Time and chance

July 17, 2019 · Print This Article

I have never seen a cricket match like it! England’s win in the final of the cricket World Cup against New Zealand will go down as one of the greats.

The game had more twists and turns than the Nürburgring racetrack. Some extraordinary things happened that couldn’t have been scripted even if you tried. Twists in the game that seemed like such chance happenings yet had such pivotal effects on the outcome – things really did turn on a five-pence piece.

But happenstance can lead us to question whether we are really in control of our future. These events, often momentary and freakish, can so quickly influence the direction of life. If you’ve ever watched the movie Sliding Doors you will know what I mean – it is scary to think what difference missing a train can make to your life!

I had my own ‘sliding doors’ moment today. I was driving to work as I have done for the last nine years. But something happened that had never happened before. As I was driving, someone pulled out and hit the back of my car. I couldn’t help but reflect on my frustration about how different my day would have been if I had left home a few seconds earlier or later; I wouldn’t be standing on the side of the road asking whether the lollipop lady witnessed the accident!

So are we servants’– victims, maybe – of time and chance. Are the happenings of our life as unpredictable as a roll of a dice?

This feeling can often lead us to default to a fatalistic worldview about the universe in which we hear ourselves say almost religious-like statements such as, “Whatever will be, will be”, “It’s fate, nothing you can do about it”, “Everything happens for a reason”. I get why statements like this are said – at times, I have added to the chorus – but statements like this leave me with a question: is life a product of time and chance?

For me, I have come to see things differently.

Yes, when navigating life, I have developed a mental flexibility that is comfortable, or at least consigned, to the randomness of events. I know things happen to people all the time: time and chance is a part of the human experience. But I don’t feel on the roller-coaster of life, at the mercy of fate, without any control.

My belief in another, namely the Christian God, has changed my perspective on this question. It has not meant I can explain every happening, or that every event is positive and without frustration and questions. At least in my journey with God, I don’t think that is how God works. Rather, I have another consolation…

In my limited understanding, God does not stop happenstance – time and chance – but he draws meaning and purpose from it. In my experience, it is from life’s events – some random, some very unpleasant – that he creates purpose. I guess, life is not a tapestry of untamed, random events, but the patchwork of individual events that, when you step back, become a picture of something more meaningful; something God is working with.

God puts it like this: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”[1]


[1] The Bible, Romans 8:28 (NIV)

[Photo by Mike Szczepanski on Unsplash]

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