I wonder about that now.
The brother of one of my best friends from volunteering in Haiti was killed in the Jan 12 earthquake. He wasn't a volunteer - he was visiting his sister in Port au Prince for just a few days. Wanted to see what her life there was like. The timing was just all wrong.
At his memorial service in Phoenix, my friend's parents were adamant; they didn't want to hear from anyone that this was God's plan or that this all happened for a reason.
For the little things in life, it works to think "this happened for a reason" - that's probably why it's worked for me for so long. If you fail a class or if your dream job doesn't hire you or if your heart is broken, it works to think: "This happened for a reason." That thought helps you heal, move forward, continue with all the other good things in life.
But some things are too tragic for that. Some things just happen. And any good that we can draw out of those tragedies is a testament to the strength of the human spirit and, I believe, the goodness of a God who is for us and who does not invent and unleash disasters on some people simply for the edification of others.
Sons don't die in collapsed buildings so that their fathers, who outlive them, can learn something. Young mothers don't die suddenly, tragically, for a purpose. They just die. And our work becomes not to tease out the lesson plan buried in the catastrophe, but to be with those who have lost loved ones. To see the world made dimmer in one small place because of the absence. To live to make another place, somewhere else, brighter.