Lenyia dies in our own backyard.
Further away, 21 people died in a senseless act of violence in Uvalde, Texas.
Even more removed (and yet feeling so close), the conflict in Ukraine continues.
In our own families and homes - tragedy is all around us.
How do you make sense of so many horrific, unthinkable, and evil things that are beyond your control?
We have three options:
Let’s be honest, denial doesn’t work. As painful as it is to acknowledge reality, we cannot wish it away. Reality is always waiting to greet us.
Playing the blame game feels good at the moment. Too often, tragedy is complex and abstract. In the short term, directing blame toward someone or something directs our thoughts and feelings toward something concrete. However, like denial, assigning blame doesn’t change reality. In fact, in the long run, blame often makes matters worse.
In the end, by denying reality or playing the blame game, we become our own gods - ultimate arbitrators of what happened, why it happened, and what should happen next.
For me, a pastor, leader, and shepherd, trauma and tragedy have become common experiences. Most of the time we assume that God is absent in these moments. However, I have learned that it’s in these sacred and difficult spaces, God is most present.
As a result, I have learned to keep three words in mind when tragedy strikes: Let’s grieve well. And here’s why…
We are human - made in God’s image, with all of our emotions, intellect, and person-hood. That’s how God made us. We hurt because God hurts. Our hearts break because God’s heart breaks.
Let’s not forget that Jesus is human, too. He hurts. His heart breaks.
Jesus shows us how to grieve well. With his heart in pieces, He doesn’t choose to deny reality. He doesn’t choose to shift blame. Jesus cries at death. He mourns the loss of friends. He laments how the world seems unfair (because it is). He accepts the reality of a crass, cold, and chaotic world that is spinning deeper into darkness. And then, Jesus owns his grieving as he hangs onto every one of God’s promises through temptations, uncertainty, and even death itself.
So friends - as we continue to pray for Lenyia’s family and friends… as we move from shock to sadness over the Uvalde tragedy… as we continue to see events in Central Europe unfold… and so much more in our own lives… remember these three words: let’s grieve well.
After all, we do believe in resurrection which follows tragedy. And resurrection always leads us back to Jesus.
Meet Pastor Tim
Tim Bayer has served as Our Savior's Lead Pastor since September 2019. He also serves as an Adjunct Instructor at Concordia University - Irvine, a National Leadership Facilitator and Resource, and a Community Mental Health First Aid Instructor.