In this episode John and Gregg discuss an article by Tim Lawrence, “Everything doesn’t happen for a reason.” This post “went viral” and concerns people trying to support those who suffer tragic circumstances by commiserating that “everything happens for a reason.”
John notes both the author’s passion and a sense of hopelessness and is curious to hear Gregg’s take on it based on Gregg’s own significant losses.
Gregg responds that he found the article to be helpful and yet that it offered an incomplete response to the issue. Gregg also found several of the comments to be quite valuable. So Gregg uses one of the comments to explains how the notion that “everything happens for a reason is rather tricky.” (i.e., by noting that we must first distinguish between “a reason” meaning causality and “a reason” meaning purpose).
So Gregg emphasizes the difference between acknowledging that powerful events necessarily impact us (e.g., Gregg acknowledging that because his father and and brother died—and died as they did—that Gregg’s life is changed) is very different from imputing the necessity of a powerful event transpiring in my life in order that something else should take place (e.g., imputing that it was necessary for Gregg’s father and brother to die in order for Gregg to become a Christian).
Gregg sees the second case as misconceived and wrong-headed thinking. Philosophically this is an example of the “greater good” argument: the idea that good requires (or is dependent upon) evil. In a Christian context Gregg sees this as completely outside of / inaccurate to the descriptions the Bible offers of the relationship between God and the adversary (or Satan, etc.)
John notes how Tim Lawrence asserts that grieving is the one and only thing that we must do when we experience deep loss, yet John wonders if everyone does. Gregg agrees and argues that it is not only those who experience deep loss but also those around them who attempt to avoid grieving, and they do so because they are afraid of the power of grief and the implication that world is far less within their control they they hoped or understood.
Thus Gregg argues that fear is a major driver in prompting individuals to offer condolences that are much more for themselves then for those who have suffered the loss! Such condolences are then actually statements of what those offering them need to think or believe in order to feel safe in the face of loss, tragedy, or even terror.
Gregg pushes further: when such platitudes are offered it is not that people lack the right words but lack the right (or best) conceptions of the matters and the necessary life experiences in order to be fully present to the circumstances without being overwhelmed. So Gregg argues that we are responsible for ourselves, even for our own lack of self-awareness when it comes to an inability properly to cope with such events.