It is easy to feel like life is a series of events that happen to us, that are entirely outside our control. Consider the story of Job in the Old Testament; he lived a worthy life, but had to suffer great loss, physical pain, and the rejection of family and friends. Certainly, Job could have considered himself a being that was being acted upon, like his friends at the time encouraged, rather than a being that was created to act (see this 1 minute video for some brief context.)
Ultimately the question to ask is: Was Job merely a victim in his circumstance? We know, having his full story in front of us, that the Lord had a purpose in testing Job. Because of his life, and willingness to endure, we have an almost ultimate example of faith through trials. We have an understanding also, because of Job, that not all bad things that happen to us are a result of sin or unworthiness; in other words, not every bad thing in our lives is a punishment. That concept was not entirely clear for the people of Israel at the time, and even after that time, but it is abundantly clear now, in part because of Job.
With Job we begin to see the disconnect between cause and effect in our lives. Bad things can happen to good people, and vice versa. We know from Matthew 5:45 that God makes the sun shine and the rain fall on the good and on the wicked. With that knowledge in place, we should further consider Job’s situation by asking: How did Job respond?
We are beings that were created to act. We were given moral agency in this life; the ability to choose for ourselves how we would act and react. What happens to us in life is not necessarily an effect of something we did, but how we choose to act and react to life is entirely in our control. And our choices and actions will have consequences; if not in this life, then certainly in the next.
Imagine if Job had not gone through his trials with faith. Now move ahead to Christ, our ultimate example, and imagine what our spiritual outlook would be if He had chosen not to drink of that bitter cup, which He begged might be removed from Him. Christ was perfect, without sin, yet suffered for every sin of mankind. He did not cause His own suffering, yet he chose to patiently bear our grief and our burdens.
The scriptures are full of cause and effect. But they are also focused entirely on a being, even Jesus Christ Himself, who suffered for things he did not do, so that we could have hope. As we go through our lives, suffering sometimes for things we did not do and over which we have no control, we should remember who we can turn to, and who we can lean on, in our times of trouble. Perhaps we will be able to look past the surface causes and effects in our lives, and view the greater cause and effect of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and overcome all things. That is my prayer for each of us.