Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Coping with Tragedy

For me personally, dealing with an event that is far away like the terror bombing in Boston always seems so surreal.  I was living in Georgia when the Oklahoma City bombing happened in 1995.  I still remember watching CNN and seeing the smoke rolling out of the large hole in the Murrah building.  It was real and yet not real at the same time.  I was so distant in geography - feeling that I couldn't do anything to help.  This inability to make a positive impact may be what made it seem somewhat unreal.  One coping mechanism most human beings use is to distance ourselves emotionally rather than face the grief.

As a person of action, when the tornado hit Piedmont two years ago, I stayed very busy and active in trying to help people put their lives back together.  What helped me to cope with the chaos was to help others cope with the chaos.  The helpless feeling when looking on our brothers and sisters in Boston is difficult.

With the mass shootings such as Columbine or Virginia Tech or Aurora, Colorado or Newtown, Connecticut, we mourn with the victims and grieve with their families.  The perpetrators of the violence are known almost immediately and we are soon given a portrait of them by the media.  We discover their mental illnesses and can put a label (madness) on why it happened.

In the hours following Oklahoma City or 9/11 however, we didn't know immediately the cause for such destruction.  Until we find out who did it, we fear that more attacks may occur.

Was this a Ted Kaczynski-type?  Or was it another Osama bin Laden?

I preached on injustice on Sunday as we looked at the plight of Joseph from Genesis 39 going from slavery to jail even though he didn't do anything wrong.  I'm sure that there were many times when Joseph asked God, "Why me, Lord?"  but the Bible doesn't reflect any soul-searching on his part.

What's clear is that God remains with Joseph in his plight.  It seems clear to me that Joseph's unjust slavery and imprisonment was not caused by God to somehow teach Joseph a lesson.  This doesn't mean that with God's help, Joseph didn't learn anything or didn't come out stronger because of it.

Whenever families go through tragedies such as this, sometimes they look for their own answers because it is
Martin Richard, 8, died in the bombing at the
Boston Marathon.  I look at my own 9 year old
son and my heart aches for his family.
so deeply personal for them. They do ask God, "Why me, Lord?"

It is not uncommon for parents to wonder if they are somehow being punished for their sins when faced with the loss of their children.  This is because we want to have some control over our lives. When children face terminal illness, parents will often seek to bargain with God for healing.  My response to the tornado was to get out and help which is compassionate and faithful but also a way to re-exert control over the chaos.  Similarly, a theological questioning may be a quest for answers - a quest to have some control over the chaos.

We used this prayer on Sunday.  It is written by Katye Fox, a 2000 Masters of Divinity graduate of the Candler School of Theology (my alma mater) and is based on Mark 4:35-41.  I pray that it would be helpful for those in Boston and anyone struggling with the chaos right now.

O Christ, Calmer of the Seas,
    You call us across to the other side.
    You call us to come and go with you
               even as the storms around us swell.
Cry out to the winds, “Be still.”
Cry out to us, “Peace.”
Do this, O Lord,
               so that we can safely arrive on others shores.
               so that we may find within you and within ourselves
                             reminders of the faith we so deeply need.
In your name, O Creator of the water and the wind. 

No comments:

Post a Comment