Teaching children how to comfort the afflicted
Years ago when my son, buy order Brodie, purchase was 10 years old, he lost a friend in a car accident. It happened right after a soccer game on a beautiful 4th of July weekend. Greg was tragically struck while riding his bike. When Brodie attended the funeral, he, at first, did not know what to say, nor was how to act for losing a friend a new experience for him. He was very quiet during the entire funeral as were many of Greg’s teammates. Only at the end when he walked away from the graveside, did he and many of the other boys burst into tears. I believe they all finally realized what had happened to their teammate. Many wonderful words of sympathy were cited that day, but the tears and shared grief from those boys spoke loudest to the stricken family. It was the comfort they needed most.
The terrorists attack on the United States this last week (September 11th) and the ensuing devastation has shocked us all, but the grief it caused the stricken families is more than anyone can bear. Aside from our own feelings of anger, revenge, and sadness, these families deserve the best medicine we can give them. And that is our corporate heartfelt grief. It is not so important for these families that we identify and punish the terrorists who inflicted such pain. Nor does it matter to the families that we will now take any and all measures to keep this from happening again. Revenge and new safety measures may be appropriate, but these alone will not bring comfort to them. Corporate and expressed grief is the salve that will strengthen them through the despair of losing a loved one.
Jesus wonderfully modeled how to meet the immediate needs of the grief stricken. He demonstrated it best when he lost Lazareth, his friend. Even though Jesus fully knew the outcome of Lazareth’s life here on earth, grief overtook Him when he reached Lazareth’s sisters, Mary and Martha (John 11:32-33, 35). A deeper study of the passage actually describes Jesus’ reaction as “shaking in grief” when talking with the sisters. He cried openly, as many of the stricken families did this last week. Of course Jesus could have preached a sermon to Mary and Martha on God’s sovereign will in the midst of tragedy (Romans 8:28). He could have told them that the author of death, Satan, would one day eternally receive the consequences of his actions. (Rev. 20:10). Jesus could have told them to put their trials behind them, have faith, and move on to do God’s will (Philippians 3:13-14). He could have easily challenged Mary and Martha to count it all joy when they encounter various trials and tribulations (James 1:2-3). But Jesus chose none of these great counsels as His first response to the heartbreak of Mary and Martha
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. He just openly shared His grief. God has not changed. The minute those innocent loved ones perished last week, God cried big tears with their families. And that is our ministry as well. We are Christ’s healing ambassadors on earth, and we must respond as He did and would.
The purpose of this Teachable Moment is to instruct and model for your child how to respond to the tragedy of others. A quick answer or “let’s move beyond this” remedy is often not the best medicine for a hurting family, even if it is rooted in the Word. The pattern Jesus modeled with Mary and Martha is the example to follow to meet the needs of someone who is deeply hurt. In response to this, call your pastor and ask him if there is anyone , injured, or grieving who needs to be visited. Volunteer and include your entire family in this ministry visit. Before your visit, read and review what Jesus did in John 11. Note and highlight how Jesus sympathized with Mary and Martha. When you arrive, have your entire family pray for the one who is hurting. Before you depart, leave a card of caring words written by each family member. When you return home, talk about your experience. Discuss how you might follow up with the person you visited. Then spend some time with your family praying for those who lost loved ones this last week in the terrorist attacks that leveled the World Trade Center, damaged the Pentagon, and downed an airliner over Pennsylvania. If you know any of the victims, write their families letters expressing your sorrow. Discuss with your family what you might do further for them to lighten their load.
John 11: 32-33, 35 32 Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled. 35 Jesus wept.
Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Rev. 20:10 And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Philippians 3: 13-14 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
James 1: 2-3 2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
A great book to consider reading during this time is: “Where is God When It Hurts” by Phillip Yancy.