Is everything that happens God's will?


#1

When a tragedy happens (such as a murder), I have often heard Christians (including some Catholics) assure people by saying, with regards to the dead, it was “God’s will.”

I am a little confused by this statement.

A murder is, by definition, sinful. And a sin, as far as I know is, by definition, a violation of God’s will.

So how could God will something that is, by definition, a violation of His own will?

Further, how does this jive with free will?


A related, but different question. I have also heard that God does not will all that occurs, because men have free will and He respects that.

However, these people will say that while God does not will everything that happens (especially sin), he does “use” everything (even sin) to “achieve His plan.”

Even this statement is rather confusing to me. For the phrase “plan” indicates that someone:

  1. Has a goal.
  2. Is taking active steps to realize that goal.

So, the problematic part of this for me is #2. If He is merely allowing everyone to follow their own free will, then He would seem to have no plan. But if He does have a plan, and is taking steps to achieve that plan, how could He do so without actually doing something? And how could that something not interfere with free will?

In other words, how can one play a game of chess without moving a piece?

Thank you for your consideration.


#2

If we have truly free will, God will allow us to go against his will.

Also when God allows us to do evil maybe he also acts in an “invisible way” (i.e. that we cannot clearly see, either before, during of after the fact, maybe through people, inspiring them) to gain greater good from such evil.

. If He is merely allowing everyone to follow their own free will, then He would seem to have no plan.

Not exactly. God might still intervene to guide us. He sent his Son Jesus Christ for example.

Also we believe that man is essentially GOOD even after the fall of Adam, so even if there are wicked people and we all make mistakes and sin sometimes, usually we are bent towards the good and the will of God.

But if He does have a plan, and is taking steps to achieve that plan, how could He do so without actually doing something? And how could that something not interfere with free will?

Maybe he inspires people to act whom He knows that they WILL follow his will.

He acted through Mary to get Jesus born. Mary still had free will but God, being outside of time, knew she would accept ( also: he knew her character, her disposition, her kind heart, etc…)

So God acts through people, especially those who accept Him and do his will.

Of course you might have miracles as well, but those are fairly rare, I’d say :slight_smile:


#3

People’s deaths are due to many things, including accidents that may be due to sin…malice or lack of consideration for others, as bad consequences from bad actions.
Sickness that leads to death can be due to a lifetime of smoking, of eating unhealthy foods,
or simply of genetics.
These deaths are not due to God’s will but are consequences of how lives are lived and affect. Suicide deaths are also not God’s will…so no not all death is 'God’s will.

God can bring good out of everything because God is goodness and love.
If there had been no sin we would not have had so wonderful and great a Redeemer.
But nothing justifies us to choose to sin.
God’s love grace and goodness is there to heal our souls and lives, and thus God brings good out of what is damaged and therefore, yes, God can create good where there has been harm and tragedy.


#4

But he will not make us go against his will, that’s what I’m saying. Isn’t that right?

So in other words, if someone says to me “that was God’s will” in regards to a death via murder, I should be able to comfortably say “no, it was not,” correct? Because how could God will someone to sin?

Also when God allows us to do evil maybe he also acts in an “invisible way” (i.e. that we cannot clearly see, either before, during of after the fact, maybe through people, inspiring them) to gain greater good from such evil.

That’s interesting, but man, it’s still so confusing! I suppose I shouldn’t try to solve in one night what theologians have been debating for centuries.

Not exactly. God might still intervene to guide us. He sent his Son Jesus Christ for example.

Also we believe that man is essentially GOOD even after the fall of Adam, so even if there are wicked people and we all make mistakes and sin sometimes, usually we are bent towards the good and the will of God.

Maybe he inspires people to act whom He knows that they WILL follow his will.

He acted through Mary to get Jesus born. Mary still had free will but God, being outside of time, knew she would accept ( also: he knew her character, her disposition, her kind heart, etc…)

So God acts through people, especially those who accept Him and do his will.

Of course you might have miracles as well, but those are fairly rare, I’d say :slight_smile:

What is ultimately bewildering about this situation is that surely God must be able to predict exactly how a person would respond to His intervention (even if that intervention is mere ‘inspiration’ as you suggest). And if that is the case, then God seems to be violating people’s free will be using them to achieve His goals, knowing how they will act in advance.

Oh Lord, deliver me from headaches.


#5

Not everything that happens is God’s will. That’s fatalism.
In a very general sense, everything that happens can be said to be His will because it can only happen because He exists and created the universe. But that’s stretching things a bit.


