This year has had no shortage of tragedy. We have born witness to natural and man-made disasters, disasters formed in the ocean and disasters formed in the sinful hearts of men. Disasters that have destroyed property and disasters that have destroyed lives. Disasters that have stirred at least a semblance of unity and disasters that have brought out the already present division among us.
Given the recent pace at which all these things have taken place, we have been living in constant “response” mode, because just when something tragic happens, runs a few days in the news cycle, there is another disaster to take its place. It seems, at least to me, that we are living in a period where the foundations are shaking… and in some cases, cracking. So how does one respond to this? How does a Christian respond to these disasters?
When the foundations shake, we can return to what is true regardless of circumstances. We can know, for example, that the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord. And we can know, for example, that Jesus is still the authoritative ruler of heaven and earth. And we can know, for example, that God is still, even now, working all things for the good of those that love Him and are called according to His purpose.
We know these things. But may I offer an exhortation regarding these theological truths?
Christian, don’t use your theology as a weapon.
In a culture when news is made and reported at a breakneck speed, all of us seem to feel this overwhelming compulsion to respond.
Respond, respond, respond. Post, post, post. Hot take after hot take, each one looking, ironically, to be more clever than the last.
Now as Christians, we do have all kinds of things that we might say in the midst of tragedy. Many of these responses are actually true. But in our constant need to respond, it might profit us to ask ourselves what the true motivation is in such a response.
Is it that we want to offer a word of hope? A consolation of truth? Or is it that we are so very uncomfortable with deep, real, gut wrenching pain, that we are actually trying to make ourselves feel better so that we don’t have to sit in the middle of that much and mire?
Careful here, because I’m not saying that the gospel should not be proclaimed at funerals. And I’m not saying that there is never a time to point the grieving back to the words God has given us for comfort. I am saying, however, that truth like this must be wielded carefully and thoughtfully, lest we bring it down onto the heads of the grieving like a theological sledge hammer. Theology becomes a weapon when we, compelled by the insatiable need to respond, flippantly throw it around as if the circumstances around us are not wreaking real havoc in the real lives of real people.
Jesus knew this, I think. He knew that sometimes the best thing you can say is actually nothing. And He knew it better than we do. So when He came in John 11 to the grave of His friend and the grief of Lazarus’ sister Mary, He offered no theological treatise, no simple explanation for death, not even a statement of His own actions that had led to the death.
There would be another time for that. But not right then. Right then, in His great compassion and wisdom, Jesus offered something equally right and yet infinitely more helpful: