can mean "everything that happens is caused".
In my view, the second version is true, but the first is not. For everything to have a purpose, it all
would have to happen under the guidance of a being that can have intentions and make plans. If one
believes in a certain sort of God, then one can go along with this. But if one doesn't believe in God, or
one believes in a God that does not keep an eye on every event in the universe and plan each of
them towards some purpose, then it is not true that everything happens for a reason (purpose).
However, if one believes that all events have causes — one of the basic assumptions of science —
then everything does happen for a reason (because it was caused). This tragic event had numerous
causes, I imagine — inattention on one or more people's part, distractions, unusual conditions — I
don't know exactly what they are. But the death of the boy was not planned by anyone or anything,
and in that sense it is just a tragic and horrible accident.
The question you ask (although you do not mention God) is a very personal and particular version of
the much wider question of evil. See Derek's question on this page for a wider version of it, and my