#6

So I just want to get your take on this specific question then. If someone tells me that the death of a murder victim was “God’s will”, I can safely say “No, it wasn’t, because God would not will a murder.”?

God can bring good out of everything because God is goodness and love.
If there had been no sin we would not have had so wonderful and great a Redeemer.
But nothing justifies us to choose to sin.
God’s love grace and goodness is there to heal our souls and lives, and thus God brings good out of what is damaged and therefore, yes, God can create good where there has been harm and tragedy.

I agree, since God can do whatever He wants. Can He do that without violating people’s free will though? :confused:


#7

So if someone tells me “this” is God’s will or “that” is God’s will, how do you think I can distinguish between what was and wasn’t God’s will? Is such a thing possible?

I am confused by people who claim that this or that was God’s will or wasn’t God’s will. How would they know?


#8

I highly doubt that they truly “know” it was God’s will.
God is immensely complex and can plan far, far ahead. To say that any specific incident was or was not His will is difficult. The best you can do is to examine events and try to interpret whether they align with what He has already told us He wants to happen.

Otherwise, the only way to actually be sure that He wanted something to happen, is if He tells us Himself. Through a prophet or direct speech. But that’s a pretty unique occurrence.


#9

Try reading Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence.


#10

Ok here’s my take. If we pray “Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven”, it means his will is not done perfectly here on Earth(the way it is in Heaven, where everything perfectly aligns with God’s will).

People have free-will, God has the utmost respect for our free-will, people will choose to sin, abusing or misusing their free-will (ideally, we should choose among a myriad of goods), and you and I will suffer the consequences (abusive father, road rage, unfaithful spouse, bully at school etc,), it can’t be God’s will that some frail kid suffers emotional torment at the hand of a nasty kid, it just can’t. Now I believe God will deal with the emotional mess that ensues, he has a plan B, he didn’t will the bullying but has solutions and graces for the victim of bullying. With sin, disease, death and all kinds of nasty stuff entered the world, was Adam’s act of rebellion somehow willed by God, I mean that would be a stupid thing to say. The precious 5 year old kid who gets cancer is the unfortunate random victim of the Pandora’s box that Adam and Eve opened millenia ago. I don’t hold tight to those ideas and am quite willing to be challenged.


#11

We what people say is what people say. It was God’s will in the sense that he allowed people to be free and do bad things if they wanted to, not that God actually wants the we do bad things.

That’s interesting, but man, it’s still so confusing! I suppose I shouldn’t try to solve in one night what theologians have been debating for centuries.

The problem of evil is a tricky one.

You ought to look at evil not at something but a ‘lacking of something’’.

When we sin we fail to acheive something and that results in material consequences sometimes as well.

When X kills (or tries to kill) X fails at compassion and love, resulting in the death of Y (unless Y can stop him)

Basically moral evil is us lacking in abiding to God’s will and failing at ‘reaching our natural end’ albeit not defintively.

What is ultimately bewildering about this situation is that surely God must be able to predict exactly how a person would respond to His intervention (even if that intervention is mere ‘inspiration’ as you suggest). And if that is the case, then God seems to be violating people’s free will be using them to achieve His goals, knowing how they will act in advance.

God exists outside of time.

You can view it like this: He is not looking from the past into the future… He sees all at once.
For God there is no past or future. God is in everytime since he is outside of time, trascending it.

Time is only for things that change (us) not for things who are maximally perfect and never change (God)

Yes it’s not easy…

I recomend:
*The Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas by Peter Kreeft *
It’s an audio series with book… it also deals with Onmiscience, Omnipotence, Problem of Evil…

If you want to get REALLY TECHINCAL you can read:
The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil by Brian Davies

although it’s not the most easy books for the unitiated in philosophy.


#12

It’s hard to know indeed.

We do not know the EXACT will of God. We know we ought to follow what he revealed to us through His Sone Jesus Christ.

God will is often different than ours. Bad things might happen to us, allowed by God, to make us stronger, more perfect and eventually even glad those things happened since without them we might have not progressed.


#13

Question 1
Yes. A murder victim’s death is the result of a sinful act that is against God’s will, just as are the deaths and injuries from the Boston tragedy

Question 2

Can you explain what you mean?
How God would be violating free will, by giving grace to turn a circumstance that was bad, into a good one? If someone has an accident or injury due to another persons bad or misguided actions, God can inspire use of recovery times with graces that can help the injured person to become a better Christian. And God can use the realization of a terrible sin against others, to inspire the sinner to accept grace of repentance and conversion.

A person who has aborted their child, or an abortionist, can repent, and then publicly work very hard, through God’s grace and goodness, to alert others to the seriousness of abortion and try to guide others not to support or engage in conversion.

