Thursday, January 08, 2015

A Thought for Thursday 8 January 2015

Stuff Happens

This premise, that things happen over which we have no control, is undeniable.  There are too many players on the world stage, each with his or her own mind, faith, desires, and ambitions, to deny this truth.  The truth itself is not in the statement itself, however; rather the truth is an acknowledgement of reality: stuff happens.

The Rwandan Genocide happened.  Stuff.  The Killing Fields of Cambodia happened.  Stuff.  The Holocaust happened.  More stuff.  The list of tragic events in the course of human history goes on and on.  We cannot question the reality that “stuff happens”.  Finding the truth of how these events come to pass, however, is a whole other matter.

“Fatalism” is a philosophic term which holds that “all events in the history of the world, and in particular, the actions and incidents which make up the story of each individual life, are determined by ‘fate’” ( 

According to this particular philosophy, things happen for a reason, as we are so fond of saying.  Maybe it is our way of coping when things beyond our control take place, whether such events affect us directly or indirectly.  Because we possess the capacity to rationalize and think things through, perhaps it is easy to embrace some form of ‘fatalism’ to help us explain that which is without explanation.  But is ‘fatalism’ consistent with biblical theology?

When ‘fatalism’ crosses the line into the theological, it becomes problematic.  We rightly acknowledge the Sovereign God, the King of all creation who is “large and in charge”; and we believe in the Redemption Story that continues to unfold and will continue until the last seal is open and the final trumpet sounds.  That is, The Lord causes things to happen toward this End.

What happens, then, when small things take place in our daily living?  Things we have some measure of control over?  Without advocating the purchase of lottery tickets, would we still credit the Sovereign God if we won?  I have no doubt many would give thanks for the sudden windfall, but what would happen afterward?  Oh, we are fond of saying we would happily give a tithe, but what next?  Well, if we are ‘fatalists’, should we bother planning; or would we believe the Almighty would suddenly show us the way without any effort or prayer on our part?  If we became gluttonous fools with that money (and far too many have!), could this be ascribed strictly, exclusively to Divine Will?

What about praying?  If we believe things happen for a reason, why bother with intercessory prayer if our beloved is suffering needlessly because of Divine Will?  Do we pray The Lord will help us to make sense of it all, or do we pray The Lord will suddenly and miraculously remove the suffering?  Or can we just say “stuff happens”?  Well, we don’t seem to believe in Divine Fatalism when we are directly and adversely affected.  Suddenly the course of events shifts (although the “stuff still happens”), but now “Satan is out to get me”.  Suddenly Satan is “large and in charge”.  Suddenly our God is, in a word, impotent and powerless over the evil one.  Surely we cannot find a biblical justification for this!

I think we give over too much too soon without a lot of thought or effort.  It is a wonderful idea that The Lord will handle everything for us – and one day this reality may come to pass – but we cannot deny the scriptural reality Divine Law which compels us to care for our neighbors, and the foreigners, the widows and orphans; of “spiritual gifts” given for the sake of the Church, for the sake of those who have yet to know of The Lord’s mercy extended in Christ; “gifts” which enable us to “go” and “do”, “gifts” which can help to enable us to make “stuff happen” that may not otherwise happen!  Gifts along with a healthy prayer life so we can know what to do with these gifts.

Stuff does indeed happen, but we must not be so quick to dismiss the reality of human effort and intentions, for good or bad.  Tragic stuff happens when “pride” rears its ugly head.  More tragedy unfolds for the weak and the marginalized among us when “avarice” (extreme greed) informs our actions.  Nothing happens, good or bad, by our hands when “sloth” (laziness) is our mode.  Do these things take place because of Divine Will?  Does The Lord cause us to be greedy or prideful or lazy or lustful?  And if we attribute these things to Satan as the cause when our lives take a turn for the worst, where did The Lord go?

Some things may remain a mystery in this life because sometimes it can be said we simply cannot handle the Truth.  It is always necessary, however, that we actively seek the Truth rather than to surrender ourselves to a questionable philosophy.  We serve a God who does ask of us and who does compel us to “seek Me with your whole heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).  There is no ‘fatalism’ in this Divine Invitation.

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