Tragedy

tragedy

This tragedies of this past weekend had me reflecting on how much pain there is in the world. Sadness and brokenness is an everyday occurrence. My students feel the weight of that. Many have questions, sometimes I don’t have answers, they wrestle with their faith in these times more than usual. As someone working with students we need to mourn with our students, demonstrate our faith in the midst of suffering and help students think bigger than themselves.

I always hated when something terrible happened someone would say something like, “God works in mysterious ways,” or “His ways are higher than our ways.” Those words, in the midst of tragedy, hold no comfort to me. We must mourn and lament in those moments. Cry out to God in our frustrations at the hurt and injustice we see in the world. We can echo the cry of Habakkuk:

God, how long do I have to cry out for help
before you listen?
How many times do I have to yell, “Help! Murder! Police!”
before you come to the rescue?
Why do you force me to look at evil,
stare trouble in the face day after day?
Anarchy and violence break out,
quarrels and fights all over the place.
Law and order fall to pieces.
Justice is a joke.
The wicked have the righteous hamstrung
and stand justice on its head

In the moments of tragedy we can show what it looks like to mourn and grieve to our students. We can listen to their concerns and thoughts. We can sit for a moment and listen to them rail against God and the supposed injustice. We can cry with them. Pray with them. We can sit with them and weep together.

Like the prophet Habakkuk, we can show students what faith in God looks like in these moments. Habakkuk reflects on the things about to befall Israel and what God has been teaching him and says this in chapter 3:

Though the cherry trees don’t blossom
and the strawberries don’t ripen,
Though the apples are worm-eaten
and the wheat fields stunted,
Though the sheep pens are sheepless
and the cattle barns empty,
I’m singing joyful praise to God.
I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God.
Counting on God’s Rule to prevail,
I take heart and gain strength.
I run like a deer.
I feel like I’m king of the mountain!

For Habakkuk it doesn’t look good and it doesn’t look like it will get better anytime soon. Yet, like Habakkuk, we must pursue God. We push close to God with our students during these times. The norm is to run from God, to blame God, and to question Him. God mourns with us. He is saddened at the brokenness of this world. We can show our students the resiliency of faith in the moments of hardship. Read Hebrews 11 with them. Sing and worship with them. Remind them of how God has shown up for them in the past and how He is moving in their lives. We may not have the answers for students, but we can point them to Jesus.

Encouraging students to participate in giving aid is a great way to connect their faith with action. Help fundraise, donate money, or help a family who has lost a loved one. Often students are willing to help, they just need a way too. Give them a way to help during the current difficulties. Follow up throughout the year to find ways for them to help in other areas of need.

Giving students an opportunity to help, show them faith in the midst of the pain and mourning with students is how we can respond in moments of tragedy. This world is hurting, God mourns with us.

Expectations

In an old friends pregnancy announcement they praised how excited they were for having a baby boy and couldn’t wait for him to be a star athlete. I could imagine the expectation of a room full of trophies and daily sports games. It started me thinking (which has proven to be dangerous) whether this was a smart move, or just one made in excitement. I have seen many parents and their students differ in their expectations of what niche they would fit into. What if a child didn’t want to play sports, would a parent force them into it? Would a parent rob a child of joy because the child would rather read or be creative than do something the parent once did? I am not a parent, but I have seen a lot of this tension play out throughout my life experiences. Here are some thoughts on the expectations we put on kids.

Discovery

Allowing a child room to figure it out, and being a person who can help guide that is important. I hope kids can try a bunch of activities and learn from those experiences. Kids get to discover for themselves what they enjoy and like. They begin to learn new skills and develop their personalities. Allowing them to try things gives them a chance to see it for themselves. We should, however, also create a sense of commitment in them to stick with something that they do enjoy. This should come naturally if they enjoy it. Get their curiosity going, help to see and try new things.

Safety

As adults we should create a safe environment for kids to be themselves. When we coerce or force a kid into do something they don’t like it frustrations rise on both fronts. There can be an unhealthy expectation on kids to do a certain thing which when they don’t like it leads to frustration and disappointment from the adults. From the kids it creates a tension that can destroy trust and connections with adults. This safety helps kids to try and fail and try and succeed until they discover something that makes them come alive.

Passion

Be a champion for kids in whatever fills them with joy. If it is being creative, or band, reading or sports be a kids cheerleader in whatever they are doing. Create an environment that encourages them and creates a passion behind what they are doing. Let their passions become your passions. You will connect so much better when you share this with them. Encourage them to be the best they can be in this area. If it is drawing, ask them to see some work and help them to learn more. If it is sports, cheer them on, teach them new skills, and ask them questions about it.

In giving kids a safe environment where they can discover their passions they will flourish. We begin to see kids for who they are, not who we believe they should be. In families, and in our ministries, we should strive to help kids discover the unique individual God has created them to be. Even if it doesn’t fit our molds.