Mark D. Roberts

Mark D. Roberts


What Can We Learn from the Virginia Tech Tragedy?

posted by Mark D. Roberts

Permalink to this post

Nothing can ever fully redeem the massacre at Virginia Tech. The tragic loss of so many lives is too great a price to be paid for any gain. But if we can learn from this terrible situation, if we live better lives individually and corporately because of what has happened, then the loss won’t be completely in vain.
Learning from this tragedy can and should happen in a wide variety of ways. In my recent posts I’ve been trying to help folks learn how better to respond to people who are grieving. I’ve put my effort here because this is something I know something about as a pastor, and therefore may be able to contribute positively in the learning effort. There are many lessons to be learned about which I have no expertise, and so won’t say anything in public. I doubt you’ll find me weighing in on issues of gun control, school security, treatment of mental illness, or how to deal with a person who seems to be emotionally disturbed in a major way. I’ll leave these important conversations to others who have things worth saying.
Today I want to address one significant kind of learning that comes when we encounter suffering in general, and death in particular. I know something about this not only because I’ve experienced personal losses, like the death of my father when I was 29, but also because, as a pastor, I’m regularly involved with people who are dying and their families.
When I serve as a pastor for a memorial service, my chief concerns are to bring comfort and hope to the family and friends of the one who died, and to help them experience God’s presence and peace. Yet after every memorial service I attend, whether I’m in charge or simply a member of the congregation, I find myself thinking about my own life. I wonder what, in the end, my life will add up to. I ask myself if I’m living for what truly matters, or if I’m squandering my days on petty and trivial things. (You might think that pastors have it easy here, and perhaps we do in a way. But I sometimes get caught up in the tiny details of church life, forgetting the big picture and obsessing over that which has little or no eternal value. And in my personal life, I can get disproportionately upset by things like my car breaking.)
What I receive from being present in more memorial services than most people is the chance to have my perspective on life altered. I’m reminded of what life is really all about. I’m confronted with my own tendency to waste my life rather than living it to the fullest. Thinking about death, even and especially my own death, gives me the opportunity to think about life, real life, abundant life.
For example, on Monday when before I heard about the shootings at Virginia Tech, I was fretting about the normal stuff of life. One might even say I was feeling pretty cranky about next to nothing. But then I glimpsed the headline that spoke of a shooting at Virginia Tech. Soon that headline spoke of twenty deaths. Then thirty. All of a sudden the things that were bugging me found their proper place in my consciousness. They didn’t really matter at all. But I had been letting them rob my joy and keep me from being the kind of person I really want to be.
Chances are I won’t be able to make a difference in the lives of those who are suffering because of the tragedy in Virgina, other than by praying for them, which counts plenty in my book. But I can make a tangible difference in the lives of people in my own sphere of influence. I can hug my own children a bit tighter. I can do a better job overlooking their trivial shortcomings and prize them for the wonderful people that they are. I can pause to be thankful for my wife, even though our anniversary passed a few days ago, so the time period for official gratitude has passed.  I can treat her with an extra measure of kindness. I can look around me for people who are having a hard time fitting in, the kind of people who aren’t easy to talk to or be with. I can reach out to them with grace even if they can’t return it. I can try to share the love of God with them, not just in words, but mostly in deeds. Moreover, I can focus my life more on the things that really matters, issues of justice, peace, truth, and love.
Nothing can make up for the pain that has now invaded hundreds of lives because of the senseless killings in Virginia. But if we let this tragedy help us to live more significantly, more graciously, and more lovingly, then something good will have grown out of something horrible. This is my hope, for myself and others, even as I continue to pray for God’s presence and comfort for those who are grieving today.



Previous Posts

More blogs to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Mark D. Roberts. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Red Letters with Tom Davis Recent prayer post on Prayables Most Recent Inspiration blog post Happy Reading!  

posted 2:09:11pm Aug. 27, 2012 | read full post »

Why Did Jesus Have to Die? Conclusions
In this series on the death of Jesus, I have presented four different perspectives on why Jesus had to die: Roman, Jewish, Jesus’, and Early Christian. I believe that each of these points of view has merit, and that we cannot fully understand the necessity of Jesus’ death without taking them all

posted 2:47:39am Apr. 11, 2011 | read full post »

Sunday Inspiration from the High Calling
Can We Find God in the City? Psalm 48:1-14 Go, inspect the city of Jerusalem. Walk around and count the many towers. Take note of the fortified walls, and tour all the citadels, that you may describe them to future generations. For that is what God is like. He is our God forever and ever,

posted 2:05:51am Apr. 10, 2011 | read full post »

Why Did Jesus Have to Die? The Perspective of the First Christians, Part 3
An Act and Symbol of Love Perhaps one of the most startling of the early Christian interpretations of the cross was that it was all about love. It’s easy in our day, when crosses are religious symbols, attractive ornaments, and trendy jewelry to associate the cross with love. But, in the first

posted 2:41:47am Apr. 08, 2011 | read full post »

Why Did Jesus Have to Die? The Perspective of the First Christians, Part 2
The Means of Reconciliation In my last post, I examined one of the very earliest Christian statements of the purpose of Jesus’ death. According to the tradition encapsulated in 1 Corinthians 15, Jesus died “for our sins in accordance with the scriptures” (15:3). Yet this text doesn’t expl

posted 2:30:03am Apr. 07, 2011 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.