Finding purpose in personal tragedy

Patricia Holbrook of Soaring With Him Ministries

Combined ShapeCaption
Patricia Holbrook of Soaring With Him Ministries

I shook my head in disbelief as I read the news shared in the group text.

A dear friend is fighting for her life at the hospital, and as I reached out to my close friends to ask for prayers, they shared about two other acquaintances from my previous church who are also in critical condition.

My heart sank. These friends did not have any known health concerns until a couple of weeks ago. They are full of life, still young, and some of the godliest people I know.

Since then, my friends are constantly in my mind and prayers. Their families’ lives have turned upside down with a phone call, and I know what they’re going through all too well. I can’t do anything about their tragedy, but I can undoubtedly touch heaven for them as I pray for healing, peace, comfort and strength for their families.

I believe one of the hardest things when tragedies strike, is to try to understand why God allows them. Tragedy never makes sense. Why does a newborn die? Why are hospitals filled with young children fighting cancer? Why is my beautiful, bigger-than-life friend fighting for her life? Why did my brother-in-law’s plane crash on that sunny day 10 years ago? Why?

We hopelessly try to wrap our minds around tragic events, hoping to find meaning in the seemingly meaningless, trying to keep our faith in a God that allows tragedy to happen.

The Apostle Paul wrote about that persevering faith in his letter to the Romans when he penned down one of the most repeated verses in the New Testament:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Hindsight is 20/20, and indeed, those who have pressed on through trials by faith, trusting God even when life does not make sense, can testify to having found hope and purpose from their deepest valleys.

Many are the men and women who have started foundations to help people who suffer from the same disease that killed their loved ones. Many are the people who have helped others walk through the shadows of divorce, financial loss, and death because of their personal experiences in the valley. Like me, many are those who understand the pain of a cancer diagnosis or a loved one’s sudden death.

Empathy is a beautiful thing. Humanitarian efforts would not be the same were it not for the empathy that only personal pain can bring. There is a purpose for each tragedy — if only to make us more human, more sensitive to our fellow men’s suffering, mold us and make us living proofs that God can turn our ashes into something beautiful.

The challenge is to keep pressing on by faith, never giving up on God, trusting that he is still good, even when the worst happens. Because, at the end of the day, if we trust that our God is indeed good, then we can affirm that he will make everything work together for our good and his glory. It’ll be for our good when our lives gain a new purpose because we suffered. It’ll be for his glory when others see his love reflected in the gestures of our hands and in the love that we extend to our hurting neighbors.

Pray for those who suffer. Reach out to those going through that all too familiar valley you have traveled before. Love them. Encourage them. There’s a reason for your paths crossing. If only so that you pray with the passion of a heart that has walked that same valley and landed safely on the other side by God’s grace.

Patricia Holbrook is a columnist, author, blogger, podcaster and international speaker. Visit her website Subscribe to her podcast God-Sized Stories. For speaking engagements and comments, email