Corky Pickering, in an opinion article for the Red Bluff Daily, shared a couple of stories as illustrations of the common human experience known as the coincidence. An experience for which there is no apparent cause.
Most part of us believe our world is based on a cause-and-effect model. Something happens and there is a reaction. After all, we’re all connected with each other and the rest of the universe. Often, our connections are mysterious and not visible.
So when something happens and we’re unable to spot the cause, we say that what happened was a coincidence.
Psychologist Carl Jung coined the word “synchronicity” for coincidences that have a profound effect on our lives. Situations where timing was everything and we can’t explain how the timing came to be what it was.
We’re thinking about a friend and our phone buzzes. We answer the call and it’s the same friend we were just thinking about. Unless this coincidence affects our lives in some significant way, it’s not quite synchronicity. But it’s still notable.
Pickering notes that “When you receive a call from an old school friend you were just thinking of, and it turns out that he could use someone with your skill set in his successful business — and you happen to be currently unemployed — that’s synchronicity. Some might call it an answer to one’s prayers, or simply a coincidence.”
Some seeds fell along the path…some fell on rocky ground…some fell among thorn bushes… some seeds fell in good soil.
Julie Beck, in an article for The Atlantic, writes “The overstuffed crate labeled “coincidences” is packed with an amazing variety of experiences, and yet something more than rarity compels us to group them together. They have a similar texture, a feeling that the fabric of life has rippled. The question is where this feeling comes from, why we notice certain ways the threads of our lives collide, and ignore others.”
Beck’s research into coincidences included a paper titled “Methods for Studying Coincidences,” published by mathematicians Persi Diaconis and Frederick Mosteller. A coincidence, according to these researchers, is “A surprising concurrence of events, perceived as meaningfully related, with no apparent causal connection.”
Experts who study huge numbers argue bizarre things occur when there is a vast number of chances.. Eventually, someone wins the record Powerball jackpot. And the winner’s life is likely changed substantially.
Beck concludes, “A coincidence is in the eye of the beholder.”
In this week’s chapters from our companion book, The Shepherd’s Wife, Pheodora recalls all the happenstance circumstances that had come together to free her and Chiram. But there is more! James is already a believer. Now, so are Pheodora and Chiram. But there is still more! So are Damaris and Shimon by the end. Coincidence or divine plan?
God, speaking through the Prophet Jeremiah, said, “I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for.” But which parts of a synchronicity are divinely planned and which occurs because stuff just happens?
Jesus tells this story about a farmer planting seeds. Without commenting on the farmer’s technique, Jesus shares that not all the seeds had an equal opportunity for germination. Some fell on fertile ground, but some also fell among rocks, some fell on compacted ground, and some fell among larger plants. As expected, only the seeds that germinated in fertile soil produced wheat. The other seeds never reached their potential.
Sometimes we feel like seeds blown by the wind and landing in inhospitable places. A child suffering abuse at home, a speeding car plowing into us after running a red light or a bad report from our doctor. Was this really God’s plan?
If each of us has agency such that we’re free to make decisions independent of God’s plan, then both good and bad things can happen that interrupt the divine order. And sometimes, even though we feel like we’re between a rock and something harder, we germinate any way and even thrive.
Angela Hunt ends her novel with a lot of loose threads coming together into a sort of comfort blanket. Coincidences turn out to work toward a good outcome for the characters. Perhaps this is the nature of God’s better plans for us. Regardless of how many poor decisions we make, God is always one step ahead, coaxing and coaching us towards God’s plan for our eternal destiny.
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Our series was inspired by and relies on content provided by Angela Hunt. The Shepherd’s Wife. Jerusalem Road Series. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2020.
Corky Pickering. “Synchronicities, or meaningful coincidences” © Red Bluff Daily News, February 10, 2021. Retrieved from: link
Julie Beck. “Coincidences and the Meaning of Life.” © The Atlantic, Feb 26, 2016. Retrieved from: link