Oftentimes when something terrible happens, such as a young parent gets inoperable brain cancer, a child is cruelly assaulted and murdered, or a famine or tsunami kills tens of thousands of innocent people in Africa or Asia, some people will say, “Everything happens for a reason.”
The implication is that God, in his infinite wisdom, sometimes has inscrutable reasons for terrible events that just don’t make sense to mere humans and, ultimately, everything that happens serves a greater purpose known only to God.
If it is true that everything that happens occurs because God wills it to happen, then the additional implication is that God necessarily controls everything that happens. And, if that is true, then humans do not have any free will.
For example, if everything, quite literally, has a reason and if that reason is rooted in God’s will, then the pedophile who assaults, tortures, and murders a little girl cannot help but do what he did because it was God’s will that he assaulted, tortured, and killed a little girl. If a murderous pedophile’s conduct is not God’s will (and the pedophile, instead, had free will to choose to do or not do what he did), then it is illogical to say, “Everything happens for a reason” that is based on God’s will.
So, is it not true that either (A) everything has a reason based on God’s will (including every horrible event that has ever happened to humans) and humans, therefore, have no free will or (B) humans have free will, things will happen that God does not want to have happen, and everything does not happen for a reason?
For those who believe in an all-powerful God, is there a third alternative?
My sense is that people say, “Everything has a reason” because it is often too unbearable to think that something terrible can happen to an innocent person without there being a good, but hidden, reason for that happening but that, logically, they don’t think through the necessary implications of that statement.