In natural disasters, awful losses and even death, but God brings good out of these events when the community and the nation give money, time, and effort to help recovery. Sometimes there is heroic kindness by individuals and community…and all goodness and love comes from God.

Many times, when a family has lost someone to tragedy, murder, or illness, their loved ones throw themselves into supporting and campaigning for others with similar injuries, losses, or illnesses…these are some ways that God brings good out of harm or evil.

Does that help at all?
Kind regards,
Trish


#14

There are a couple phrases used here: God’s permissive will, and God’s “preferential” will. Nothing can happen that God does not allow to happen, all things that happen are in accord with God’s permissive will.

Further, God can control every aspect of what happens in all of reality. He chooses to let us act according to our free will, but He knows how we will choose to act before we do, and He plans everything accordingly, and He always acts in the way that is best - although He allows bad things to happen, He always brings good out of it, that sort of thing.

So in that sense, even terrible tragedies - without diminishing how bad they were, or saying that they weren’t bad in any way - will ultimately further God’s plan, simply because He’s already planned for them. At times, this is what people mean when they say someone’s death by murder was God’s will - not so much that that is what God would have preferred that the murderer do, but that out of that and given that He allows us to make choices, God will bring about the best possible results. This is not to say that the murder was good. In this sense, absolutely everything is happens according to God’s will, but again, this is not the same as saying that God prefers the choices that we make to the choices we could have made.

And finally, God’s preferential will is how God would like us act even if He won’t force us to do so. Determining how God prefers things to be is more tricky, but we can know that He prefers us to act in accordance with morality rather than against it. Within that, it’s hard to tell. There can be many good things that we have to pick and chose between, but while it may be hard to tell which of those God prefers the most, which would be the best, it’s generally easy to tell which He considers acceptable or not based on the knowledge of Himself revealed in both natural law and revelation.

**TLDR - **When people say some bad thing or other was God’s will, they usually mean that it’s part of what God has planned for, and that the best possible thing will result. It’s usually a “trust in God’s providence” sort of thing, and meant to be comforting, but not to say that what happened is what God would have liked to happen if people had made ideal choices and the like.


#15

Hey there Shin!
You beat me to it.
As soon as I saw the thread title I thought of that great little book. I often refer to it here on CAF. I purchased it a few years back and went back in a few days to buy copies to give to friends and family.

The main idea that sticks in my mind from these writings is the fact that God is all-knowing and all-loving.
Unlike us, God sees ‘the big picture’. Whatever comes our way is for the ultimate good of our immortal souls, even if it does not make sense to us in the here and now.

From Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence:

1. GOD CONTROLS ALL EVENTS, WHETHER GOOD OR BAD

Nothing happens in the the universe without God willing and allowing it.  This statement must he taken absolutely of everything with the exception of sin.  'Nothing occurs by chance in the whole course of our lives' is the unanimous teaching of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, 'and God intervenes everywhere.'

“Nothing happens in the the universe without God willing and allowing it.”


#16

Good to hear from you! I should have kept silent if I had known someone would shortly mention it. :slight_smile:

God keep you! :slight_smile:

I always think of this book first when I think of Providence.


#17

My hunch is that when people say “Oh, don’t worry, it’s God’s will” or “It’s in God’s hands” they mean something like: “Have hope, God’s taking care of things”.

Certainly, evil and sin are not God’s will. God’s permissive will allows them but they are not of His deliberative will.


#18

persecution unleashes extrordinary things.

“it is a glorious phrase that He led captivity captive.
the very triumphs of his foe’s, the means, he used for their defeat.
He compelled their dark achievements to subserve His ends not theirs.
They nailed Him to the tree not knowing that by the very act they were bringing the world to His feet.
They gave Him a cross not guessing that He would make it a throne.
They flung Him outside of the gates to die not knowing that in that very moment they were lifting up all the gates of the universe to let the king of glory come in.
They thought to root out His doctorines not understanding that they were implanting imperishably in the hearts of men, the very name they intended to destroy.
They thought they had God with his back to the wall, pinned and helpless and defeated.
They did not know that it was God himself who had tracked them down to that spot.
He did not conquor in spite of the dark mystery of evil, He conquored through it.

James Stuart.


#19

#20

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When I started reading the question, I said to myself: " This is a tough one". But comments such as those made by Trish and Others have helped me to get my head around the issue.

Most comments have considered tragedies which are "man made" like murder, rape and so on.

How do we link God' will to tragedies caused by Tsunamis, Earthquakes, Tornados, etc?

Credodomine


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