Some helpful hints in the face of tragedy


By Michelle Foster
Safe Sanctuaries

Hurricane Katrina … anniversary of Sept. 11 … the war in Iraq … killings in our community … suicides in our schools … divorce and death in our homes… 

The media are such a prominent part of our world. All the latest news and up-to-the-minute information is at our fingertips and in front of our eyes. Our hearts and minds are often overwhelmed with the human pain and tragedy that surround our world. How do we cope? How do we respond to the hurts of the world? Where do we find our strength and hope? How do we teach our children and teenagers to process the information that is pervading their world and their thoughts?   

It begins with acknowledgement. We need to acknowledge that within our world there is pain, brokenness and tragedy. We need to acknowledge that this pain causes hurt to our spirits, our minds and our bodies. Jesus, himself knew this pain. (see John 11:28-36). Jesus hurts and weeps for all of humanity whose lives are broken and hurting. In fact, there are numerous occasions within the gospels where Jesus responds with compassion toward those who were hungry, sick, grieving and diseased. 

We need to, as individuals, parents, and families, develop appropriate ways of coping with the constant infiltration of information that comes to us about the needs and hurts of the world. 

Some of these ways may include:
• Limiting exposure to the of media we receive. Turn off the TV, listen to a CD or tape, take a break from reading the newspaper, limit your child’s access to news magazines. 

• Engaging in conversations with others about what is happening in the world. Spend time discussing emotions being evoked and how events are affecting your daily routine. Talk with children and teenagers about what they understand about the situation. 

• Participating in some form of physical exercise. Physical activity often provides an outlet for processing all that is happening in our hearts and minds. It also enables us to cope better with the stresses of disaster, trauma and grief. Try a walk after supper, a pick-up game of soccer or volleyball, a bike ride. 

• Living in community. One of the ways that many people cope with hurt, brokenness and loss is to pull away from community and isolate themselves. Jesus Christ gave us the gift of community that we might have a place for care and support, love and accountability. Consider reading Acts 2:42-27. 

• Helping others. Often our burden is made lighter when we reach out and help relieve the burden of others. Consider offering yourself, your gifts and your resources to those in need.   

As we recognize and acknowledge the pain that exists, and find ways to cope appropriately, we also must find renewed strength and hope for the journey ahead. Read again Matthew 11:28-30 and 6:25-34. The Psalmist sums it up best when he proclaims “I love you, O Lord, my strength.  The Lord is my rock, my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised.” (Psalm 18)   

Our strength and hope comes from the Lord. We are reminded of God’s goodness and faithfulness to all the generations of the earth; we gather strength and live in renewed hope as we worship, share in Bible study, connect in prayer and live in community with one another.   

We cannot control all the tragedy that surrounds us. We can, however, choose to handle and respond to tragedy out of the faith and love that Christ gives to each of us.