Tim Briggs is the Creative Media Pastor at Church at Charlotte in Charlotte, NC. He blogs regularly at Church Sports Outreach. He also regularly writes about ministry, the church, technology, culture, and creative stuff. He is married with two children and is currently pursuing a M.A. in Biblical Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. You can find Tim on Twitter: @timbriggshere. ___
Ask yourself, what did you first feel when you heard the news? What did you do when you saw the first images?
For many, emotions like this began to fester: anger, frustration, sadness, hopelessness, fear... the list goes on. Not me though. Like many, I read the news on Twitter but I didn't initially feel any of the above emotions. Rather, I met the news with a cold indifference. I brushed it off. No sympathy, no prayer, just emotional lethargy.
Sound calloused? Cold-hearted? On the surface, you could chalk it up to that, but it goes much deeper than the initial reaction. Later in the day, I began to ask myself the all-important question: Why? Why did I react so blankly to the news? Why was I so indifferent? After wrestling with that for an evening, I came to this conclusion: It was for my protection.
Mercy in Pain
If I internalized the pain and suffering in Boston, it could lead to fear, anger, sadness, etc. and I didn't want to feel that. I didn't want to let what happened in Boston affect my little world and make me uncomfortable, so I moved on with my day as if nothing happened. You see, indifference has become an acquired skill over the years that provides a refuge from pain (or so I believe). This realization, which took me hours to discover after the fact, took only seconds to happen in the moment. It's amazing how quickly we can emotionally render a situation.
Of course, it's all a lie. This coping mechanism can't go on forever. After all, pain will always be a reality this side of Heaven. In the midst of that somber reality, there is hope. Not only is Jesus making all things new, but he understands my pain. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses … Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:15-16). Yes, I need mercy and I need grace. And so do the people of Boston.
My belief in indifference will never deliver on its promise of keeping the pain away. At best, it will only delay it. What Christ offers in the midst of suffering, though, is "peace which transcends all understanding" (Philippians 4:7). The truth that needs to soak into my soul is that Jesus tenderly awaits to deliver it to me. It's a counterintuitive truth that says that I should lean into the pain, not run from it. And Jesus promises that he will meet me there.
I pray that whatever you felt while hearing the news of the bombings in Boston, you won't run from it. Embrace it, lean into it, and experience the mercy of God.