Responses to Tragedy

No day goes by without TV, Internet, and Radio reporting tragedy. Not just one, but many. Over and over bad news so inundates us, that “news” takes on the definition = Bad News. As I write, one headline refers to Dylann Roof’s ability to obtain a gun because of a breakdown in the national background check system. That mistake led to the deaths of 9 worshippers in a South Carolina church. Another headline announces the resignation of the head of Office of Personnel Management (OPM), for the breach of records of 21.5 million government employees–the second such breach.

When we’re hit with a personal tragedy, what do we do? How do we respond? What can we say, do, feel, or think that makes any difference? The book of Job provides us a handy manual of disaster–and response. In Job’s responses to tragedy, evil inflicted on him through the agency of natural calamity (lightning storm, tornado) and through human actions (raiding bands from afar), we see some possible responses we also might take.

Our Response

1. Tough it out. “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. The name of the Lord be praised,” Job says (1:21 NIV). No sense complaining, just praise the Lord. He affirms this attitude in 2:10 in response to his wife’s chiding: “Shall we accept good from the hand of God, and not trouble?”(NIV) Come hell or high water, Job clings to his God. Nothing will shake him. We sing that song, “Blessed Be The Name Of The Lord” with the words of Job’s firm trust in God in spite of disaster. One man I know is right there. Quoting those words, to trouble in his life, he’s resigned to God. Maybe you, too, swallow your pain, or trust God in spite of it. That was Job’s first response, but it wasn’t Job’s only response.

2. I quit. I want out of here, out of this life of suffering, loss, and emotional pain. Just one chapter later (3), Job is no longer resigned. He can’t say it enough ways: Death is the only answer. “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?” he says (3:11 NIV). Longing to having been stillborn, he would have been spared the agony of loss he now feels.  I know of young people through the Internet who struggle against self-destructive tendencies all the time. Some, unfortunately, cut themselves to relieve their psychic pain, and, perhaps voice their cry of despair. They signal their need for help. These young people, alienated from their family, friends, and themselves, hate life. They take it out on themselves. Maybe you also despair of life and the suffering it has brought.

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(More) Positive responses

After Chapter 3, Job’s responses begin to turn more positive. He develops, for example, a plan. We’ll look at those next week. Having faced despair, maybe they’ll give us some clues as to other ways we might also respond.

[Photo credit: simple.wikipedia.org]

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About Gordon Grose

Gordon Grose loves most to write, speak, and preach on the message of hope from the book of Job. Using drama, video, and PowerPoint, he has preached and presented this message of hope to churches around the country. Grose pastored three congregations 25 years, then served 12 years as a pastoral counselor in a Portland, Oregon counseling clinic. He now serves with Good Samaritan Counseling Services, Beaverton, OR. A graduate of Wheaton College (IL), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Brandeis University, and Boston University, he comes from a rich and varied background in theological and counseling training. In 2015, Gordon published Tragedy Transformed: How Job's Recovery Can Provide Hope For Yours, a book about turning to Job for hope after tragedy. If you have experienced life challenges or personal tragedy, visit his Transforming Tragedy (gordongrose.com) blog to learn more. TragedyTransformed.com provides a sample of Gordon's speaking as well as an opportunity to purchase copies of his book.
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