Is there such a thing as luck? Those of us who believe in a God who is in charge of the universe and who ordains and allows all that happens do not believe in luck, either good or bad. That which happens, happens for reasons that we may not necessarily know, but that which exist nonetheless. As human beings, we are often rather simplistic in looking at good fortunate and bad fortune, whether of ourselves and others, and drawing conclusions about the spiritual state of people from what their luck appears to be, as well as assuming that what we have is somehow what we want, and that nothing we say can do anything about that. When we view ourselves as the creators of the universe that we have, we act like small children who assume that it is our fault when things around us go wrong, and wonder what we can do to ensure that things go well.
Nevertheless, whether or not there is luck, there is certainly serendipity, or at least that which appears to be chance. We may be thinking about a particular issue and just happen to come across a person or a book or a message that helps us to understand what we have been thinking about. We have a conversation and, without having planned it, we find that our lives are changed for the better because it just so happens that need and opportunity correspond to each other. We find that even if we are oblivious people that our lives are put in certain places and along certain paths that grant us insight that we would not have gained had it depended on our own wisdom or intellect. These are fairly common experiences in my own life, and I suspect that I am far from alone in that. Not by a long shot.
That said, knowing that there is a reason for it all, or at least believing that there is and having some implicit evidence of it, does not always let us know what the reasons are. There are often many possible reasons for something to happen. Something could be a blessing or a curse, a trial or a puzzle. Perhaps the meaning and significance is for us, perhaps for someone else involved, and perhaps even as a lesson for those who are witnessing or observing what is going on. Likewise, the meaning of an event or situation or person in our lives is most often best known in hindsight. While we are either enjoying or lamenting a situation, it is impossible for us to fully understand the importance of what is going on. What happens later on, whether we look upon it with fondness or regret, allows us to see things in a different perspective, but as long as we are alive there are chances for things to change, whether for the better or for the worse. Even after we are dead, there is the world to come where things may look in a very different light than they do now.
Why then do we wonder about the relationship between luck and destiny. It appears often that there is a great tension between freedom and providence. Whether we label it providence or luck or fortune or whatever, there is a knowledge that our lives are shaped by matters outside of control. We may view these as benign or malign, depending on the sorts of outside influences and constraints we recognize in our lives or how optimistic or pessimistic we are about such matters. Yet at the same time we are aware, hopefully, that we have some latitude and responsibility as well. The constraints that we face are not ones that completely determine our or anyone else’s lives. No matter how many constraints we suffer, we still have attitudes and responses that we can make to the conditions that exist in the world, even if we lack the power always to change those conditions ourselves. And it is the absence of knowledge as to the final result of the situations and conditions we face that allows this life to be both a test of our character and a means of improving it without removing from us the agency that is necessary for our improvement to be consensual. For without consent there is only coercion.