The headlines of our news remind us that we live in a fallen world where tragedy can come on any given day:
Oklahoma Community Devastated by Massive Tornado
Bombing at the Boston Marathon
Megastorm Hurricane Sandy Slams the Northeast
Small Town of West Liberty, Kentucky Leveled by F-3 Tornado
How should the church of Jesus Christ respond when tragedy strikes in our community?
John 11 gives us great insight as Jesus responds to the death of Lazarus. Mary fell at the feet of Jesus and cried out to Him in her grief, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus’ response to Mary and those who shared her grief is worth noting. Jesus was greatly troubled in His Spirit and wept, as He looked at the outpouring of grief. But, Christ did more than grieve with them; He brought the hope of His resurrection.
In the midst of tragedy the church can:
- Grieve with those who are hurting. There is always loss in tragedies and disasters. It is right to weep with those who are weeping and to come to those who are hurting.
- Pray. Tragedies remind us how utterly dependent that we are on God. God is the only one who can truly bring peace, comfort, and hope when our world falls apart. We need to call on Him and seek His presence in the hurt.
- Give. Your monetary donations are critical and do make a difference in people’s lives. These gifts allow the disaster response to meet specific needs in the best ways, and to get critical help to those reeling from this tragedy.
- Provide genuine ministry. Those devastated by tragedy need more than empty words, they need someone to come alongside them. Compassionate words and prayer are important, but the church must also seek to provide practical ways to help. Giving meals, providing shelter, forming clean-up or chainsaw teams, putting a tarp on a roof, offering a place for recovery or grief counseling are examples of practical ministry. The best way to be prepared to minister is to be a trained disaster relief volunteer. Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief offers multiple training opportunities throughout the year.
- Offer Biblical hope. The Bible gives multiple reasons for suffering including the reminder that sometimes it “rains on the just and unjust” in this fallen world. Jesus did not tell Mary “why” this had happened to Lazarus; instead, He offered the great hope of His resurrection. People do not need answers as much as they need the touch of God in their hurt.
- Listen to those affected by tragedy. Survivors need to share their story with someone who cares. Healing often finds its beginning in compassionate listeners.
- Be prepared to share about the hope that we have in Christ. We should never seek to use a tragic situation to manipulate someone for selfish purposes, but it is appropriate to offer the hope that we possess in Christ. Jesus is the only One who can bring real peace, hope, and life.
- Volunteer at the right time. I would urge you as a Believer to wait for the right time to volunteer. Television footage and photos of the tragedy move our hearts and compel us to want to “go now.” It is right as Believers in Christ to be moved to respond and help these in need. Yet, let me warn you of what I see again and again in disasters; in the first few critical days of a disaster response, large numbers of untrained and unsolicited volunteers showing up on the scene can actually slow down responders and siphon off resources, energy, and attention from those who most need our help. Disaster needs will not end in a few days when the TV crews move on to other stories. Often times, where volunteers can be the most help is in the long term recovery and rebuilding phase of a disaster response.
When tragedy comes, may our community know the church shares their hurt, weeps beside them, gives real hope, and serves a Savior who brings life-giving power.