I’ll never forget the moment when Pastor Matt burst through my office saying, “Greg, we’ve got to go! There’s an active shooter down the street at our local grocery store.”
The first question I asked was, “Are they detained?” To which he responded, “Don’t know. Let’s go serve our city!”
When we got there, we were met with confused, hurting, and disorientated people. Twelve people had been shot and severely injured, and one person had been killed. Employees and shoppers were running out of the grocery store filled with fear and panic.
As Pastor Matt and I went person to person, we held the trembling hands of so many people with tears in their eyes as they asked one question: “Why?”
It was the first time an event like this had ever happened in our city. Our chief of police named it “the most horrific event that has occurred in Collierville history.” This is a tragedy that has forever changed the lives of many individuals and families.
In response to an event like this, many questions arise. One of them is, “How do I love those who are confronted with a tragedy such as this?”
Christians need to be prepared to serve those who are suffering, lest we risk being unhelpful, uncaring, or unresponsive.
Looking to God’s Word, here are three practical steps that Christians can take to love those who are facing tragedy.
First, We Must Hear.
Our God is a hearing God.
Psalm 18:6 says, “In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.”
The Bible tells us that our cries do not go into an empty void. On the contrary, God hears our cries! They ascend to His throne. They fill His ears.
This means that when we fail to listen to the cries of others, we fail to demonstrate the very nature of who God is.
In all that we do, we want to point to our great God and communicate who He is in truth. We often forget that listening is one of the most powerful forms of communication.
When we listen to the hurting, we communicate who the true and living God is. He is the God who sees our suffering. He is the God who hears our cries.
Second, We Must Hold.
Our God is a God who draws near.
Psalm 145:18 promises, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”
According to this passage, we do not have a God who is far off from people and their suffering. Rather, we worship a God who draws near to those who call upon Him in truth!
This is profoundly displayed in the incarnation. In response to humanity’s sin and suffering, God did not retreat from our plight and pain. He stepped into it. God became man, and by doing so, He drew near to us to suffer as us and for us. He is the one who suffered as we do, yet He was without sin.
When we draw near to those suffering, to embrace them and mourn with them, we communicate who God is: the God who draws near to those who call on Him in truth.
Lastly, We Must Herald.
Our God is not a silent God. He is not a God who has nothing to say in response to trials. He is one who speaks, and His very words are words of life. Because God speaks, we must speak.
But we must be careful in how we speak. We must be slow to speak; and, when we do speak, our speech must be seasoned with grace. Our words also must not be worldly. Rather, they must be true to Scripture.
Psalm 12:6 says, “The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.”
When someone is suffering, the purpose of speaking is not to fix them. It’s to fixate their heart on the hope of the gospel.
Every mess is a message, a message that this world is under the curse of sin and in desperate need of redemption. And the good news is: Jesus Christ provides this redemption.
In love, the eternal Son of God became a man. Jesus lived in complete righteousness, died on the cross to take the penalty for our unrighteousness, and rose from the grave to forever proclaim His victory over death.
Because Jesus lives and is coming back again, there is coming a day when there will be no more murders, no more abuse, no more trembling hands, no more trauma-induced nightmares, no more crime scenes, no more tear-filled eyes, no more natural disasters, no more health failures, no more sudden deaths, no more sin, and no more suffering.
Redemptive history doesn’t conclude with trials. It concludes with triumph. Jesus Himself comforts us with this hope: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
The light of Christ will shine away all darkness. In response to this good news, we must repent of our sins and put our hope in Him alone. We must turn to Christ, the only one who calls us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
One day Jesus will turn all of our sorrow into joy. Because of this promise, even in the midst of our suffering, there is peace, comfort, and hope for today.
When we biblically love those who suffer, we ultimately communicate who God is: the God who hears, the God who holds, and the God who heralds.
May we be faithful to love those who are hurting just as God has loved us.