Yesterday morning, like you, I woke up to numbingly tragic news.
As I absorbed the information, now pouring in from everywhere, I tried to find a context for my feelings. That effort led me into how I have felt in other tragedies, like the September 11th attacks, the Haiti earthquake, the Columbine shooting, the AIDS pandemic, and the Ethiopian orphan crisis. I have felt all of those deeply. I also thought of the lesser known tragedies, that by scale feel less tragic, but in proximity hit close to home. My friends who have died, the unnamed young man murdered last year just a stone’s throw from my office, the mentally disabled woman who I know is being trafficked that used to sleep on Summit’s property, and the list goes on.
It doesn’t take much to become steeped in both specific grief for the atrocities of the weekend and the general grief that comes with a heightened sensitivity to the brokenness of the world.
The question is, what do we do with that sense of brokenness? What do we do with our questions? What are we supposed to feel?
I don’t have all the answers and likely not all of my answers are right or complete, but here are a few things that have been helpful to me:
- The world today is just as broken as the world was on Friday and as it was 3,000 years ago. While circumstances change, the basic condition of the world is remarkably consistent. We live in a broken world and we need a Savior. The world didn’t break more yesterday, we just feel the brokenness more acutely. That increased sensitivity is a good thing. Generally, left to my own devices, I don’t default to deep empathy or compassion. I need to cultivate a heart that cares for the things God cares about, because I don’t get that way by accident. The world hasn’t changed, but I have. My senses are fully attuned to brokenness and I am responsible for how I use that awareness to be a conduit of comfort and grace in a world that desperately needs it.
- We all have questions — about ourselves, about God, and about the world. Questions are not the enemy of our faith, nor is God unaware of our questions. It is okay to ask our questions, just as it is okay to express doubt. Some of our questions, especially the ones that seek to understand the ways of God, may not be answered or answered in a way we like. In my first run-in with real grief, I pleaded with mournful abandon for God to heal. That healing never came, and I was left to decide if I would trust that God would be true to His character, even in pain and loss. Our questions only become a problem if we use them to hide from Jesus rather than use them to draw close to Him.
- I am the least qualified person, maybe ever, to give counsel on how to feel. However, I have had some run-ins with feelings over the years and have learned that I have very little control over what I feel, or when I feel it. I do, however, have control or responsibility for what I do with my feelings. In the last 24 hours I have felt sadness, fear, apathy, confusion, anger, more sadness. Some of those feelings have piled up while others have demanded my full attention. All of them are real but none of them fully define reality. God gave us the ability to feel emotion and I can only assume it is part of what makes us His image-bearers. Our feelings, if properly regarded, are not to be feared or avoided. Rather, they can help us connect with those God has given us to love, they can draw us close to our Savior, and can fuel our passion to be a part of seeing God’s love brought to bear in a world that is in desperate need of a Savior.
Finally, as we navigate how to love those in Orlando who are suffering most acutely the loss of loved ones, I would suggest looking to Jesus’ example in Mark 2:15-17 for how we respond:
"While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'"
Jesus, by choice, spent time with those considered most on the outside by the religious elite. It is unfortunate that the cultural message of our day is that the religious elite considers the LGBTQ community to be most on the outside, which simply isn’t true because with Jesus there is no outside as we are all sinners. We have the opportunity, in walking in Jesus’ footsteps, to draw close to those in that community and their loved ones.
Our goal in that is to be tangible expressions of God’s love through how we empathize with the grieving and offer comfort to those who mourn. So let us, as a community, come together to share and show the love of Jesus with our city and everyone in it.
Care & Support
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A letter from Family Ministry Director, Tracy Beeson.