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Purpose In Tragedy

by | Feb 15, 2024 | Elder Blog

This week, in the midst of a celebration of victory in the heart of Kansas City, we witnessed a horrible tragedy. Loss of life, numerous injuries, chaotic fear, and in the subsequent days, massive unrest. While these responses are natural and expected, a question often arises that is born out of our hurt, our fear, and our pain.

Why would God allow this tragedy? Surely this was not God’s will!

Many believers struggle with this question and often they come to conclusions based on emotions, fears, and assumptions rather than the truth of Scripture. In these times of fear and uncertainty, it is important that we understand one very important truth…

God Has A Purpose In Every Tragedy

I don’t say this to make little of the pain of others. Rather, I say this, not just because it’s true but because it is our greatest comfort in times of tragedy, pain, and heartache.

It’s important that we examine that statement thoroughly. I didn’t say “God will fix it.” Nor did I say, “God can turn this into good.”

Neither of those phrases is actually Biblical. Both fall short of accurately explaining who God is and how He works in this world. These statements give the idea that there is no point in the tragedy that took place. Many would call such a tragedy ‘senseless’ and from a human perspective, it likely is.

But from a Biblical perspective, nothing is ever ‘senseless.’

When I say that God has a purpose in this tragedy, I don’t mean He’ll work around it. I mean that before it happened He had a purpose in it happening. I don’t mean that he caused it, but that He allowed this tragedy to take place to further His good purpose.

How can we look at a tragedy like this and come to that conclusion? Let’s look at some truths from Scripture to remind us of who God is and how He works.

God Is Sovereign

First, we must remind ourselves that God is sovereign. That means that nothing happens apart from His action or His allowance. God is never surprised because everything that He does or allows is His sovereign choice. There is nothing, including this heinous act, that can happen without His choice.

Proverbs 16:9 – The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.


Proverbs 19:21 – Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.


Daniel 4:35 – All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”


Lamentations 3:37 – Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?


Isaiah 45:7 – I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things.

These are just a few of many, many verses to which we could go in order to remind ourselves of the breadth of God’s sovereignty. God’s sovereign choices do not merely extend to the large story arcs of Scripture. But His sovereign choices meet us in the every day of our lives.

Notice this verse from Proverbs 16:33,

Proverbs 16:33 – The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.

Even a ‘random’ selection is not random because God has chosen the end.

If you notice in those verses, over and over you will see man’s efforts in planning, speaking, acting, and even rebuking God come to nothing unless He allows it. There is no plan, no act, and no calamity that can occur without God’s sovereign choice.

God Is Working Out His Plan

If God is sovereign why does he let bad things happen?

The Biblical answer to this is that God is working out His plan. He’s not working out our plan. He’s not working out plan B. He’s working out His one, perfect plan and that plan includes even the things we see as tragic from our limited, human perspective.

Again, let’s look at what Scripture says about God working out His sovereign plan:

Genesis 50:19-20 – But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

This is a classic passage that we often go to when we discuss this struggle between God’s sovereign plan and the wicked choices of men. We go here because it is the perfect example of God not merely working around the wicked plans of men, but intentionally allowing them for His good purpose.

In this passage, we see one purpose mentioned, which is the purpose of saving many people through Joseph. Yet there are other purposes in play here as well. Back in Genesis 15:13-14 we read this:

Genesis 15:13-14 – Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.”

God used Joseph and a famine to begin to fulfill a promise He had made to Abraham decades, if not centuries earlier! God was not only preserving Joseph’s family and the world at large, but He was sovereignly working out His plan to bring His people into bondage so that He would bring them out as He promised. His plan brought pain to Joseph. His plan brought slavery to His chosen people for 400 years! His plan brought them out and to the land of promise and blessing.

We serve a BIG GOD!

Proverbs 16:4 – The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

Even the wickedness of men is not just something God works around, but something God sovereignly uses to bring about His purpose and His plan. This can be hard for us to come to grips with in our finite and fleshly-minded hearts. But it is no less true now than it was for Joseph, and it is no less true now than it was for Jesus.

See what the disciples prayed regarding this truth in Acts 4:23-30:

Acts 4:23-30 – When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “ ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’— for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

There is a lot that I would love to unpack here but let me just point out a couple of things:

First, the disciples recognized God’s sovereignty and His plan in the death of Jesus at the hands of wicked men that He appointed, exactly as He determined. Second, the disciples recognized that this affliction that was coming upon them could not stop what God was doing in revealing the gospel to the world.

What is their response to these realities? They prayed that God would give them the boldness to proclaim His word!

As followers of Christ not only must we recognize that God is sovereign, but we must recognize that all things are part of His plan in spreading the gospel and redeeming a people for Himself. If we would only view all of life in this way, how much less would we question the tragedies of life and how much more would we pray for boldness to preach the gospel in the midst of those tragedies?

God's Plans Are Good

Finally, we must recognize that God’s sovereign plan is good.

That statement may seem elementary but when we are in the midst of struggle and hurt and loneliness and tragedy God’s plans don’t seem good. This is largely due to the fact that we often misunderstand what is meant by that phrase.

We don’t mean that God’s plans are comfortable. We don’t mean that God’s plans are easy. We don’t mean that God’s plans are without pain and sorrow.

God’s plans are good because He is good.

Psalm 31:19 – Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!


Psalm 34:8 – Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!


Psalm 107:1 – Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!


Nahum 1:7 – The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.


1 Chronicles 16:34 – Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

We could keep going, but I hope you get the point. God is good and because of this, His purposes are good. We need go no further than the very popular verse in Romans 8:28:

Romans 8:28 – And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

The NASB translates it this way:

Romans 8:28 – And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Notice that things are not merely ‘falling into place.’ Rather, God is actively working out all things to our ultimate good, those of us who are called according to what?

According to His purpose.

There is no randomness to evil. There is no suddenness to wickedness. There is no surprise in the rebellious acts of sinners before God.

God, the sovereign creator, sustainer, and redeemer is working out His perfect plan from before the foundations of the world.

Yes, sometimes that means He will use events in our lives or the lives of others that are tragic. Events that leave us wondering how these things could bring about good. Tragedies that defy our ideas of what is right and what is best.

Yet we can rest in the truth that evil is not random or haphazard or useless. There is purpose in it and God is using it to work out His perfect, good plan.

And best of all, He calls us to participate.

He calls us in these times of darkness and tragedy to be the bearers of hope, the holders of the lamp in the darkness as we share the light of the gospel to those who need to hear it and be brought back into a right relationship with Him.

It is by understanding that God has a purpose in these devastating and heartbreaking events that we can trust in His plan to bring triumph through tragedy!

May we recognize this and may we respond rightly to it in the days ahead.

Grace & Peace.






*All scriptures quoted from ESV except where noted