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.