Growing up I attended quite a few churches. My father being an appointed pastor accounted for three of them. My personal exploration accounted for the next seven. Spending that much time around churches and church people increases the likelihood of certain experiences. Being told that misfortune is "all part of God's plan" is one such experience.
There's another group of people that encounter this phrase more than most: anyone involved in an adoption. Couples struggling with infertility are often "consoled" this way. First families are told this to ease the pain and uncertainty of placing their children with couples they barely know. Adoptees often hear this to help erase the pain of their loss and difference. There is one significant problem with this.
It doesn't work at all. Though the intent is compassion, these words have none. They don't validate the person in pain. They don't even address presence of pain.
Instead these words serve a purpose entirely contrary to their common intent. They separate the supporter from the experience of the wounded. If pain is all "part of God's plan" the listener has no culpability in the situation. There is no risk for the onlooker because success is assured. If pain is part of the plan it takes on a moral quality. The pain becomes good pain. The pain is good because the person experiencing it is participating in "God's plan". The person has become a holy vessel. Holy vessels, uniformly, have been stripped of their humanity.
If this is true, why on Earth does this phrase get so much use? Because it comforts the supporter, not the vulnerable. The person in hardship experiences good pain. If the pain is good, for the individual and the world, there is no need to alleviate it. The person who would normally be called to take action has been let of the hook. Situations that are intolerable to think of, let alone witness, are acceptable if they are calculated sacrifices made by a faultless entity.
What happens to our attitudes if these sacrifices are not calculated losses outweighed by their benefit? Suddenly a person's pain is excruciating instead of purifying. A child placed for adoption is a desperate attempt to salvage some good from a terrible situation. Adoption is no longer a beautiful miracle. Unplanned pregnancies lose the glow of purpose. Suddenly rape is just rape and incest is shown fully as the horror it is
"It's all part of God's plan" isn't comfort to those who need it. It's a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card for those called upon to be the comfort others need.