Dealing with Tragedy – Part 1 — Morning Devotions - Hope 103.2

Dealing with Tragedy – Part 1 — Morning Devotions

It can be tough trying to comfort someone who has just experienced tragedy. Often it is the small things we do that help the most. Like being present.

By Chris WittsSaturday 10 Sep 2022Morning Devotions with Chris WittsFaithReading Time: 1 minute

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I’m sure, like me, you have said, I’m glad I live in Australia. There’s a world of wars, terrorist attacks, bomb threats and school/college shootings—we see on the TV news what is happening in other countries.

Of course, we do have tragic events in our towns and cities. But, hopefully, not too often. But the question remains: How would I react to a tragedy in my own street or city? Thank God for our police force who know what to do. Many of us are not equipped to respond as they are.

This is such a complex issue, and I don’t think there are easy solutions here. This becomes all the more personal when someone we love dies unexpectedly—that’s a tragedy and a loss. We may hear of events thousands of kilometres away and still feel affected. Psychologist Guy Winch, the author of Emotional First Aid, says, “It’s not unusual to have a powerful emotional response to these kinds of events.” He says that it’s also common for the emotional reverberations to last two weeks or even more.

We often ask, Why does this have to happen to innocent people who don’t deserve it? A very good question. I’m not sure of the answer either. And when bad things happen, we are shaken in our confidence because, though in theory we understand how this can happen, we don’t always understand how it can happen to us. It suddenly becomes very personal. But here’s the point: no-one escapes suffering or death.

People all over the world suffer, including Christians. Sometimes people say, Why would God allow this to happen to me? Why wouldn’t he? A respected Christian teacher once said: “Jesus is not the bridge over troubled waters. But he will pull you through the troubled waters if you can stand the tow.” It’s worth thinking about. When you think of the things that you’ve faced in your life, the hardships that have confronted you, and the times that you’ve prayed for God to change it, to end it, to take it away, to rescue you, to relieve you of this burden—how many times has he actually answered the prayer in that way?

Comforting People in Pain

All you can do is hang onto your faith in a loving God, even though we don’t understand what’s going on. Christian leader Rick Warren and his wife faced their own personal tragedy when their own son recently committed suicide. After some time, Rick Warren sent this tweet:

In deep pain, people don’t need logic, advice, encouragement, or even Scripture. They just need you to show up and shut up.

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When we encounter others who are in pain, we do not know what to do. We do not know how to comfort them. And so we say things to make a really awkward moment less awkward. When we do that, we’re actually trying to comfort ourselves, which is understandable but not helpful. These responses don’t help someone who is in deep pain:

  • “I’m sure you’ll find someone new.”
  • “God must have needed another angel in heaven.”
  • “At least he’s no longer suffering.”
  • “God works all things together for the good.”
  • “Everything happens for a reason.”

We don’t know what to say, we don’t prepare for what we’re going to say, and so we end up saying something that is really only designed to help us feel less awkward. Perhaps the most unusual story in all of the Scriptures is written about Job, the man who had it all, then lost it all. Some of his friends came over to his house—what was left of it anyway—and sat in silence for seven days. And then they opened their mouths. And that was very bad.

The first one said, “Have honest people ever been completely destroyed? You reap what you sow. What wrong have you done to cause all of this?” And he went on and on. Job’s reply was heartbroken and simple: “A man’s friends should love him when his hope is gone. They should be faithful to him even if he stops showing respect to the Mighty One.”

When tragedy strikes, we don’t know why. We can’t know what they’re going through. We haven’t been there, even if we’ve experienced our own deep pain. Be with that person, even if you don’t know what to say.

Words don’t matter at that point of time—your presence means more than anything else. Don’t say anything to simply distract them from their pain. Silence is better than small talk. Small talk is exhausting.

(To be continued in Dealing with Tragedy – Part 2)