Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15 NIV
There are weeks when we have prepared for a lesson and then discover a crisis has taken place in the church or our world. In those moments I pray for discernment and ask, “Lord, will this lesson on Sunday be relevant, or do you have another word?” It is okay at times to lay down the lesson and seek God’s Word for a passage that might speak to the crisis at hand. If God leads you this way, here are a few things to consider:
Find words of comfort in God’s Word. God as a refuge can be found in Psalm 23, Psalm 46, Isaiah 40, Romans 8 and Psalm 121. The Book of Job is a great word for those who face calamity. For those facing grief over the loss of a loved one, I have found comfort in Hebrews 12:1-3. You can find a great word for how to respond to the church and community in Romans 12. I am sure you have favorites, and I would love for you to share them with us as a reply to this blog.
Admit we don’t have all the answers. It is better to admit we don’t know why than to give pat answer remarks (See my blog: Helping Children Deal with Tragedy.) It is okay to recognize that life is not always fair. Remember Matthew 5:45? I have even used a children’s book to demonstrate this from the pulpit, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst.
Weep with those who weep. Sometimes the best one can do in the midst of a crisis is hold a person’s hand, listen to their sorrow and weep with them. As an associate pastor (The pastor was out of town.) many years ago, I found myself responding to a grief situation with fear & trembling. It was my first time to be called to a grief situation without the pastor. One of our dear saints discovered that her husband passed away in the night. As I arrived I saw Miss Annie (the grieving widow’s nickname) sitting in a chair crying while family members and friends were all walking back and forth trying to “mother” her in different ways. Not knowing what to do or say, I simply sat down beside her, held her hand, listened to her grief, cried alongside her for an hour and then prayed with her. I felt inadequate when I left that day, because I wasn’t sure what to say. Months later, she called me up to tell me what I did was what she needed more than anything…lesson learned. Remember Jesus wept for Martha & Mary even when he was about to raise Lazarus.
Allow other members of the class who have experienced a similar crisis share how they made it through. Years ago, a prominent white businessman in our church experienced deep grief as his 6 year old granddaughter was killed by a car while riding her bicycle. This grandfather had a hard time grieving. He tried to remain staunch in his demeanor at the visitation. Near the end of the visitation he was outside talking to friends and family when an African American gentleman (still in his greasy work clothes as a mechanic) walked over to him, with tears in his eyes, and said, “Mister, I don’t know you, but I wanted you to know I care. My granddaughter was killed riding her bicycle as well.” With those words the businessman in his expensive suit broke down in tears and grabbed the African American and wept like a baby as they embraced for several minutes.
Rely on the power of prayer. I believe in prayer in the good times and bad. I still want to encourage you to make prayer central in your life and your class. Encourage members to find a prayer partner to process lessons and pray during the week. “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20 NIV
It isn’t a matter of, “If a crisis happens…but when.” It is better to prepare some lessons for crisis before it happens, than trying to figure it out afterwards!