Keeping Tragedy in Perspective

From musaeum via Flickr. A wall containing the names of 5000 children who died in collapsed schoolhouses.
From musaeum via Flickr. A wall containing the names of over 5000 children who died in collapsed schoolhouses, the victims of an earthquake.

Laughter can conceal a heavy heart,
    but when the laughter ends, the grief remains.
Proverbs 14:13 (NLT)

We witnessed a lot of tragedy in the past week. In the U.S., we were bombarded with non-stop coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three and injured over a hundred victims. I found it interesting (and sad) that a factory explosion in West Texas received far less news coverage given that it killed and injured more people (many of them valiant first responders), and displaced many people out of their homes. I wonder if it won’t have far more devastating effect on the a small town than what will ultimately be experienced by the city of Boston. Of course, these two events hit close to home which is why they were on our televisions non-stop, but I couldn’t help putting these two events into perspective with a whole series of bombings that killed and injured far more people in Iraq last week. There was also an earthquake in China that killed two hundred and left 11,000 people without homes.

Isn’t it interesting what media chooses to report, what we choose to watch and feel, and what we choose to ignore. I’m not making judgements. I’m just pondering the facts and trying to figure out what they mean for me.

I have come to realize, and over the past few years I’ve come to appreciate, that most people’s smiling faces conceal heavy hearts. The heaviness could be the result of lost loved ones, broken relationships, miscarriages, the invisible scars of various kinds of abuse, personal tragedies, and grave injustices. In each case, a person will get on with life, or at least make an attempt of doing so. We eventually get back to the daily grind. We will go out on the weekend, have a good time, and laugh with our friends. Still, the grief does not disappear.

God’s message reminds us again and again that life will be full of tragedy. We shouldn’t be surprised by this, nor should we expect anything different. We live in a fallen world and it is ludicrous to expect that we will escape without experiencing trials and tragedies of many kinds. The question is not “if” we will experience grief, but when we will experience it and how we will respond. When we respond well, the process of working through the pain and grief generally results in depths of character, wisdom and perspective we would not otherwise achieve. God even tells us that He will use these tragic experiences to mature us and complete us. If we don’t respond well, it may bring our journey to a virtual stand still and throw us into a perpetual loop in which we are constantly moving but never advancing.

I do not want to make light of the tragedies we’ve witnessed in the past week, but I also don’t feel it important for me to go overboard in my reaction and response. I’m simply trying to keep things in perspective as I cover my own heavy heart with a joyful face and advance into another day, and another work week of the journey.

3 thoughts on “Keeping Tragedy in Perspective”

  1. 21 It is a sin to belittle one’s neighbor;
    blessed are those who help the poor.

    I’ve been sensitive lately to class warfare. I’ve heard well off people putting down others who are less fortunate. It has really irritated me recently and I’m trying to understand why. I DO know that God is working on me right now and finances and stewardship are part of that lesson. It is definitely more blessed to give than to receive.

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