Our church family has just experienced a tragedy. A family who is a close friend of many in our church just lost their dear teenage son to an accident this past weekend. There is a particular kind of shock, grief, anguish, and spiritual wrestling when this type of loss occurs. When a parent has to bury a child, where is the good in that? We need to surrender to the promises of God that he is in control and good at all times, but the answer is really more of a journey than a proposition. We do know that God uses these events for great good. Every believer who has the smallest sliver of gospel awareness has seen that in the past. The memorial yesterday was testament to that. This dear boy was a trophy of God’s grace. The service was a clear demonstration of and proclamation of the gospel. Many heard and were given opportunity to trust Jesus. There, right there, is a ray of goodness.
One of my partners in the gospel, Roddy Dinsmore, wrote a very helpful outline of how to wrestle well and minister well in these times. He gave me permission to post what he said to our youth families.
* Pray- Pray for the this family and pray for our students. My specific prayer during this time has been that God show himself to be the God we believe him to be, the God that the Bible claims he is- the God of all comfort. The family, our students, you and I need to experience God’s comfort.
* Listen, listen, listen- Our tendency as adults (especially for us men) can be to try to fix things, situations and people. As a rule of thumb, unless a teenager asks you for direct input, I encourage you to be slow to speak. Often what we need when grieving is to be heard and to be loved.
* Encourage weakness- Often our response to tragedy is to try and be strong. Remember that Christ’s strength is made perfect (complete, lacking nothing) in our weakness. I learned this first hand after losing my brother. Parents- be weak with and for your students and model your dependency on Jesus!
* Give our youth space- Give them space to grieve and to not grieve. We all grieve differently (some with many tears, other with none) and we need to respect each other’s grieving process. Is it ok to not cry? Yes. Is it ok to cry yourself to sleep? Yes. Don’t try and define how our youth should grieve, rather shepherd them through it.
* Don’t pretend to know what you don’t know- Why did God let this happen? Why [our friend]? Answer- I don’t know. We don’t know why God allowed this to happen. So, let’s not pretend like we do.
* Pray more, quote less- I am talking about Scripture- While we need to remind our youth (and each other) of the truths of God’s word, we also need to be sensitive in our doing of that. Quoting Romans 8:28 (And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose) to a grieving person is not very comforting. We believe that Scripture to be true (and it is) but I have not found it to be helpful to a person who is experiencing grief (especially early on). It is a hard one to swallow when the grieving person sees no good whatsoever in this. Pray for discernment in what to pray and what to say.
*Treasure, don’t trap- As a parents, we can have a tendency to treasure our kids more during times of tragedy. They remind us of the gift that our kids are to us. But it can also cause us to want to trap our kids- not want to leave them out of our sight- as if we could always prevent bad things from happening to our children. So, rather than treasuring and trapping, let’s recommit to treasuring these gifts from God and trusting Jesus with our children.
* What if my kids and I don’t know [this boy] and the [his family]- odds are, you know people who do. Your best support to the [the family] may be in supporting their friends. There are many people from our church who have been at the [family’s] supporting them, providing them with meals, etc… If you know someone who is doing that you may consider seeing what needs they may have. Many of you have texted me and have prayed for me while I minister to the [family]. Your support has been invaluable to me.