How Do Christians Respond to Tragedy
The tragedy that happened last week in Newtown, Connecticut was a reminder to Christians everywhere that they live in a fallen, broken, evil world. Innocent elementary students getting shot is not right, in fact, it’s down right evil. We are torn between compassion for the families effected and anger for the person who is responsible for this senseless act. But it’s a reminder that the world is not how it should be, it is fallen and broken because of one word-sin. It would be easy to get into a theological conversation and explain the effects of the fall and try to explain how it has and is messing up our world, but that’s not my intention here. My goal in this post is to share a few thoughts on how Christians practically should respond to tragedy whether it’s tragedy in their life personally or in the world around them.
Mourn. We should never try to avoid our first response to tragedy which is to mourn. Christians must not think mourning is “not spiritual,” but should embrace a season of mourning because it’s a natural emotional response. In fact, our Savior when He was on earth mourned. In John 11:35 it says that Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus. Not only did our Savior mourn, but Scripture tells Christians to weep with those who weep. So when tragedy hits, don’t be afraid to mourn and when tragedy hits someone else, mourn with them.
Don’t try to have all the answers. I’m guilty of this myself. As the events of last weeks shooting in Newtown unfolded, you saw tons of tweets and Facebook status that either had a “clever Christian saying” or someone trying to explain why things like this happen. The most honest and respectful thing you can do when tragedy strikes is to humbly mourn and reach out to the One who does have all the answers and that is God. Whether you’re the one facing the tragedy personally or are a spectator watching tragedy unfold in someone else’s life, don’t try to “fix” it or make it seem better with right answers. We are all sinners who live in a fallen world, cry out to Jesus.
Trust God’s Sovereignty. I want to be careful here because I could very well fall into the trap of trying to have all the right answers. But I do know that God is sovereign, even when it doesn’t seem like it. Let’s be honest, it’s hard to believe and understand that God is sovereign, totally in control, when something as evil and senseless happens, like it did last week in Newtown. But somehow He is. This is why I cringe when people say, “Where was God when these shootings happened” or “If we put God back in school this might have not happened.” Christians, God didn’t go anywhere and just because the Ten Commandments don’t hang on the wall of our school doesn’t mean God isn’t in the schools. In fact, God is everywhere and there is nothing we can do that can change that. Check out Psalm 139:7-8. In his book Radical, David Platt says, “We can rest confident in the fact that nothing will happen to us in this world apart from the gracious will of a sovereign God. Nothing.” How does this work when we hear about innocent children getting shot and tragedy hits homes? I don’t know, but we Christians cannot allow this fallen world to make them forget that our God is sovereign.
Hope in Christ and the good news of the Gospel! Suffering and tragedy are a part of this world. But as Christians, it should remind us that our hope is in Christ and the Gospel reminds us that God is in the process of reconciling His creation back to Himself and one day it will be complete. He will come and make all things right! I saw this tweet on the day of the shootings that reminds Christians of this truth. The tweet said, “Come Lord Jesus. End this thing and make all things new.” Our hope is not in “getting God back into our schools” or having new gun laws, but our hope is in Christ and one day He will return and make all things right.
I don’t claim to have the perfect plan for responding to tragedy and I know it’s easy to write these things when I’m not the one facing the tragedy personally. My prayer is God will give me the strength to respond to tragedy, whether in my life or in the life of someone else, in way that is true to His Word and honors Him.
Here are a few links that I have come across in the past week that add to these thoughts:
Steven Furtick talks about the Churches role in tragedy
How to Respond to the Horrors of a Broken World by Ed Stetzer
NBC’s time of reflection (not Christian-based, but is applicable).
Joey Newton’s first hand account is a very good read on this event.