When tragedy strikes out of nowhere, as it did on Monday evening to the extended family of Woodward Park members, our human tendency is to raise our gaze to the heavens and, in anguish, ask "Why?"
Why did this bad thing happen? Or more generally, why do bad things ever befall good people?
Jesus was once asked a question with that very anguishing angle. In John 9 as Jesus and his disciples made their way through Jerusalem, his disciples asked him a "Why?" question regarding the source of a man's blindness. The man had been born blind and the disciples, like Job's friends of a bygone era, assume the "Why?" behind the misfortune must be sin. They couch their "Why?" question with a "Who?", i.e. "who sinned, the man or his parents, that he was born blind" (John 9.2)?
And Jesus's response is a master stroke in response to the human quest to understand "Why?" Jesus shifts the discussion, not from the speculative "Why?" but to the concrete, "What?"
What can happen in the aftermath of tragedy? Regardless of its source (and there could be at least five possible sources: God, Satan, Ourselves, Other people, Life in a fallen world), the issue central to Jesus is to move the discussion to what God can do in back of misfortune.
"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life" (John 9.3).
We indeed wrestle with the "Whys?" knowing full well that the deep things of God are beyond our grasp.
Knowing full well that God is working good in all things for those who love him.
Knowing full well that even when the heavens are brass to our query "Why?" Jesus is inviting us to ask the deeper question.
The question that alters eternal destinies.
What can God do despite tragic misfortune?