Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion. (D&C 132:8)
Sometimes bad things happen to people:
- A young man dies in a car accident, leaving his wife and kids without a husband and a father
- A young woman develops a rare form of cancer, ending her life before the age of 30.
- A baby is born with a serious birth defect, and doesn’t survive the year.
You can add various other diseases, accidents, or natural disasters to the list…
The common response when hearing about such things is usually one of the following:
- Their death is a direct result of their unrighteous behavior, and is God’s way of punishing them.
- Their death was God’s will, not because of unrighteousness, but because He wanted to call him/her home for important work on the other side, and/or wanted his/her family to face particular challenges in order for them to grow spiritually
- Their death just ‘happened’–and had nothing to do with God’s will.
There’s little evidence to suggest (1) is true as an explanation for fatal accidents and diseases in general. (Good people get ‘struck down’ all the time, while bad people do not…)
Most people, then, tend to be divided between (2) and (3), depending on their religious beliefs. Those that believe in an all-knowing, and all-powerful God lean toward (2), saying that God meant for things to happen for some wise purpose–even though it’s often hard to comprehend what that would be. Most non-religious types lean toward (3), saying the randomness of the universe precludes the existence of any God, and things that happen, just happen–there’s no higher meaning behind it.
Is there another option, though–one that lies in between (2) and (3)? Is there a place for the existence of an all-knowing, all-powerful God and random events that really have no higher meaning?
First, let’s discuss what ‘random’ means–in this context, we’re not talking about spontaneous and arbitrary happenings, but rather ‘chaotic’ things that aren’t under direct control of a higher intelligence. When a person driving a car suddenly gets a flat tire, spins out of control, flips and dies in the resulting car wreck–this isn’t a ‘random’ event. There a number of factors that come into play when trying to determine why the tire happened to pop at just that moment–the material from which the tire was made, its wear and tear over all the previous times the car had been driven, the condition of the road at the time, the speed the driver was going, etc. The idea of “God’s will” playing a part (as in #2 above) seems to imply that God for His own purpose happened to cause the tire to pop right at that moment (with a spiritual BB gun, or something) Suppose He didn’t cause it, but rather it was caused by the interplay of all the factors mentioned above…without divine mandate?
Likewise, at its root, a serious birth defect in a new born baby is probably caused by the combination of a large number of interconnected factors: genes, the mother’s nutritional intake, flawed chromosomal material, etc. There may be 1000 different things that had to happen in order for that defect to arise (but which can’t, perhaps, be isolated by science). Earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters also can have 1000 different small things that happen in terms of geology and weather in order for them to occur–when they do happen it’s because of a combination of pre-existing conditions, not God pulling a switch in a laboratory that says “Earthquake –> Indonesia”
The idea here is that, even with an all-knowing, all powerful God–random things occur, not because He ‘made’ them happen, but because He created a complete system of life on the Earth composed of a billion different variables that interact with each other every day, and every once in a while, 10000 of them coincide in a certain way which causes tragic events in people’s lives. Not because He purposefully planned for it to happen, but because that’s the way the system was created. (God foreseeing the events happening, and allowing them to happen are separate issues, and not discussed here…)
In other words, my theory is: sometimes things just happen–and God’s will really has nothing to do with it.
God is said to be ‘in control’, and that His house is a house of order. What does this mean? Well, He’s ‘in control’ because:
- All His spirit children are known and cared for–and He doesn’t miss anything that happens to us
- All His spirit children are a part of the plan of salvation, and no matter what happens during our time on Earth, our spirits won’t ‘fall through the cracks’ and be lost after we die.
(Of course, no promise is given that we’ll be shielded from pain and struggle–nor early death, even…)
Oftentimes a person will ask ‘Why did God take my husband/wife/brother/child away?’ and will struggle to find some ‘meaning’ behind it. Perhaps there isn’t…it was something that ‘just happened’ due to a random confluence of material factors–and not because God ‘decided’ to take him/her away because He had some great work that needed to be done in the spirit world, or because He wanted to give you a particular experience to help you grow. The system itself provides the experiences for all of us to grow, even though the experiences that happen to each individual person can be entirely different. Perhaps the ultimate motive of God is not for us to ask, “Why did this happen?”, but rather “So…this happened. What am I going to do now?”