When Tragedy Strikes

2 Corinthians 1:3-7
3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

Early November brought us yet another massive tragedy in a world filled with violent actions against one another. I am not a person who cries easily (although I’m finding that changing as I grow older), but I was moved to weep the morning after this event as I listened to the reports from a very small town in Texas where a disturbed person shot up a church, killing 26 people who had simply gathered to worship God. As someone who has been closely associated with the church for my entire life, this was beyond anything I could imagine. And this is not the first church to see such violence in the last few years. There are even people out there who are discussing posting armed guards at the doors during worship! That idea takes my breath away. As I was praying for this little church and begging God for clarity, this passage from 2 Corinthians went through my mind over and over, demanding some thought and reflection. All I could think to ask of God was for comfort for so many people whose lives are devastated, who will not see their loved ones again this side of the veil. Only God could bring comfort in this circumstance.

Comfort is the key word in this section. It comes from a Greek word which has a broad range of meanings. It can mean to urge, to admonish, to exhort, to encourage, to counsel, to comfort. It is the word Jesus uses in the Gospel of John for the Holy Spirit, the “Paraclete,” that is, the Comforter or Counselor. Note the word all. God is the God of all comfort. All real comfort and encouragement comes from the “God who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all”. This comfort is there for every occasion. Paul doesn’t go into detail in these verses about how God will comfort us. He may rescue us from our troubles, give us strength to bear up under them, or point us to His promises in Scripture. In the last phrase of verse 4 Paul speaks of another significant way by which God’s comfort gets applied to God’s children. God comforts His children in all their troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
Valleskey, David. ©1992 The People’s Bible Commentary. St. Louis, MO. CPH.

After comfort, I begged God for peace – the kind that only He is able to bring; the peace that passes understanding. All we can do is hold each other and pray for His peace.

Philippians 4:7
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

John Flavel (17th Century pastor in England) said, “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.” One beneficial result of being confronted by impossible life situations is that they remind us of our need for more power in our lives than we are able to generate on our own. We need the power of the One for whom nothing is impossible. I confess to wanting justice for those whose lives have been taken and for their grieving families. And while we must seek God’s face for that miraculous peace and comfort, we must place the responsibility for justice in His hand as well. The psalms are rife with examples of God’s people asking for justice and letting Him own that responsibility.

Psalm 94:16-23
16Who rises up for me against the wicked? Who stands up for me against evildoers?
17If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.
18When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.
19When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.
20Can wicked rulers be allied with you, those who frame injustice by statute?
21They band together against the life of the righteous and condemn the innocent to death.
22But the Lord has become my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge.
23He will bring back on them their iniquity and wipe them out for their wickedness; the Lord our God will wipe them out.

There are no good answers for this type of event. Not a single one. But we can turn to God and let Him be our comfort, bring us His peace, and leave Him responsible for the justice. The Christ Child was born for such a purpose. Watching the survivors pray the next night helps me know that they are looking to Him – and really, there is nowhere else to look.