How Should We Respond to Tragedy?
Watching our state, city, friends, and families suffer through Hurricane Harvey has been difficult. At our church alone, over 30 families have been affected by the storm. People have lost homes, valuables, keepsakes, and others lost their lives or the life of a loved one. I was very fortunate to make it through without losing anything. I sat watching the news while receiving texts from those close to me with some terrible updates and some good on how they were and what was going on. I felt completely helpless to do anything for anyone.
What could I do? With Irma wreaking similar havoc in Florida, the flooding in Nepal, the news of a devastating earthquake in Mexico, and wildfires across the western U.S. and Canada, how should we as believers respond to tragedy? What do we say to those suffering? How do we treat them?
Two passages came to my mind in that moment of helplessness and have been constant companions since the storm has ceased: Romans 12:14-21 and 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18. These verses provide us with a powerful template for how to respond to tragedy:
REJOICE...with those who rejoice
(Romans 12:15a; 1 Thessalonians 5:16a)
I can't explain what it was like to hear from a dear sister that she and her family were safe. I rejoiced, I let her know how happy I was that she was ok and I praised the Lord. In times of tragedy, good news is good news indeed and we should celebrate in those moments with those who are also celebrating.
WEEP...with those who weep
What about the ones hurting and broken? We weep. When the news is bad and the pain is unbearable, we cry alongside them. Remember Christ's response to the death of Lazarus in John 11? He wept with those who wept (John 11:35)–even in view of the miracle He was about to perform. Comforting others doesn't always come in the form of a smile, but sometimes it is through sharing in their sorrows that we are able to offer compassion and care.
(Romans 12:14, 16-21; 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18)
We are here to be the hands and feet of Christ. Tragedy presents us with an opportunity to act and serve our neighbors and our fellow brothers and sisters. Someone said that "God was going to do something great in this city and we want to have hammers in our hands when that happens." It's been amazing to witness the body of Christ go into action during the storm and after. People have sought to give their time, labor, funds, clothes, food, etc. to meet the needs of those suffering. In addition to the various ways we seek to serve tangibly, the Scriptures also call on us to serve through prayer. This is in fact one of our greatest resources. May we be people who pray at all times, seeking the Lord humbly on behalf of those in our city, country, and world who need help and most of all–are in desperate need of turning to Christ in repentance and faith to enjoy forever, His marvelous salvation. The following is from John Piper's prayer for those affected by the horrific 2011 tsunami that struck Japan:
"May every heart-breaking loss—millions upon millions of losses—be healed by the wounded hands of the risen Christ. You are not unacquainted with Your creatures' pain. You did not spare Your own Son, but gave Him up for us all."
As tragedy continues to occur worldwide and in our local communities, let's rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep, and seek to serve in Christ's Name.