“If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen”. Really? Here are 6 pros and cons of this idea.
Since I started this blog, even before that really, I’ve had a number of people approach me to write on different topics. Some people have asked me to write about finding purpose in your corporate job, or about my views on selfies and narcissism, or even just movies that moved me emotionally.
Here’s another frequently requested topic that I’m finally getting around to writing about – the notion of “if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen”.
We use this sentence in a lot of different scenarios. People who’ve asked me to write about it have asked mainly from the context of relationships, but it also extends to a wide variety of areas in our lives – yes indeed, romantic relationships, but also friendships, our career, dreams or goals, or any number of opportunities that come our way. When approaching these things in our lives, many people have taken a position of “well, whatever, if it’s gonna happen, it’ll happen”.
Some call it fate, some call it God, some call it the forces of the universe – whatever view people have, there’s a notion that beyond human involvement, if something is meant to happen, it will.
I wonder if this is actually the case?
At a high level, I think there’s a lot of merit to the statement of what is meant to be. However, I think there is also a lot of stuff that gets missed in such a blanket statement. Here are 6 pros and cons of “if it’s meant to be”.
Con #1: Divorce
Yeah, I know. Bit of an extreme one to start off with. Let me try to explain what I mean here. I think this one is actually the main reason why I think “if it’s meant to be” isn’t enough of a life philosophy, or at least in my view.
You know how it goes – boy meets girl, girl meets boy, boy likes girl, girl likes boy, hanging out, deeper conversation, closer intimacy, boom white picket fence. Everyone watching their relationship is in awe of how perfect it is. Everything is going to plan. People even say “wow, it’s meant to be”.
One, two, ten years go by – this “meant to be” couple makes the decision to separate.
What happened? I thought it was meant to be?
The example of the relationship is probably the most pertinent one, but the same thing can happen with a dream career. You studied so well, all the opportunities lined up, everyone was backing you, then bam, you’re fired. What happened?
Or your house falls through. Or your perfect investment goes south. Or your exciting start up is hit with financial hardship.
So we take a step back and go, “ah well, it wasn’t meant to be then”. But at the start it was. Maybe you’re right, and it wasn’t meant to be.
Or maybe we’re not telling the whole picture here. Maybe it’s the fact that he got complacent and stopped paying attention to his wife. Maybe it’s that she kept spending hours after work every few days with another man instead of her man. Maybe it’s that you got lazy on the job and did nothing to progress your position. Maybe it’s that you didn’t continue to develop your character, so when the criticism came, you were deeply offended and bailed out.
Maybe we need to pay just as much attention and effort to what is actually involved in keeping, maintaining, and increasing the opportunities we are hoping for. The commitment and the hard work involved is often ignored by just mindlessly using this approach.
Pro #1: It’s amazing to look back on your life
Something I love about “if it’s meant to be” is that I can look back on my life and definitely see moments in my life where things were definitely meant to be. Conversations that were perfectly coordinated, opportunities that were undoubtedly beyond my own ability, the repetition of ideas and wisdom that led me down a certain path. I can also see the things I thought that would’ve been great not go ahead, in particular, companies that I wanted to work for that ended up going under. Dodged some bullets there!
There are undoubtedly things I can look back and say that they were absolutely meant to be. I can see clearly favour and direction and provision beyond myself. And that’s pretty cool.
Con #2: It ignores the fact a lot of our lives is within our control
I think one of the problems with this approach is that it kind of negates my responsibilities. “Ah, it’s okay, if it’s going to happen, it will”. Yeah, but… you say you’re meant to make money, and you don’t have a job. You say you want to get married, but you don’t talk to anyone besides your same gender friends. You say you want to be a church leader, but you always go home before the end of the last song and aren’t involved at all. You say you want to be healthy, but you haven’t exercised all year. You know you’re called to help people, but you haven’t done anything for anyone except yourself since January.
“Yeah but, if it’s supposed to happen, it will”.
The word here is negligent, boys and girls.
Most of these things are well within our power to see fulfilled. The problem is when we don’t. I’m going to say something that our generation really has a problem with here:
It is actually possible to miss the right opportunities.
I was at a conference recently where one of the keynote speakers urged young people to get going on the calling on their life while they were young. So many of our generation get to 20, 25, 30, and are still saying “hey it’s okay, I’m still young”. In some ways, yes you are. But in terms of the opportunities in front of you, you’re really not that young at all. Today may be the day you’ve been looking for. The wrong decision can cause us to miss out.
Pro #2: It acknowledges the fact not everything is under our control
It can be so easy to get overwhelmed when you feel like it is all completely your responsibility. The reality is, not all of it is. You’ve probably faced moments where you realize this before. I know I have. When you’ve done all you can, and yet the outcome doesn’t seem to change. Or, in spite of your own efforts, the best outcome still is accomplished.
There is a greater plan at work beyond my own. I just need to find my part. More on that later.
Con #3: The problem is choice, Neo
It isn’t within your power or my power to make someone else’s decisions for them. It’s not within anyone else’s power to make your decisions for you, either. People wish and ask and pray that someone will make a decision for them. Ever notice that it never happens? That’s because the choice is yours.
I love how the Hebrews were given this final charge from Moses towards the end of his life – “I have set before you life and death, now, choose life”. The issue is that we want someone to force life on us. We are never forced to do anything. It has to be our decision.
I went to go see a great presentation of Beauty and the Beast last night, and a great line from one of the songs that isn’t in the feature film really caught my attention. Belle singing about her experiences in the enchanted castle informs her father that she has decided to enjoy the life she has, wherever she is. That it’s “not a change in heart, but a change in me”. I love that, because I think that’s how our greatest decisions are made. When we’re at a crossroads, the problem isn’t the decision or the opportunity – it’s usually our view of the opportunity.
And after a little change in me, that may be all that was needed for me to enter into all that’s before me.
I wonder what we’re choosing to see as an obstacle or a distraction or a hindrance that may actually be exactly what we need, just our attitude towards it is holding us back.
We’re also at the mercy of the choices of others. If you want to be close friends but they’ve given up on the relationship, it’s not gonna happen. If you want to build that business but your partner pulled out, then that’s usually it. What they may be doing may be hurting themselves, but you can’t force them to stop it – they have to be the one to make that decision. We try to spiritualize it more than that, but people can disappoint us and choose whatever they want.
Pro #3: Cooperation brings about the destiny
I actually believe there is a “best path” that is possible for you and I in our lives. I believe an amazing plan exists for all of us, with ample opportunities to choose every day to be a part of it. I believe it is possible for us to miss or to waste time around what we should be doing, and I believe it’s possible for us to wholeheartedly embrace these things.
In my life, I always want to be fully aware of the season of my life, to be fully aware of the opportunities around me, to be completely attentive to the needs of those around me, and to prepare myself for whatever may come my way. Not to resist or miss the plan, and not to be too obsessed with my own efforts. In balance, finding the path, and following on into all that God has for me.
In balancing that view, we usually have been given all the wisdom and instruction we need, or at least the means of accessing it. There was a great message spoken at my church this morning about how important it is to just get on with it once you know the right thing to do. The minutia may not be as important as you think, and not worth hesitating so much over.
My closing thought to this end is based on a Scripture that says that God desires all mankind to be saved. You look at our world today, and you can see so very clearly that it isn’t a reality. So many times we want fate, God, whoever, to have their way in the world. But maybe seeing those realities in our world is waiting on you and I to cooperate and play our part. Creation groaning for the revelation of the sons of God.
Are you ready to start embracing your destiny yet?
How about you? What are your views on “if it’s meant to be”?