‘God knows I needed you’
Pam Smith wants her husband and her son, both lost…
I had to quickly realize that the utter feeling of despair and loss could not be ignored — we needed instead to be completely honest with ourselves by putting away all pretenses and just grieving with every ounce of our beings.
Deep sorrow and grief are not sinful. We grieved the loss of life. We grieved that we were in a state of confusion and chaos. All we could do as Christians at that point in time was to offer the invitation to the community that we will hurt with you. We will suffer with you. We will lose sleep when you don’t sleep. We will open our ears to your questions of anger and sadness.
Furthermore, we hold onto the memory of the victims. We remember them in small ways long after they are gone. And when praise and worship become difficult, we allow our lamentation to be our only form of worship for a time period, and we do not apologize for that.
Jessica Knapp serves as youth ministry leader for the Mountain Avenue Church of Christ in Tucson, Ariz., where six people died and 13 were wounded outside a supermarket in 2011.
Among those killed was Dorwan Stoddard, a devoted member of the Mountain Avenue church.
Knapp offered this advice for any congregation faced with such a tragedy:
First, I would remind the folks that everyone grieves in these situations. I would encourage members to look out for people who might be overlooked but need help. Some are grieving the loss of a loved one, others the loss of innocence and their sense of safety, but in Tucson we had so many who needed help who were not immediately identified.
Second, God did not plan this. It is not his will. He can use it to his glory, but we as Christians should be clear evil did this, and we should work daily to be light in a world filled with evil, not promote the idea that God’s plan was for these babies to be brutally murdered.
Third, every victim is valuable. Some stories will be more tragic or more heroic, but the families and friends of every victim should be cared for. We are to love and care for them all. It is easy for people to be angry and hurt as the media pay more attention to some.
Larry Wishard preaches for the Southeast Church of Christ in Aurora, Colo. He ministered to victims’ loved ones after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre and reached out again this past July after a gunman opened fire at a theater, killing 12 people.
Wishard shared these words:
Jesus leads us to look for healing beyond the horror. People can be changed in these windows of tragedy and sorrow by those who are simply present for them. Jesus is the healer, and we are not. It is simply being there to be an instrument for Jesus to use. … Our work perhaps is just to encourage them, by our being there, to hold on for one more step.
My difficulty in both situations here in Denver was that I wanted to know what I was supposed to do and say. I came to learn through prayer that I simply had to take one step at a time. Put on your clothes. Get the key to the car. Drive to the place and offer to help. God will do all the rest.
John Dobbs, minister for the Forsythe Church of Christ in Monroe, La., reacted to the Connecticut tragedy on a more personal level. He lost his son John Robert Dobbs, 18, in a 2008 interstate accident.
Dobbs wrote on his personal blog:
Parents tonight lie in beds unable to sleep. Down the hall are empty beds where the hopes and dreams of families should be asleep. But they are not there. A silence louder than anything they have ever heard is ringing in the ears of parents and grandparents. This is the one fear they could never bring themselves to ruminate upon. But the Enemy has struck with deadly force.
Before we draw our lessons, make our politics, point our fingers or dig up Bible prophecies about the end times … can’t we just hurt with them? This is a time to gather our children, love on them and know that for tonight we have the richest possession of all … the gentle rise and fall of the sleeping child down the hall.
And for those of us who have lost our children too, we must simply pray from that raw unhealed place deep in our hearts. We know.
As our nation weeps, so do I.
Bobby Ross Jr. is Managing Editor of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].
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