When we or those we love experience tragedy, we often find that we’re in a place with too much feeling and not enough words. No words to encompass the heartache, no words to lessen the burden of loss, no words to make someone feel better.
At the age of 27 I eulogized my dad. He had passed suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 60 and I was on the other end of a tragic phone call. I was at work at the time, and I just lost it. Like all out sobbing. I had no words to say. I found few words comforting.
Two years later, my wife and I found out we were expecting twin daughters. Again there are no words, but this time to accurately capture our excitement. We went to doctor’s appointments, and everything was going great. Then suddenly at 16 weeks something went wrong. And we cried. And we prayed. And we hoped for the best. Three weeks later, we found out we had lost our daughters to TTTS. There are words for a child who has lost both parents, for someone who has lost a spouse, but there are no words for someone who has lost their children.
In the absence of words, there are other needs we each have in the midst of tragedy.
We need to recognize tragedy. We tend to quantify or compare tragedies and suffering, whether something in our lives or halfway across the world. Oftentimes we don’t want to be a burden on others, and I think this is wrong. Pain is pain. Suffering is suffering. Tragedy is tragedy. I don’t care if it is an illness, the loss of a parent or child, the loss of a job, or whatever it might be, “big” or “small”, all pain and suffering matters and is significant.
We need the embrace of others. We need others to get in the trench with us and just sit. We might not feel like this always in those moments, but we absolutely do. It’s so easy for us to want to try to go it alone, but we were made for community. In the hardest points of our lives or when things in this world are just unsettling to our core, we need others.
We need Jesus. When tragedy hits in our lives, in the lives of others we know and around the world, it’s hard to understand why. When my dad died suddenly, it shook me and I just wanted to know why. I can’t speak for you, but I can speak for what I believe and what I have felt in the most tragic moments of my life.
In those hard times, I needed to be able to look to what is unseen in God instead of what I had no words for. As 2 Corinthians 4:18 says, God never promises an easier life to those who follow Jesus. He never says He won’t give us more than we can handle. In fact, I believe in these painful, raw, hurt-filled moments where we can no longer go on is where we actually realize we need God most. Eugene Peterson says, “Real faith is redefined in the fires and storms of pain.” And I’ve lived this to understand this quote. It’s been in my most tragic moments that I realized I needed Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God who has felt pain, suffering and tragedy in His life too.
Whatever you have gone through, are going through and will go through in life, know that your life matters, therefore your tragedies matter. And also remember in those moments that we need others and we need Jesus above all else.
By – Chris Hennessey
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