Reacting to tragedy

I was struck this weekend by how people reacted to tragedy in the movie We are Marshall.

The movie tells the true story of a small U.S. university struggling with the death of their entire football team and many supporters in a 1971 air crash.

The university leaders initially decided they would not continue with the football program for the time being at least.  The chairman of the board’s son was the star quarterback and he was one of those who died.  He was adamant that the program not be resurrected.  In his view, it would be an offense to those who died and tough on their families.

But one of the surviving football players, who had been injured and didn’t make the flight, organized a student demonstration demanding that the football program continue.  He felt that life must go on and the football team was important for morale in the school and the community.

Eventually, the school president agreed and hired a coaching staff.  One of the coaches had been an assistant on the team that was destroyed in the crash.  He had been left behind to do some scouting and was completely traumatized by the crash.  He only reluctantly agreed to return.

The head coach was a man who seemed to believe that the football team was great therapy for the grieving community.

Different approaches to the same tragedy.  Which is right?  Which is the Christian approach?

In thinking about this, I go back to Jesus’ death on the cross and I recall how Peter and the other disciples and Mary Magdalene and the other women were in the depths of despair.  They did not understand why Jesus had died any better than the Marshall community understood why their team was destroyed.

So, as Christians, we are likely to be as confused as anyone else when tragedy strikes.  And we will grieve.

The question we need to ask ourselves is: When do we move on?  Do we blame God or other people?  Do we nurse our grief – and maybe anger – indefinitely?

In Jesus’ case, he rose from the dead and there was great joy among his friends.  Tragedies in our lives seldom turn out that well.

But the Bible does point to a great truth for believers – we will find healing for our spirits in God.  In speaking of the great tribulation in Revelation 7:17, the apostle John writes that God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Death stalked the early believers, but they did not stop talking about their Lord.  They continued on.  They knew they were going to a better place and they wanted to bring as many people along with them as they could.  They preached hope.


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