In Part I, I wrote about how "everything happens for a reason" cuts off connection. I'd like to reiterate that I'm not suggesting people intend harm when they use this phrase. People want to help, but again this isn't about intention. It's about the reality of what this phrase and others like it communicate to people when they're suffering.
Reason 2: It's bad theology and nonsense psychology.
It is one thing to suggest that God allows suffering; it is quite another to insinuate that He causes it. The statement, "everything happens for a reason," implies that God is a puppet master causing this and that event "for a reason." It implies that God is "testing us" or "teaching us a lesson."
The Church herself names man as the author of sin. Man sins when he rejects God (Catholic Church 386). The Catechism clearly states that Satan acts in the world and his actions can cause grave injuries- both spiritual and physical. "It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but 'we know that in everything God works for the good with those who love" (Catholic Church 295). See??? It is a great mystery why God permits suffering and He can bring good from the most horrible circumstances. He can bring good from evil. He is not causing evil.
"For Christians, by contrast, the Creator of all things is a perfectly good, perfectly just,14 and perfectly loving Father. Suffering and death, and all the evils we experience in this life, have their origin in human sin against God our Father. From a Christian point of view, the finger that the atheist points at God, blaming Him for all the suffering we experience, or using our suffering as an argument against God’s existence, is man blaming God, for what man freely did in disobedience to God" (Cross 2009).
Yes, there is some truth to "everything happens for a reason;" more often than not, the reason for suffering is the reality of living in a fallen world. Sickness and death exist because evil exists- not because God is willing them.
Do you think God could ever will the abuse of helpless children? St. Paul tells us, "God is love;" abuse is certainly not a reflection of love, and so we know that God could not possibly be the author of it. If the ends never justify the means than God would not will evil in order to 'make us better people'.
Parents may claim they are beating their children to teach them right from wrong and 'make them better people,' but this behavior is misguided at best- evil at worst.
Many of the most severe emotional and behavioral problems (ie Borderline Personality Disorder and Anti-Social Personality Disorder) are directly linked to early caregiving experiences where the parent was both the source of the child's fear and the only hope of relief from that fear. I am no theologian, but I know we are called to love as Christ loved. I know that the above mentioned parenting style is not a reflection of Christ's love, and when we imply that God is causing suffering, we are asking others to accept a heavenly father that is the cause of their fear and their only hope for relief from that fear.
Years of research in the field of psychology and child development tell us that severely abused children blame themselves for their suffering in order to survive emotionally. Even though their parents are the objective source of their pain, they internalize the hurt and come to see themselves, rather than their parents, as bad and evil. Children simply cannot live in a world where their seemingly omnipotent caregiver is the source of pain. It seems their minds are designed to automatically and unconsciously make sense of the experience of fright without solution by seeing themselves as the authors of their own suffering.
The human mind is, of course, the work of God the Father. Modern psychology and neuroscience are just beginning to tap into the wonders of how this infinitely complex system functions. As Christians, we know that God usually works within the natural order of things. Natural law tells us there are certain things about human nature, which are immutable. It stands to reason then that God would not ask us to accept as truth something that fundamentally contradicts that which is an immutable part of our human nature.
Just as small children cannot accept their parents as the source of their pain (even when this is indeed the case), adults are psychologically unable to accept their heavenly Father as the source of their suffering. When someone says "everything happens for a reason" and so suggests that God is causing some suffering for a purpose, the human mind is apt to reject the idea- if only on an unconscious level. We're left feeling confused, disorientated and unsatisfied, because we know on some level that God simply could not be the author of our pain. Depending on the state of our emotional and spiritual well-being, we may be able to consciously reject this most absurd suggestion, or we may feel we have no other choice than to convince ourselves of its truth. In the case of the latter, we are bound to become angry and rageful because we are trying to convince ourselves of a truth so out-of-sync with what is written on our hearts.
Luckily, the Catholic Church, in all her wisdom teaches with clarity that God does not will our suffering. But for whatever reason, we've developed the bad habit of responding to suffering with "everything happens for a reason" and in doing so we are confusing others (and ourselves) about what the church actually teaches, as well as adding to the suffering of others by suggesting they accept all the psychological absurdities the statement implies.