Overwhelmed by Tragedy: What Should Be Our Response?
It is with a heavy heart that I pen this week’s blog. I don’t want to talk about the recent shooting in Uvalde, Texas. I don’t want to think about the unimaginable heartache experienced by parents, siblings, grandparents, and other family members. I don’t want to envision the sacrifice and loss of two adult educators. I don’t want to feel the raw emotion welling up inside of me. I am overwhelmed by this tragedy. I’m sure you are, too.
I must admit I am apprehensive about writing this blog for fear of saying something wrong, but how could I write about anything else? Every other topic seems insignificant in the light of this recent event. Educators around the world are heartsick. We can’t help but look at our students, our children, or our grandchildren and wonder, “What if it were me? What if this happened in my school or to my family?” These hard questions aren’t selfish. These questions bring on the tears, the empathy, and the compassion toward those who have lost so much. There are no words to describe the heaviness that hangs over each of us like a dense fog. How do we deal with such emotion? What should be our response?
In an attempt to answer this question, I am going to do what I often do, which is “process out loud.” If you know me, this could be a bit dangerous, but I am feeling the need to process and share what is on my heart and my mind. I hope each of you will prayerfully do the same. It is important we talk about how we are feeling with fellow believers. Here are some of my thoughts. I would love to hear some of yours. I hope you will choose to respond to this blog in the comments.
As I read the initial report and listened to the news regarding the shooting (it is hard for me to even type that word), I was reminded of who the true enemy is. This world is Satan’s domain ( I John 5:19, 1 Peter 5:8). Make no mistake; he is behind this. His goal is to get people (even believers) to question God, blame God, and/or turn away from God. As long as we live in a fallen world, there will always be unanswerable questions, senseless tragedies, and unexplained circumstances. Unfortunately, it has been true for centuries, and it is still true today. If you don’t believe me, read through the Psalms. This book holds important clues for helping us respond to this unspeakable tragedy.
The book of Psalms can basically be divided into two major sections: Poems of Lament and Poems of Praise. Poems of lament are prayers of pain, confusion, and anger. These poems draw attention to what’s wrong in the world and ask God to intervene. If this doesn’t apply to us today, I don’t know what does. I find it encouraging that God doesn’t expect us to ignore the pain. Lamenting and expressing our sorrow is an appropriate response to all the evil we see in our world. In the midst of our hurt and confusion, our first response should be to call out to God. David didn’t turn to his friends, his colleagues, or his family. He turned to God (Psalm 6, 10, 42, 130), and so should we.
The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.
Now, here is the challenging part. When we call out to God, our next response should be praise. I know, I know - no one feels like praising in the midst of great pain and loss. Praising during suffering is a choice – a choice we make because of who God is, because of His faithfulness to us in the past, and because of His promises for the future. Even through our tears, we can and must celebrate the goodness of God.
Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God!
In the midst of tragedy, we are vulnerable. Satan wants to weaken our faith, but times of tragedy can actually make us stronger when we hold onto God’s truth. We can praise Him in our despair for His…
God allows things to happen for a reason. Whether or not we understand His reasons, we must remember that God is good, just, loving, and merciful (Psalm 135:3). Often, bad things happen to us that we simply cannot understand. Instead of doubting God’s goodness, our reaction should be to trust Him and praise Him. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5–6).
I wish this was going to be the last tragedy we experience, but I fear it is not. As believers, we have to remember this world is not our home. We are promised an eternal future free from this evil (John 14:3). Because of Him, we can have hope even when the temporal world around us seems to be falling apart.
I realize as long as we are still here there is much work to do. Parents, lawmakers, health professionals, educators, and communities will have to come together to help begin the process of healing. Hopefully, future tragedies such as this school shooting and the recent rampage in Brooklyn can be prevented. We all need to prayerfully consider what part we have to play. It may seem insurmountable, but God can guide us in our next steps when we call out to Him and praise His name!
Continue to join me in prayer for the Uvalde, Texas, community. It will be a long, hard road to healing. I will be posting a prayer calendar for the month of June so we can specifically pray for each family impacted. Please download it, share it, and pray!
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.2 Corinthians 1:3-4