Balancing Joy and Mourning? Terrorists, Kidnappings and Airplanes (Embracing, Part 2)

ISIS has just released a “hit list” on over 100 people. Boko Haram just kidnapped 500 women and girls. A plane was just deliberately crashed.

Tears swell up in my eyes and trickle over, slowly running down my face.
100 people along with all of their family and friends will sleep anxiously tonight after finding out that ISIS wants them dead. The hit list was posted online and reads,

We have made it easy for you by giving you addresses, all you need to do is take the final step, so what are you waiting for? