As all of us were glued to the TV, and as reporters asked questions in order to continue broadcasting, a voice of wisdom came when the journalist asked a mother who was able to bring her daughter home, “What can you say to those parents whose children were killed?” The mother’s reply was, “There are no words!”
From the distance our Commander in Chief, President Obama became the Comforter in Chief. His speech was all that a speech in a crisis like this should be. He chose words to comfort, to identify with the people in crisis and emotion that was so naturally flowing from one parent to another.
As I was watching the TV my mind ran to three portions of the Scriptures that have been spoken to me in times of crisis. In the introduction to the book of Job we read these words:
When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from the distance, they could hardly recognize him; they begin to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. (Underlining mine)
Job has lost everything – his house, his possessions, his sons and daughters, and his body was in excruciating pain. As the text says, he was no longer recognized by his friends. Later on there was a time for reflection, but right now the best thing they could do was to sit and mourn in silence with him and pray to God.
Another portion is written by Jeremiah in Lamentations 2:13: What can I say for you? With what can I compare you, O Daughter of Jerusalem? To what can I liken you that I might comfort you, O Virgin Daughter of Zion? Your wound is as deep as the sea. Who can heal you? The prophet has seen an entire city and entire nation being destroyed, but his emphasis is on the young men and young women who have been destroyed in the flower of their youth. The fact that so many children have been killed makes us see together with the prophet that the wounds of the parents and their siblings are as deep as the sea.
In one portion of Romans, the Apostle Paul talks about the fact that the whole creation is waiting for its redemption. Not only humanity, but the entire creation because of sin, has been subjected to bondage and decay. It is in situations like this that we see the extent of corruption and evil in our society. In face of the monstrosity of such evil, we do not even know how to pray. Therefore, Paul writes: In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. (Romans 8:26-27)
Thus yesterday, today and tomorrow I will pray privately and with my congregation for the parents of the children whose lives were cut short yesterday morning. I will also pray for all the people that will come in contact with them. And I will thank God for the ministry of the Holy Spirit when our human words are too inadequate for a pain as great as the sea.