Sunday afternoon, our family sat quietly at a piano recital listening to children play the pieces they had worked so hard on for so long. Rumbles of thunder echoed across the sky. Sitting in a small church on this dreary, drizzly day listening to the sweet songs of children’s fingers dance with piano keys was soothing and restful…until…
The piano teacher introduced a young man who was about to play. However, he wanted his performance to be dedicated to his friend, a fellow piano student, who would not be playing that day.
She suffered a tragic accident the day before. Sleeping on the top bunk of her bunk beds, with no railing, she fell from the top bunk in her sleep. She suffered several breaks in her back.
As the teacher told us this, with stained glass illuminating what sun was trying to peek through and kneeling prayer pads tucked underneath the chairs, my sleepy daze was shaken. It was as though I could hear the thud and screams of that terrified little girl. The cries and panic of the parents. The wail of the ambulance and hustling of the family at 2 a.m. to gather their things to leave for the hospital. As a mom, my hearts breaks and I pray, but still my heart is traumatized by something I neither witnessed or ever met this precious little girl now in the hospital.
Monday morning, reading the local paper, a photo of a teenager in a wheelchair caught my attention. He is 17, and only 1 1/2 years ago found out he has leukemia. One minute life is normal, the next the school nurse calls his dad and says something is wrong. Now, having been through this nightmare for 18 months, he says he feels forgotten by his peers. He says he doesn’t want to fight. How it tears apart his parents to not be able to heal him, help him, give their hope to him. How emotions must rage in their hearts to know their son feels forgotten. I am broken for this young man, unrecognizable by his classmates because of chemo and the battering of his body by leukemia. As a mom, my hearts breaks for him and his family and all families suffering the plight of cancer.
Then later Monday came news of little lives are lost in a massive tornado. No one knew when waking up and getting ready for school that for many families, this day will tear their hearts apart forever. Innocence swept away with homes. Hope crushed beneath the rubble that buries their young lives. What mind can conceive of the devastation let alone the fact that many will never do life with their loved ones again – this side of heaven for those who follow Christ. The pictures, the stories, the videos. It’s too much.
Boston was too much.
China’s earthquake was too much.
Sri Lanka’s building collapse was too much.
We barely have time to catch our breath in between catastrophes. We still replay the bombs blowing up at finish line; the elderly sitting in the middle of ruin that used to be their home; the photo of a couple embraced to their death in the fallen building, and now haunting images from Oklahoma sweep us up in their wake and we find no relief. No answers. No reason. No breath.
We barely breathe in between tragedies, and in the middle of our hearts breaking for people we’ve never met, somewhere in the deepest of hearts we wonder if our families are next. What will be the next act of horror? It just doesn’t stop, like rolls of the tide, it comes and comes and comes.
We are at a loss for words. What do you say to parents who suffer unfathomable loss of their children? How do we console what is inconsolable? How do we help put hearts back together that are scattered among the rubble of what used to be neighborhoods and schools and community?
There are no words.
I know there are no words. I lived through a different kind of storm, but one that took everyone I loved and everything I owned. As a survivor, there is a sense of responsibility to go back and sift through the wreckage of lives – be it from a storm, a collapsed building, an earthquake, cancer or a bunk bed.
But what do we say? There are no words.
It’s not so much what we say, it’s what we do. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says it best,
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
It’s what we have to give. We can give our money, time, energy and words of encouragement. Those are a huge help. But, the everlasting help we can offer is to share the comfort we ourselves have received from God. It’s in our prayers, an arm around their shoulders, an ear to listen, a heart to cry with, a shoulder to lean on. Comfort is action.
That means with audacious prayer we stand in the gap for those hurting because not only do we know suffering, but we know that God brought us through it and He can do the same for them. We can call upon Him on their behalf, because we know He did not leave us in our darkest times and He will not leave them.
There are many kinds of storms. Some hit hard and fast and leave as swiftly as they come. Some last days, weeks, months in illness. Some last years for those trapped in human trafficking. With every type of storm that rages, suffering is something that we have in common without regard to race, ethnicity, creed or lifestyle. Compassion and comfort is something all of us can give to help.
There are no magical words to take the pain away. But, there is comfort that we have received and can share to help them through their storm. Comfort that allows the hurting, panic-stricken, grieving, those barely surviving to catch their breath – until the storm has passed.