Life Hope & Truth

How Can God Allow Tragedies?

Tragedy marked by
Why does God allow tragedies like mass shootings?
Why would a loving God allow tragedies, pain and suffering? Is tragedy proof that He doesn’t exist, or is something else behind it?

Aurora, Colorado: 12 dead and more than 50 wounded at a movie theater. Oak Creek, Wisconsin: seven dead at a Sikh temple. How could God let such things happen? Shouldn’t a Being full of love (1 John 4:8) have done something to prevent such terrible tragedies?

To many people, tragedies are seen as the ultimate proof that God doesn’t exist. Yet what does the Bible really tell us about tragedies such as happened in Aurora and Oak Creek?

Free choice

Let’s go back to the very first human tragedy—Eve being tricked by Satan and eating the forbidden fruit. Why didn’t God stop her? Could He have stopped her?

In answer to that question, just consider that God is called the Almighty (Revelation 1:8). He has all power. God has so much power that we cannot even begin to imagine. Stopping Eve, or the shooters in Colorado and Wisconsin, would have been indescribably easy for Him.

So why didn’t He stop them?

God has given humanity free moral agency. He didn’t make us to be robots. God has given us the ability to choose. Every single man, woman and child will make his or her own choices, whether for good or evil.

Essentially, what free moral agency amounts to is choosing between life and death, good and evil (Deuteronomy 30:19). God’s desire is made very clear throughout the Bible. He wants us to choose life! He didn’t want Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. He didn’t want 70 people to be shot at a movie theater! He wants His creation to live!

Yet His creation has different ideas, often influenced by an evil being called Satan. Ever since Eve made the choice in Genesis 3:6 to eat of that fruit, humanity has used free moral agency to choose every type of evil and has drawn away from God to such an extent that something such as a mass shooting can happen.

It’s not what God wants, but it’s what individuals choose. As long as humanity chooses evil, then evil will happen.

There is a purpose

Of course, God can go against the wishes of man. In fact, He has intervened occasionally throughout history when His plan required it. Yet tragedies such as the Aurora and Oak Creek shootings have a purpose, even if God isn’t the one behind them.

God is allowing humanity to see that our way doesn’t work. In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus Christ told us about the wide path that humanity has chosen to travel and the narrow path that choosing life (as God wished us to) would take us on.

The way of the broad path is wrong—it doesn’t work. This way leads to things such as mass murder and every other tragedy humanity has ever known.

God’s way is very narrow but leads to a wonderful world where movie theaters, houses of worship and schools will be safe, where violence and evil will be banished and where love will reign over all!

God doesn’t cause tragedies like what happened in Aurora or Oak Creek. Far from it—He despises such things (Proverbs 6:16-19). Yet because He has promised us free choice, God doesn’t prevent them all either. God uses such tragedies to show all mankind that we are going the wrong way—we are going on the broad path of destruction.

If we are to live and finally be free of tragedy, then we must choose His way of life—the narrow path of salvation. For more about this subject, see our section on “Why Does God Allow Evil and Suffering?”

Joshua Travers is a student at Ohio University, where he plans to major in integrated social studies and Spanish education. He attends the Athens, Ohio, congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, with his family.