Sometimes things just… happen. Things that rock your world like a freight train. Sometimes you don’t see it coming; sometimes you do. Sometimes you sense it nearing; you hear the train whistle in the distance long before it hits. But it still doesn’t make the blow any less painful or less tragic.
Sometimes things just… happen. You can’t control it. You can’t fix it. You can’t understand it. So, you pray. You cry. If it’s not public knowledge, you hide. You sit in the wreckage and ask why. But the only answer you can come up with is “sometimes, things just… happen.”
One day, recently, I was pondering that phrase. “Sometimes things just… happen.” On the surface that phrase makes it seem like the freight train is happenchance. Random. Arbitrary. Accidental.
But our faith tells us something different, right? Our faith tells us that God is all-powerful and all-knowing. That He knows of the freight train, and He has the power to stop it. “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” (Psalm 147:5)
Our faith tells us that God loves us. “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3) That He wants only good for us. “All things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) That He knows what we need. “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:8)
So how do we reconcile all of this? That God loves us and works for our good… but also allows bad to happen?
While praying over this I heard the Lord say to me, “I AM Lord of the freight train.”
I had to sit with that for awhile to really understand what He was saying to me. Because my first reaction was, “I know you are! So why did you allow this??” Afterall, the word “lord” means someone or something that has power or authority over someone or something else. “So, Lord, why did you allow this?”
Then it occurred to me: being “Lord” of the freight train means so much more than simply having the power to stop it. The Lord, God has the power to bring good out of it. To transform it. To resurrect it. To make all things new.
“Sometimes things just happen” because God is about to display His power. You see, the real miracle isn’t preventing the freight train. It’s revitalizing the wreckage.
Jesus said, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” (John 13:7)
I think one of the clearest pictures of this is the story of Joseph, found in Genesis. At his father’s request, Joseph went looking for his brothers who were out pasturing their flocks. Joseph’s brothers hated him so, when they saw Joseph coming, they plotted to kill him. Instead, though, they threw him in a pit then sold him as a slave to traders passing by. He was then taken to Egypt and sold again to an officer of Pharaoh. There, he was falsely accused of rape and thrown in prison.
Think about it. Joseph suffered immense betrayal. He lost his family, his flock, and all his possessions in the blink of an eye. Then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, he went to jail for years. Talk about a freight train. Talk about wreckage.
But God was working in it.
While Joseph was in jail, Pharaoh had two dreams that deeply disturbed him. A former prisoner told Pharaoh about another prisoner named Joseph who was good at interpreting dreams. So, Pharaoh sent for Joseph.
According to Joseph, both dreams warned that after 7 years of plentiful harvests, there would come a 7-year famine. Pharaoh was so grateful for the interpretation that he put Joseph in charge of all of Egypt. And for seven years, Joseph collected one-fifth of the good crops and housed them in Pharaoh’s storehouses in anticipation of the famine.
When famine struck the land, grain was still available in Egypt because of Joseph’s preparations. Joseph’s brothers heard about the grain and travelled to Egypt in search of food—not knowing it was Joseph who had preserved the grain.
Once in Egypt, they came face-to-face with their brother, Joseph, who forgave them, gave them food, and told them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (Genesis 50:20)
Read that again. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.”
Joseph knew that God was “Lord of the freight train.” He knew the tragedy that blindsided him that day in the pasture was allowed for his good and the good of their family. Joseph knew God could have prevented his brothers from selling him to traders—or the traders from selling him to the officer. He knew God could have prevented false accusations and his many years in jail.
But those miracles wouldn’t have been big enough for God.
You see, the devastating freight train in Genesis wasn’t actually the brother’s betrayal or Joseph’s imprisonment. It was the famine. It was starvation coming full speed ahead, about to rock the land. But only God saw it. So he allowed hardships to befall Joseph in order to put him in a position where he could protect himself and his family.
Think about it. Had Joseph not gone to Egypt and been raised to a position of authority, there’s no telling whether his family would have survived the famine since they were considered foreigners to the Egyptians. And if Joseph had not fed his brothers in Egypt, there’s no telling whether they ever would have gotten over their hatred for their brother. There’s no telling whether the family would have every reconciled. And at the heart of it all, THAT was God’s purpose—restoring relationships.
Yes, God could have prevented Joseph’s hardships. Joseph could have gone on with life being hated by his brothers. They all could have gone on with life as simple dysfunctional shepherds, jealously fighting in the pasture, eventually starving in the famine.
But God had bigger plans for them. He had a bigger “good” in mind. He chose to heal their family and, through Joseph, raise them up as a noble family in Pharaoh’s kingdom.
While meditating on this, I came to see more clearly how God is working behind the scenes in my own wreckage. And He’s working in yours, too. Perhaps something has you feeling trapped, like you’re in a pit. Perhaps you feel betrayed by those closest to you, or you feel like you’ve lost everything. Perhaps you’ve been misunderstood, mistreated, or falsely accused.
I get it. Believe me. But it’s not the end of the story.
Yes, sometimes things just… happen. But not arbitrarily. They happen precisely according to God’s bigger plan that is ALWAYS for our good. So, no matter what hardship has blindsided you recently, just trust Him. Praise Him. Know He’s working to resurrect the wreckage. Know He’s Lord of the freight train.