I don’t often get a sense of “why bad things happen.” You know, the “senseless” stuff we didn’t plan on—illness, lost income, the death of a friend. But a few years back, while writing the screenplay for my movie Healing River, I got a meaningful glimpse.
My car was entering the final curve on a nearby hill when the tail lights on the Mercedes-Benz in front of me lit up. No big, I was already starting to brake anyway. Except that this guy was braking harder than me. Way harder. So I pressed down and angled my steering wheel toward the median. The maneuver should have been enough, but slick yellow median paint is not traction-friendly stuff. My wheels locked-up and glided ahead, striking the corner of the now-halted Mercedes.
A moment later, I saw why the Mercedes had braked so hard. The car directly in front of him had collided with a beater from the opposing traffic, that car having suddenly veered onto our side of the road. The cause became clear when a cop pulled the barely conscious driver out of his automobile. “Heroin!” the officer said with disgust. I walked a few steps forward and glanced into the crunched beater. There on the passenger seat was a used hypodermic needle.
Outside of the “coincidence” that I was currently working on a screenplay about a death caused by a heroin-using driver, the incident produced no immediate tingle of Greater Purpose in me. Nor did I sense any upside when my right shoulder and lower back began to complain (both injuries turned out to be permanent).
But then, one by one, reasons began to materialize:
First, to my surprise, the addict’s insurance company didn’t dispute the charges. They offered me twice the value of my car, a 28-year-old Porsche that I’d wanted to sell for years, but that had needed pricier repairs than it was worth.
Second, X-rays revealed an issue I needed to know about (arthritis). I’ve since altered my writing schedule to include therapy and walking breaks from my desk-jockey life.
Finally, the addict, Christopher, was sent to a drug treatment center which may well have been the turning point of his life. I’ve prayed for him ever since, and believe this may have been the main reason the incident occurred. My back and shoulder in exchange for a soul, God? Count me in.
Yes, I’m implying there’s Someone behind all this, Someone with a Plan, and not only that bad things happen for reasons, but that our recognizing and participating in those reasons is, at least sometimes, part of the Plan. Bringing good from evil is God’s M.O. And he calls us to complete the process. Am I imagining a Greater Purpose where there is none? Could be. But every time I taste my wife’s lemon bars I realize, This is why God created lemons.
The Old Testament’s Joseph rose to a position of power that enabled him to save thousands of lives. He then told his brothers, who’d indirectly put him on this path by selling him into slavery, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:20) Joseph got it. He was participating in the Plan.