It's a growing list of recent tragedy. Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Mexico City. Las Vegas . . . and on top of it all, Tom Petty died on Monday. There are tragedies of all kinds, and they all cause a piercing pain.
There are times in life when the compounded effect of tragedy leaves you helpless. "What's going on? What can I do?"
We all have our ways of responding: cry, pray, give, post, advocate, etc. I've been reflecting on my own response to overwhelming tragedy. Here are some thoughts.
Invest in Where I Live.
I can't change the whole world, but I'll ask God to use me in my little part of it. I will be available for God's will in my home and on my street; in my neighborhood, congregation, and city. See my last post on the power of place.
Realign My Ultimates.
What ultimately matters? Have I spent too much time on the wrong things? Tragedy re-calibrates your sense of time, importance, and priorities. "I've got a little bit of time to do a few things well."
I'm not satisfied with platitudes. I cringe at the well-worn obligatory phrase, "Our thoughts and prayers are with . . . " Tragedy pushes my prayers into ardent and earnest speech with God, not sentimental wishes. Lately, I've been at a loss for words. So I've returned to Jesus' template. I'm focused specifically on "thy kingdom come and thy will be done."
"Lord, bring your kingdom to us here and now. On earth as in heaven. We need your reign and your rule, and not that of sin and evil. Your will be done, not my will or the will of the wicked."
Hug My Wife and Kids.
Yes. Hold your family close.
I know the word "hope" can tilt toward a cliche, so let me explain.
Tragedy always wakes us out of the clouded stupor of comfort and complacency. It offers a sober assessment of reality. Evil resides in the world. And before we make this a self-righteous claim, we point the finger at our own chest and admit, "Sin resides in me, too."
This world is no utopia. No policy, president, law, economy, or social system will ever fulfill our ultimate hopes and dreams. While we labor for peace and justice, this planet is contested territory. What we have here isn't everything and it won't ever be.
Tragedy reveals a deep longing we all have for a world set right again. For life as it should be. As Christians, the resurrection of Jesus is a pointer to our ultimate hope. A restored body. A restored world. A rich and final fulfillment of our humanity.
Our Christian faith places a particular tragedy at its center. It's on our steeples and necklaces. Oddly, this tragedy gives us hope. It's easy to lose focus in tragedy, but at the cross God clearly shows himself in the middle of it. Here. In the loss. He is our hope, the firstborn of the dead.
We resist responses of fear, despair, or retreat. We are a hopeful people with a realistic view of our world and an optimistic view of our future. This is only because our Lord leads the way.
Lord Jesus, come quickly.