Summary: How should Christians respond to tragedy, especially in light of September 11th, 2001?
"The Christian response to a world of tragedy: the strawberry plant."
September 23rd, 2001
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 have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
There is a Zen Buddhist story of a monk who was fleeing from a hungry tiger. The monk was running for his life when he came to the edge of a cliff cutting off any hope of escape from the hungry tiger. Fortunately for the monk, a vine happens to be growing over the edge. He grabs hold of it and begins to climb down the cliff, out of the tiger’s reach, who is by now glaring at him from above. But alas, as the monk is climbing down, he spies another tiger waiting for him below; circling impatiently at the bottom of the cliff. Then, to make matters worse, out of the corner of his eye he notices a mouse on a ledge above him beginning to gnaw through the vine. Then, out of the corner of his eye he sees a strawberry plant growing from a crack in the cliff face.
Not a very good situation to be in, is it? Instead of being between a rock and a hard place, our monk friend is between a tiger and a tiger. Well, I think that it is safe to say that a lot of us are feeling a lot like that here lately. There is trouble above us, trouble below, trouble all around. We feel like we can’t go forward, we can’t go back, and we can’t stay where we are. Suddenly, we have a sense of how vulnerable we are as a nation and how helpless we are as individuals. We may have suspected it all along, but now we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that our world is a dangerous, violent, brutish place. We are living in fear. We are filled with despair.
The current generation, born since 1980, has never known this kind of fear. They have never known a major war with a large loss of American life. My generation has memories of the Cold War and the possibility of a nuclear disaster, but that was always a remote fear. So, for nearly 30 years we have been living with peace, prosperity, and plenty. But now all of that has come crashing to the earth like the planes piloted by terrorists.
We have seen a lot of heroism and a lot of determination. We have seen a nation uniting together in ways that we have not witnessed in the last 60 years. We have seen a willingness to stand up to the evil people who are willing to cause this level of pain and grief. But we have also seen fear and uncertainty.
The stock market has shown the fear of investors. Many stocks are suffering, though stocks in companies which sell guns and ammunition are up.
Military personnel are afraid that their lives are going to be disrupted as they prepare for war. Who knows whether or not they will be shipped out to face our national enemies? How do you make plans as a family for the future when you’re not sure if you’re going to be separated for a time in the near future.
Companies are afraid to relocate to high rises. It used to be a status symbol to be headquartered in the biggest building in a city; now it seems like a senseless risk.