“Everything happens for a reason” is often what people say when something happens that does not make sense; that they cannot understand or explain. I realize that it is a way of trying to make some kind of sense of a tragedy or give comfort to others. But what reason could there possibility be for some of the senseless tragedy that happens around us?

Saying “everything happens for a reason” implies there is some external force sending tragedy our way in an effort to control our lives. That we have no control over what is happening in our world. The truth is many of the tragedies that happen in the world are a direct result of the choices other people make. That is the reason: cause and effect. Conditions culminate, something happens, and life unfolds in a way that we were not expecting. Every one of us has probably experienced this at one point or another in life. Experiencing something where we did not have any control of the outcome. But, we do have control over how we react to the situation. We do have control over what meaning we take from the experience.

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl concludes that life never ceases to have meaning, even in suffering and death; that the meaning of life is found in every moment of living. I believe that everything that happens to us is an opportunity to learn. We judge our experiences positive or negative but either way it is an opportunity to grow, to heal, to challenge our old ways of thinking, to reach out, to stretch beyond our comfort zone. Ultimately, it is our choice.

I believe that everything we experience in life is an opportunity to learn or to teach. When I cannot for the life of me figure out what I had to learn from a particular experience, maybe I was meant to teach something – just by being involved.

In really challenging circumstances, when I have felt alone and abandoned, I search hard for the lesson. One day I realized – that is the lesson! Not knowing, being unsure, but continuing to have faith in life and the healing process – that is the lesson. In the moment, I may not know the big picture. I may never know why this has happened to me. But I do know that I can choose to have faith in myself. That I will figure out how to keep moving forward. That I will heal. That I will be stronger for having gone through the experience. Maybe not right away, but somewhere on my life’s journey.

Keeping a journal for most of my adult life, I can see this pattern clearly. Struggle, reflection, growth. I realize there is never going to be a time when life will be perfect. I will continue to endure struggle. Life really is a journey. That is reality. My choice is in not fighting against it any longer. It is in opening my heart and allowing myself to embrace my life as it is in that moment that helps me heal and grow. And, it is in being there for each other in our respective journeys that gives me hope for humanity.

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” Lao Tzu

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