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Responding to Tragedy

By: Admin on April 18, 2013

On Monday, April 15 two bombs exploded within 10 seconds of each other near the finish line of the storied Boston Marathon in the city of Boston, Massachusetts. Three died and close to 200 were injured, many critically.

A little over a week before this tragedy the son of Pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren took his own young life after years of battling with mental illness.

It was an interesting to view our North American society and modern mindset in wake of these highly publicized tragic events. The vast majority of those who posted responses and comments on the different forums and sites on the internet sent expressions of shock, sympathy, condolences and sincere concern. But there were a number of responses that revealed the horrible, dark side of people's mentality. Some of Pastor Warren's detractors, both Christian and non-Christian, delivered hate-filled, insulting, defamatory and completely barbaric rhetoric against the suffering family.

The same went for the Boston Marathon horror as some people used the internet platform to rail against the United States, against Western society and against people from all religious and non-religious stripes. Blame was laid on Muslims, Evangelical Christians and atheists. Even those who claimed to be Christians participated in this, including contributing to the flow of crude language normally associated with the stereotypes of "the worldly lost."

Tragedy is a daily part of life at every place in this planet. For some tragedy is at a massive level where war, genocide and ideological inspired atrocities actively occur or where natural disasters destroy entire regions. These tragedies make the headlines. For others tragedy is very personal and isolated: the diagnosis of cancer or the sudden death of a parent or friend who seemed to be in "perfect health". While these events will never make headlines for the vast majority, they are still tragedies for those who are directly touched. The pain, confusion, anger and emptiness are just as real to these folks as it is to the victims of a massive earthquake or terrorist attack. Some form of tragedy WILL touch each one of us at least once in our lives.

There are no easy answers to tragedy. None of us really understands the big, "WHY" behind what happens in our world. It really is beyond us as humans.

Romans chapters 1 through 7 in the Bible gives us a great theological answer to the question of tragedy. But when God gives us the opportunity to stand with someone and support them through their own tragedy, these chapters are not necessarily the best choice.

How do we respond as followers of Jesus Christ, also known as "Christians" or "Believers"?

When the righteous Job was in the very depths of a huge personal tragedy, his friends came to him and did the best thing they could have ever done for their suffering friend:

"When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was."(Job 2:12, 13 NIV)

The Bible says they wept with him, sat with him and said nothing. This is the first rule that everyone should follow when coming to their friends who are passing through the horror of the valley of the shadow of death. In fact, when Job's friends decided to finally speak the words they chose completely messed things up. Silence is golden. Just be with your friend and family in this time. Cry with them. Be with them. Say nothing.

Another thing to do is pray for this person in the midst of tragedy. What do we pray for? Just pray for them as people! Romans 8:26 says,
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

The Holy Spirit is very aware of the situation and He will certainly be interceding for us and our friends. By the way, do NOT quote Romans 8:28 to a person in the early stages of their suffering. Although it is true that all things work together for good, to say it when the wound is wide open and the pain is unbearable is completely insensitive.

When it is time to speak, give the words of true comfort that come from the Bible: Psalm 23; Psalm 34:18; Psalm 62:1 & 2; and Psalm 63:1 - 8.

As time goes on, you will have the chance to go into the Bible as the one who is now healing seeks out the deeper answers from a God who cares and is infinitely wise.

God also calls us to bring about His justice to the world. Although evil and injustice will continue to increase (see Matthew 24:9 - 14), when we read the message of Matthew 5, 6 and 7 we cannot help but come to the conclusion that if someone is to be a true follower of Jesus, they must live a certain life and promote that life in the context in which they live. All Bible writers in the Old and New Testaments wrote very strongly against lying, cheating, bribery, violence and oppression of the helpless. All of them also taught forcefully that followers of God must actively pursue peace, good relationships with others, honesty and active, sacrificial help to those in need.

Christians should be the first and most vocal of those who express verbally and in deeds their support, compassion and desire to help. Christians should also actively speak out against those who use tragedy as a vehicle to proclaim insensitive, unloving and un-Christian statements in the name of our Lord Jesus.

Jesus gave us a clear command with regards to other people: LOVE THEM! We are to love people in all times and circumstances. When responding to tragedy, respond with love, the true love that only comes from God.

Topics: community, justice, love

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