Monday, November 14, 2016

How to help others deal with tragedy...

Karen Blixen penned the quote, “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.”

If I have ever read an absolutely poignant quote about youth leadership, this would be it. Long rides on charter busses, late nights on retreats, and loving dedication at the cost of everything - youth leaders give it all for the sake of their youth. Each moment spent with them melts those youth into your everyday thoughts, prayers, and life. However, if you have served for anything over thirty days, you know that ministry is like the old Maze lyrics, "Where there's a flower there's the sun and the rain - Oh and it's wonderful they're both one in the same”. 

The fruit of your ministry is the result of good and bad days.

The apostle Paul puts it this way, “And we know that God causes everything to work together[a] for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28)

In my initial years of ministry I became very close to a set of twins - a brother and sister. I was at their first days of high school, I saw them through ups and downs in their family, traveled with them, ate at their home, taught them how to drive, and even witnessed them graduate valedictorian and salutatorian of their high school. 

Two years in to their college years, tragedy struck. While the twin brother was driving to his university with his twin sister and mother in the vehicle, something occurred. The vehicle flipped multiple times and ejected them onto the side of the highway. The mom sustained minor injuries but the twins were severely hurt. 

I remember hearing the news and immediately making the road trip to see them in the hospital. I hated seeing those two with tubes and monitors connected to them. I knew prayer worked but I was also very afraid. The following Sunday, I explained to the youth membership how tragic the accident was while keeping a straight face and forcing a smile. All the while, my heart was fearful and hurting. 

I assumed the kids needed to see their leader as a pillar of strength not a pile of emotion

Then Jesus wept. The people who were standing nearby said, ‘See how much he loved him!’’ (John 11:35,36 NLT)

The twins stayed in the hospital a while. While the health of one progressed, unfortunately, the other twin’s health deteriorated and she ultimately died. The news of her death hit me like a Mike Tyson upper cut. At the funeral, I reminded myself that the teens needed to see a strong leader. God reminded me that strength is transparency.

Before I spoke to a sanctuary filled with tearful teenagers and loving family members, I wept openly

People grow from what they are taught as well as what they experience. I can only imagine the thoughts Jesus had as He traveled to meet his dying friend. This wasn’t just any individual. He was like family. Family isn't necessarily related by blood. The tonnage of Jesus’ thoughts, memories, and decisions weighed more than the residual sand carried from each step pressed into His journey. Jesus arrived and already knew - His friend Lazarus was dead. Did Jesus hold back the tears, did He smear on a smile as He approached the grave, or did He choose to visibly display His innermost emotions?

Jesus wept.

I am challenging you to consider the transparency and patience of Jesus.

People need to know that it is ok to cry. It is ok to be hurt, angry, frustrated, or even uncertain how to feel. Just don’t sin (Ephesians 4:26). When we are transparent we subsequently affirm others to be transparent during tragedy - and that’s when healing begins.  When your friends and family experience tragedy, allow them to explain exactly how they feel without judgment. 

This isn’t your time to criticize - it is your turn to care.

After they have admitted all of their feelings, strategically walk them through scripture for personal healing, emotional stability, and positive choices. Here are a few of my favorites:

Matthew 11:28
John 9:1-3
Romans 8:38
Romans 8:18
Philippians 4:6-7

The sun is coming out. Until then, remind someone that the SON of God still cares!