What do we do when tragedy comes? What do we say in the midst of pain and loss? What do we do when the pain is so deep that it takes our words?
As Christians, what are we to do? I have many friends that have been deeply pained by the tragedy that has hit Oxford. What do we say to the fact that there will be children that will be without their parents?
What do we say when flooding kills the innocent?
What do we say when these things happen?
Now, theologically, we live in a fallen world. And to say that isn’t just to say that people make bad choices. It means that all the world is disordered. All is not right in the world. When Adam and Eve fell, they took all the world with them. And one day, Jesus will return and make all things right. He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. There will be no sickness, pain, and death.
No more cancer.
No more war.
No more hurricanes.
God is not the cause of tragedy. He is not the author of evil. We live in this fallen world with free will, where we can choose wrong. And we live in a fallen world where sin has cosmic effects that we can’t even understand.
But in the moment of tragedy, these theological truths don’t make us feel better. They don’t provide much comfort. So, what do we do?
I think the best example of what we can do in the midst of these situations is found in Job 2: 11-13:
11 Now when Job’s three friends heard of all these troubles that had come upon him, each of them set out from his home-Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They met together to go and console and comfort him. 12 When they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him, and they raised their voices and wept aloud; they tore their robes and threw dust in the air upon their heads. 13 They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.
Jobs friends saw his pain and great loss. They loved him. And what did they do? For seven days and seven nights, they sat silently with him in the ashes.
They didn’t try to explain it away. They didn’t try to make sense of it. They didn’t try to fix it. They were friends. Sitting with him. Present with him. There for him.
They sat with him in the ashes.
That’s our job in the midst of the tragedy. To sit in the ashes with those that grieve.
Those that are hurting don’t need answers that we can’t give.
We want to fix it and make it all go away. We can’t. We can’t fix these problems of pain and loss and hurt.
So what do we do? We sit in the ashes with those that are hurting. We are present. We are there. It’s not up to us to explain it away or make sense. That’s not our job.
Our job is to be a good friend. Our job is to sit in the ashes.
It was by no means a tragedy, but when our son was a baby, he was in the hospital for a few weeks, and I can’t remember any words really said to me. But you know what? To this day, I remember who came by and how much it meant to me.
That’s what we do. We sit in the ashes. Don’t worry about what you will say. Remember where you need to be.
We need to be present with those that hurt. Because that’s the job of love.