Tuesday, July 29, 2008

5 Insights from Recent Tragedies

There has been plenty of tragedy around here lately. A mom and dad from Grace lost their 16 year old son in a horrific automobile tragedy while he was on a mission trip with another youth group. The depths of pain and grief were palpable around here. A young couple from Grace, after 3 years of trying, lost one of their baby twins. They're nursing a daughter along in ICU while mourning the loss of their son. Al has been brought in at some level to minister to the family who just lost their 18 month-old daughter after being mauled in her living room by the family dog. There is a distinguishable heaviness around our office here at Grace in the midst of tragedies like these.

I have not yet personally walked through tragedies like these that have hit close to my immediate home- though I know they are coming in the days and years ahead. How do we respond when tragedy strikes? A few thoughts:

1. Recognize that for all of us - our days are numbered. And God knows that number. None of this comes as a surprise to him. Man's days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed. (Job 14:5) The time of our birth and the time of our death are secure in God's providence and we have no control over either.

2. Recognize that God has marked out our time on this earth for a purpose. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10) Even if those days and those good works are very short - our time here was for a purpose. Recognizing that some good works (in the case of this three-day old baby) were very brief, completely selfless, and intended entirely for the impact of others. Good will come of his time on this planet.

3. Suffering is real and we should walk through the depths of it - with the understanding that Jesus will grant us peace and courage through it all. I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble and suffering, but have courage--I have conquered the world. (John 16:33)

4. Be attentive to all that God is teaching us as we walk through times of tragedy. CS Lewis has a great quote in The Problem of Pain, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

5. Be sensitive in the things we say to those going through tragedy. Having stood by grieving people in many a funeral home, I think I'm qualified to say that Christians say really stupid things to grieving people. We often play the role of Job's "friends" by being trite or presumptuous or insensitive in our comments. I usually try to say as little as possible to those who are grieving other than - "I can't imagine the pain you are feeling right now...." and then let them do the talking at their own pace. Be a listener, a hugger, a broad shoulder to lean on.


Anonymous said...

A heaviness indeed...

I woke up yesterday mornging after having dreams about this stuff all night.

#5 is dead on.


Will McCullough said...

I agree w/Jason that # 5 is spot on. I'd add that one should REALLY make sure that the "shoulder for leaning" is available not just 1 day after tragedy...but weeks, months & years after. Everyone is "there for you" after the initial blow...it's the medium and longer range love and support that is often found lacking.

Will McCullough said...

One more note - I would also say that 1-4 are correct...but, from an actual application perspective, they would be best kept to oneself during the period of loss and mourning. While all true...they are just not something someone wants to hear at that time (in my opinion). I'd stick to #5 and save 1-4 for gentle guiding/reflection months down the road. Now, I've said all this from the perspective of "one who is there for another who has experienced loss" - well, what if it's you who has the loss?? Pray that at least one person out there is aware of #5.

sojourn said...

If I am the one walking through the valley of the shadow then I need to remember Amos 4 and re-examine justice in my life, and God's righteousness. Pain and suffering are God's call for us to "return to me" (as CS Lewis said), and only He knows the purpose for our need to return. Even if I believe "I'm living right".