The United States has gone through a lot of pain in the last year: The senseless massacre in Aurora… The heart-breaking slaughter of innocent children in Newtown… and now a brutal terrorist bombing in the heart of Boston on Patriot Day.
Over the next few days, everyone will be asking questions about the nature of the attack, the parties responsible, and the reasons behind the bombing. News media will be covering it for days. Memorials will cover your Facebook wall. It will be THE topic at the water cooler. As Christians, how do we respond?
How do we process the raw emotions that are running through us?
What answer do we give to the people in our lives that are seeking answers?
What do we tell our children?
Let me be honest with you: I don’t know.
I don’t have an answer to the question of how much news media we should consume or how you even begin to explain this world to our children. What I do know, are 4 truths that we should arm ourselves with today and in the days ahead when we face the horror of tragedy:
1. It is okay to be angry.
Christians have a strange relationship with anger.
Throughout my life I have been told to put a damper on my anger, to control my temper, and that hate is sin… and none of those things are exactly true.
Anger has a place in our lives, assuming that it is righteous anger (Jesus expressed righteous rage at the defilement of his Father’s house). Our blood should boil when evil is perpetrated against others, whether that evil is bombings, human trafficking, racial genocide, abortion, or overwhelming selfish greed in the face of unspeakable poverty and need (these are aberrations from God’s plan and they rile us up because God has built into us a craving for justice). We should not resort to hating our enemies, but we should hate the sin that they practice (Jude 23). We can be angry, but we need to keep ourselves from resorting to sin in that anger (Ephesians 4:26). If evil and tragedy ceases to move us and anger us, there is something deeply wrong with us.
I think God is completely able to handle it when we get mad and express our frustrations to him. Why? Because those things break His heart too. Jesus is the perfect person to vent your frustrations to, because the greatest injustice of history was exercised against him. Express your anger to God and pray that He gives you a peace about it.
2. It is okay to grieve.
Different people grieve in different ways.
Some people are demonstrative and openly weep when they feel pain. Other people can bottle up the pain, steel themselves, and eventually move on with little to no outward expression of their personal pain. My wife Amanda has the ability to deeply empathize with people in their pain, while I am sometimes perceived as being insensitive because I can keep myself emotionally removed from an emotional situation. In one of the tenderest verses of the Bible, John 11:35, Jesus weeps at the death of his close friend Lazarus. People are different and we need to be patient with both the method that they choose to cope with their pain and the length of time that it takes them to process it.
When people in our lives are experiencing pain, we should seek to mourn with them (Romans 12:15) and we need to resist the urge to start preaching a sermon at them. There will be a time when we can start offering them explanations and verses, but when the wound is still raw, shut up and just be there. A shoulder to cry on goes a long way.
If you are the one that is in pain, don’t close yourself off from your spouse, your friends, or God. It’s not always a comfortable thing to open up to other people and expose our feelings, but it’s a lot easier than trying to shoulder the burden on our own. Share it with those who care about you.
3. We can still trust.
There is a song that we are playing at my radio station that perfectly illustrates our ability to trust God in the face of situations that we don’t understand: JJ Heller’s “Who You Are”. If you’ve never heard the song, give it a listen:
In an interview with Kevin Davis on New Release Tuesday, JJ describes the message of the song…
In our later twenties, we started to experience a lot of heartbreak in watching family members pass away, friends getting divorced and losing houses. It was a time of heaviness, and I’ve noticed that when something hurtful happens, my first response is to ask God why is He allowing bad things to happen. Why isn’t He stopping it? I’ve noticed that His answer to my question isn’t a lengthy explanation of all of His reasons, but He asks me if I trust Him. The song “Who You Are” is about even when we can’t see what God is doing, we can trust His character and know that He is good. We can look back on our own lives and see His faithfulness. We can see that in the Scriptures. We see over and over how God takes the most dire circumstances and finds a way to redeem them.
I am not God, I don’t understand His plan, and I wouldn’t do things the same way He does… BUT, I do know that He is good, that His plan is perfect, and that whatever pain and evil happens in this world, “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
4. We have a great hope.
A few weeks ago we celebrated the 2 most important events in all of human history: the death of Jesus Christ and the defeat of death when he rose again on Easter morning. While we may be in the midst of incredible suffering, we know that evil will not have the final say because of what Jesus has done. Jesus has paid the price on our behalf, and one day, if we are in him, we can be free from suffering forever. Our world may be a mess now, but a better place awaits us:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:1-5)
This hope of the coming kingdom does not exempt us from pain, but it gives us something to cling to in the midst of it. In the midst of tragedy and evil, may our hearts’ cry be, “Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!”
Yes, “David Wonders” is his real name. Dave is a husband, a father, and the midday host at 104.3 The Pulse (thepulse.mn). Somehow he finds time to read absurd numbers of books. Connect with Dave on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Klout.