The Space Between Tragedy & Reality


Many years ago, my best friend from New York called me sobbing.  She was at work when she learned the sad news that her father had passed.  Her world revolved around the kind man, and it was a horrible tragedy.

She was at her desk and completely undone.  I asked her calmly to hand the phone to her co-worker.  From there, I orchestrated steps to get someone to drive her car and take her home.

I took steps to arrange flowers for the family, a plane ticket to get to her home, a ride for me from the airport and for us to the funeral.  I met with the family and helped with some funeral details. I cooked and cleaned and picked out her clothes for the funeral.    But mostly, I held my friend while she cried.  I wiped the tears while she wept.  I listened while she remembered.

A week went by and I had to head home to my own family and job.  I knew in my heart that God had used me to bring comfort.

But something happened.  About three weeks later I received a phone call from the same friend.  “You never helped me or did a thing when my dad died!” she exclaimed.  I was in utter shock.  What?  Huh?   But, I was there, took off from my job, bought a ticket, held your hand, and on and on my thoughts raced.  This was the aftermath of grief.

I began to understand something about comfort at a deeper level that day.  The tragedy occurs, the comfort is needed.  God sends you and me into the situation to deliver that comfort.  But it’s always during the space between tragedy and shock.

My friend remembered the tragedy, but in the moments and hours of shock, she did not remember anything else.  Her mind was blurry.  She knew I was with her, but it never dawned on her that anything else was done except showing up. She couldn’t remember what took place, only that she lost her daddy.

What happens in that space between?  God calls us, God allows us, God uses us.  We head in to the moments of pain and we live in them with the one who needs God’s comfort most.  What we do in those moments is important to God, and detrimental to that person’s stability, courage and faith.

But the key is this:  we don’t get the glory.  God gets the glory.

We don’t need the kudos, the attention, the crowd clapping; we just need to know these are the moments when we are the hands and feet of Jesus.  It’s not about who we are, but about Whose we are.  We are being used.

Our hearts must be focused on the need of others and not on ourselves.

In Matthew 26, Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He knows the tragedy is coming, but in those moments, He needs His friends’ comfort.  But they cannot give it.  They are tired from discipling, they are weary and worn.

“Wake up!  Just stay awake for a little while. Be with me.  Comfort me.”  Jesus says.

They cannot comfort.  They don’t understand what’s going to happen.

In the moments between tragedy and shock, just before reality settles in, God gives generous doses of comfort.  In the moments of comfort, God delivers courage.  It comes from the places of His heart.  It’s in His Word, His nature, His people, and His Spirit.  We just need to look and we will see it.

Recently, my good friend’s husband died.  It was a tragedy and a shock.  In those moments in the dark corridors of tragedy and shock, she pulled me in close and hugged me at the funeral.  She whispered, “Thanks for being here with me.  Thank you for your comfort, because it’s giving me strength.”  She got it.  She understood that in the moments of grief and pain, God’s comfort was delivering courage.

There lies the answer of the place in between.  In the comfort … we deliver God’s courage.  In the space … we deliver His strength.

That’s our purpose when tragedy strikes.  No fan-fare.  No attention-seeking.  No self-centeredness.  Just the hands and feet of Christ.  That’s where God’s work is done … in the space between.