2007-04-21 - Untitled
I do appreciate the simple title of the devotional by my colleague Tim. For my own devotional, no title seemed adequate. So along the lines of a "moment of silence" in honor of the victims at Virginia Tech, I present this devotional with no title. Words are really inadequate for this situation, aren't they? Even those of us who live hundreds of miles away, and have no family or friends at Virginia Tech, still have been stunned by the savage taking of precious lives.
What can we / should we as Christians do with this? We'll look at some things that are generally not edifying as well as those that can be. I am going to share a "free association" (as psychologists would call it) of some thoughts I have had over the last couple days, and that have come to me after prayer. I hope these thoughts will be helpful in any situation that involves grief.
And obviously, we need to pray for the surviving victims, the loved ones of all the victims, the police and other crisis workers, as well as for all who are second-guessing themselves enough without us doing it to them etc.
We need also to ask that good will come from this, a la Romans 8:28, an ask God to show us any role He has for us in that process.
At times such as this, we may even find it difficult to find the right words to pray. But that's okay, too. For our Lord has promised us:
Romans 8:26-28 (The Message) Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.
Sometimes when they see or hear about murders such as the ones in Virginia, children will have nightmares, fears for their own or their families' safety etc. Here is a link that you might find helpful, in ministering to the children in your lives.
Some things that are best left undone? Finger-pointing is not conducive to the healing process. It's not easy to think rationally about something like this, but in all honesty, we should all know that the authorities being being blamed worked and are working earnestly, feel bad, are themselves hurting and wouldn't have wanted any harm to befall a single student. They need our prayers, too. It's easy to second-guess people when we haven't been in that situation ourselves - when they are really doing the best they can with the information they have at the time. In a difficult, chaotic we should not "throw stones." (John 8)
Saying that the perpetrator was "possessed by spirits" or demons is not edifying. That takes the responsibility off the person who did it, and can be demeaning to his victims. Satan gets a lot more credit than he deserves. As the Bible tells us, sin comes from us, from our very hearts. As James 1 teaches us,
14 But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:14-15)
Well-meaning comments like "it's God's will" or "God needed an angel" can be hurtful to loved ones - and alienate them from God. Most often, the best thing to say - is nothing. For most of us, this is more difficult than one would think. You'd think it would be easy to just stay silent. But at a time like this, the human heart seeks for answers, and we feel that somehow if we can blame someone, assign responsibility, that will help bring comfort. But it won't. It can actually do just the opposite.
And whether it's the loss of a loved one in a shooting, by a drunk driver, cancer or anything else - we think that we need to say something to those hurting, something that will "make things better;" we ache to say something that will "fix things." But some things just can't be "fixed."
Unfortunately this is something that one just has to work through. In truth, there is nothing we can say that will make it better. The best gift that we can give is that of ourselves, our time, our presence.
Remember Job's friends? God chastised them when they blamed Job, asking him what he had done wrong to "deserve" what no one deserves. In fact, if you notice, it's when they talked, that they got in trouble. And they didn't help their friend one bit; they just made things worse for him.
In contrast, when they were silent, that is what God praised. God commended the friend who just simply sat on the ash heap with Job. Whether someone is having trouble dealing with these murders, or anything deeply painful, we can be available to walk through it with them. We all need to become better ash heap sitters.
And we need to remember that any time we go through a painful situation, God is not only there, He was there ahead of us, waiting on us. And He'll sit on the ash heap with us.