From Pastor Brady
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 1 Peter 1:6
One of the things that the Christian gospel makes possible, if not necessary, is the co-mingling of grief and joy. We tend to think of these two emotions as opposites that cause each other to increase and decrease: if I increase in joy, my grief must be decreasing and vice versa. But the truth is that both joy and grief are to be ever present emotions for the Christian.
Processing joy this way is not that hard. Yes Christians are supposed to be joy filled. But are we also supposed to be grief filled? Isn’t grief a sign of a lack of faith? Isn’t the presence of grief the necessary absence of Joy? No.
In fact grief never stops. It is not something we get over. The five stage grief cycle isn’t actually true. We don’t find healing in “acceptance”. Grief is part of the human condition. We are all constantly grieving something: a death, a loss of a job, a broken dream, a break-up, a failed test, a disappointment.
We stay busy to avoid grief. We tell ourselves everything is fine. We believe grief is not dignified. We live under the great delusion that we can figure it all out on our own. That we don’t actually need a savior. That we don’t actually need a cross.
And then something so horrific and tragic like the Orlando shootings occurs. And we begin to search for answers, or we ignore it so that we don’t have to grieve it. And the greeting card answers won’t work here. We can’t just say, “God is in control” and move on. And we dare not say “they had it coming because of their sinful lifestyle.” If that were the case, how would we explain a mass shooting inside of a church during a prayer meeting? Or an Amish school house full of children? Or an elementary school? Every life is valuable. Every person an image bearer.
These tragedies remind us that there is no magic stairway out of suffering. God does not eject us from the path of pain. Instead God descends down into suffering to meet us there. He walks the path with us and for us. He grieves with us. Alongside us. As one of us. And this is what Christians must do. We must grieve with those who grieve. If we refuse, for whatever reason, we forfeit not only our Christian witness, but also a piece of our humanity.
As Christians our response to the tragedy in Orlando is not to be one of explaining it or justifying it. Nor should we be looking for justification of our view of what happened. Our response should be pure and simple grief. Weeping with those who weep. Bringing light and healing to a dark place. I beg you, avoid arguments about why this happened. There will be time for those conversations later. Don’t set aside your humanity or your Christian love to indulge the temptation to promote your point of view.
Rather point others to the grace of Jesus. Grace is the only thing more powerful than the broken heart. If Jesus were in Orlando where would he be? Would he be on the news or social media making statements about the evils of terrorism, or the failure of government to enact stricter gun control, or reminding us that the gay community is living in sin?
I would like to believe that Jesus would be weeping alongside the desperate and hurting. That he would be among them, holding and supporting those whose grief keeps them from moving. He would be loving each and every family member affected. And he would show us that he did not come to earth to remove us out of the suffering, but to save us through the suffering. He would remind everyone that he is the resurrection and the life for all who believe. He would ask us to believe this. Do you believe this?
We are not physically in Orlando, but its effect is far reaching. Pray for Orlando. Pray for the families that lost sons and daughters, friends and loved ones. Pray for the Islamic and Gay communities. Pray that all affected would find in the life of Jesus ultimate hope. Because that is what is at stake; ultimate hope.
This is not a terrorism issue or a gay issue. It is a sin and hopelessness issue. A young man found his hope in jihad, hatred, and violence. And that should break our hearts, no matter who the victims were. May we, by the grace of God, be messengers of hope in these dark times as we grieve alongside those who sorrow. May we share the hope of the resurrection made possible through faith in the life and death of Jesus.