In the face of recent tragedies, both natural disasters and man-made tragedy, those of us not personally affected struggle with how to respond. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with grief but unsure how to express it if we weren’t present or don’t know anyone involved in these tragedies.
At the same time, we feel guilt for going about our day after hearing the news about the shooting or the number of people who died during the flooding. We struggle with wanting to do anything we can to help while at the same time not knowing what we can do to help.
How do we grieve and support but also not obsess over events we can’t control? How do we not feel guilty when we hear people with loud voices say things along the lines of, your thoughts and prayers are insufficient?*
Our first response: prayer
While those who don’t have a relationship with Christ taunt Christians by asking, “Where is your God” when tragedy hits, our first response should not be heading to social media to blast our thoughts on the matter, nor should it be clicking on news article after news article to find out what political arguments have transpired. Our first response should be getting on our knees in prayer.
We’re commanded to weep with those who weep and pray for those who are sick and hurting. When we pray, we speak to the God of the universe. The God of all comfort. He knows and understands all that transpires on this earth. Nothing surprises Him. As we face each day, there will be evil we cannot comprehend and situations beyond our understanding. How can we not seek God in those moments?
Our prayers are not insufficient. We pray for strength to endure trials and for God’s truth to reveal itself during these times. We have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, and we can pray boldly before the throne of God. Even when we don’t know what to pray for, the Spirit intercedes on our behalf.
May we never fear our prayers are insufficient. May we never believe the lie that praying for others is futile. Our prayers are powerful. They can make the sick person well and bring rain on the earth. Believing prayer is insufficient is believing God has assigned us a meaningless power and mode of communication with Him. Are you willing to accuse God of that?
Faith without works is dead
While prayer is not insufficient the way God designed it, we are called to do more than pray. God commands us to care for the widows and orphans. He tells us whatever we do for the least of these, we do for Him. And if we know we’re supposed to do good but ignore it, we sin.
There are situations in which we simply can’t physically help. When a bombing happens on the other side of the world, there’s not much we can do besides pray. Other disasters are more tangible, like hurricane relief.
How do we know what to do and when to do it? Well, not to put these words on repeat, but pray and ask God to reveal how you can help. If you have the time and resources, go and do. If you have the ability to begin a fundraiser or provide awareness where you are, go and do. We shouldn’t ignore the actions for the prayers.
If you are not able to physically help in some way, do not feel guilty. Guilt is not from God. As long as you haven’t created an excuse or are ignoring God in order to not help, you have no reason to feel responsible. Do what you can and allow yourself to be stretched beyond your comfort zone, but don’t feel guilt for what you cannot accomplish.
Be prepared, for tragedy will continue to strike
We live in a fallen, sinful world. From the moment Eve listened to Satan’s lies, sin began clawing at peace, leaving bloody, ugly stains wherever it went. We cannot escape tragedy this side of heaven, for until Jesus returns and defeats Satan once and for all, we live fighting against sin.
Jesus even warned His disciples to not be frightened when they heard about wars and uprising, for all these tragedies must happen before He returns.
“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.” (Luke 21:10-11)
As believers in Jesus, we should not lose hope when we read about shootings or see pictures of homes completely under water. We should mourn and comfort, we should help however we can, but we should not feel overcome with grief to the point of losing sight of the truth.
Yes, these tragedies prove horrific. They break our hearts. But if we go about our days overcome with a sense of loss, asking God how all this could happen, then we have forgotten something: Jesus wins in the end.
Imagine how our perspectives would change and the truth we could spread to those around us if, instead of hating those who cause death or instead of living in fear of nature, we chose to trust God in the midst of sin. If we chose to leave the judgement to God, the wind and the waves to God. If we spread hope in the midst of tragedy. Because it will continue. The bombings, the shootings, the natural disasters, the racism — it will all continue until Jesus returns.
Grieve, wash your face, and trust
At the end of the day, we cannot lend a hand in all tragedies. Yes, we can help those hurting in our community. We can embark on mission trips to provide relief. We can send money to trust-worthy organizations to help those in need.
But we cannot lose hope in the power of prayer and the power of Jesus’ return. John Piper said it beautifully in his audio clip on grief: “Occasionally, weep deeply over the life that you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Feel the pain. Then wash your face, trust God, and embrace the life that He’s given you.”
Embrace the life God has given you. We all will suffer during our time on earth. Jesus tells us blessed are those who mourn, for they will receive comfort. We must comfort, we must mourn, we must help when we can. But then we must wash our face, trust God, and embrace life. For Jesus wins in the end.
Let’s Talk About It: What are ways you can help others in the midst of their tragedy?
*Jimmy Kimmel used this phrase to address the politicians who are against gun control. While he was not using this phrase to attack Christians or prayer, his message seems to say he doesn’t believe in the power of prayer.