With this week’s terrible events in Paris, we as a worldwide community are forced into the weird space of reacting together via social media. It is good and it is bad. People are accused of writing insensitive Tweets. Fights break out in comments sections about blame and politics. Profile pictures change to show solidarity. Memes and images are created within hours to show support. New memes reminding everyone that this one event is one of MANY tragedies that happened worldwide this week alone. People try to capitalize on events to grow their followings.
We are all up in each other’s business in our social media world. When events like the Paris attacks happen, the connectedness can be both good and bad. We come together as a worldwide community. Then we argue about whose fault it is and how to solve the problem and why we should care just as much about the bombing that took place this week in Beirut (which did not get news coverage except now that people are noting that it did not get new coverage).
We are not particularly good at mourning in a community.
We tend to mourn a little, then get a little mouthy.
We get preachy.
We get judge-y.
We get self-righteous.
We get easily offended.
We get finger-pointy.
We have a lot in common with Job’s friends in the Bible. They did a pretty good job mourning with him for all his losses, and then they opened their mouths. Below are some thoughts I wrote on my first blog in the wake of the Connecticut school shootings a few years ago that I think stand true today as well.
As we stumble through community mourning, let us remember that sometimes sitting in silence is the best option. I’m not going to say what you should or shouldn’t tweet or blog or post on Facebook. But I do think that we can learn thing or two from Job’s friends.
Yesterday morning I was at the gym when the events in Connecticut were playing out on the television. First, they thought good news because they weren’t bringing out injured parties to the triage area. Thank you, Jesus, I thought. Then, later, bad news. Just how bad, they weren’t sure, but they sent a warning: Be prepared for the worst.
How do you prepare for something like this? And more–how do you respond?
Being an active blogger and member of Twitter and Facebook, I have seen a lot of responses. I’ve trolled news sites as I’m sure many people have, searching for answers, searching for meaning. Searching for comfort.
A lot of people have a lot of things to say. I’ve read some lovely things offering comfort and support and community during this time. As much as it’s possible to give or have any of those things during this time, anyway. And then there are many who seek to solve the problem, giving causes to such a tragedy and solutions. If only we did this. If only we changed this.
I think of Job’s friends. Job, having lost everything but his life, sat in sackcloth and ashes, mourning. His three friends came to offer comfort. When they saw him from a distance, they realized the depth of his despair. They, too, began to weep and they tore their robes and put dust on their heads and they came to him.
Then this gem of a verse: “Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, for they saw how great his suffering was.”
After those seven days, of course, they begin to speak and offer solutions and reasons why. All of which were wrong, by the way. Their words and solutions and reasons gave nothing to him. The very best and only thing they did right was coming to be with their friend, getting down into the despair right with him, and saying nothing. They mourned with those who mourned.
I’m used to saying something about everything. Not that I think I have all the answers–far from it! I love to talk and to write. I blog and tweet about the little things like what I burned for dinner yesterday.
But this? THIS?
The best thing I can say is nothing. I will offer no political solutions. I will analyze nothing, give no reasons in the grand scheme of things for these events. I will not yet give my own words or verses that might feel like platitudes to someone that is suffering such deep, deep despair.
There will be a time for words. There will be a time for analyzing, for solutions. There will be a time for comfort and for Scripture and for encouragement.
For now, I think of Job’s friends and what they did right: shutting up. And I think also of Jesus’ promise in John 16:33, one that holds so true and is the only real comfort for me in this.
In this world, he says, you will have much trouble.
Yes—oh, yes, we have much trouble.
But take heart, says Jesus, speaking only hours before he himself was nailed to a wooden cross, take heart for I have overcome the world.
[You may also like: Should Christians Mourn?]