Parable #7, Great Misfortune, takes us in a new direction. The story is of a man who has suffered incredible pain and who has a friend who has stood with him through the misfortunes. At one point the man goes to see his pastor for some advice as to how to make sense of his life. The pastor tells him that the misfortunes were merely the price required to build strength of character. The man shares this with his friend and tells the friend that perhaps he won't be needed as much now that he understands the reason for his pain. The friend responds that if building strength of character was the purpose behind the misfortune, the man is even more unfortunate.
I'm struck by the need for people of faith to put "purpose" behind everything and generally to attribute anything that happens to God's plan... which we cannot understand. This parable reminds me that sometimes things happen without meaning and without positive purpose. As I heard William Sloane Coffin once say, "I can't imagine God looking down and saying, 'it will be good for these two children to have their mother die of breast cancer...'" Sometimes things make no sense and have no sense... Sometimes things just happen... and then comes the important part... standing with the other, putting flesh on the love of God.