As I write this, the count is at 24. Monday, the town of Moore, Oklahoma and the surrounding community experienced one of the worst tornado outbreaks in US history. Entire neighborhoods of homes destroyed, loved ones lost, lives shattered.
Almost immediately, the outpouring of help, love and prayers came. The Red Cross, Samaritan's Purse, the Baptist Men and countless more organizations and individuals sped to the scene, are still there and will be there for weeks to come. They're serving food, hot coffee and helping victims pick through the rubble of their homes and lives to find that one heirloom or treasured item.
All of the residents have been affected on some level, some experienced minor damage, some major, some lost all they owned. The rest of us have been affected in other ways, through relatives and friends who live in the area or simply by seeing such horrific scenes in living color on HDTV.
For some though, the real treasures are gone. Some have lost the irreplaceable.
For some, loved ones have perished.
For some, those loved ones were children.
As I write, the count of children lost stands at 9.
It's hard work sorting through the destruction and rubble after a tornado, but that work is relatively easy when compared to the task of dealing with the realization that a loved one, especially a child, has been killed.
There are some wounds that leave scars. After the wound heals, the skin and area around the scar are never quite the same. After the wound heals, the area is more tender, more sensitive. Changed.
The are some scars, though, that never heal.
The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12 about a thorn in the flesh he was given by God in order to keep him from becoming boastful or conceited.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. -2 Corinthians 12:8-10
The unexpected and devastating loss of a child or loved one leaves a mark, a scar, which then becomes a thorn. A wound which never completely heals. It is always there. In the context of 2 Corinthians, it becomes a weakness.
Eventually, to the person carrying the wound of loss, it will become a reminder that God's grace is sufficient, that God's power is made perfect in weakness. It is a process to reach that place. Time and prayer are required to move towards that place of understanding and release.
For now, as someone who wants to help, the questions that may be swirling in your head probably sound something like this: "What do I do? How can I help? What can I say?"
Here's a short list of what to do to help someone on the worst day of their life:
- Nothing; just be there. Listen. Cry with them.
- “Can we pray together?”
- “What can I do?”
What NOT to say to someone on the worst day of their life:
- “It will be alright.”
Unless you are God, you don’t know that.
- “I know how you feel”, usually followed by your own story.
No you don’t, and they are not interested in your story right now.
- “Everything works in a pattern for good.”
They probably know Romans 8:28, but right now the pain to too great to affirm that truth. And the “good” may not be in this life, but will assuredly be in the next.
- "If you/they only had enough faith, the person would have been saved/this wouldn't have happened to you."
See the first one. And repent of your arrogance and cruelty.
What to say and what not to say adapted from a short devotion by Steve Biddison.
"Give me a stout heart to bear my own burdens. Give me a willing heart to bear the burdens of my brothers. Give me a believing heart to cast all burdens upon Thee, O Lord." - John Baillie on Galatians 6:1-5
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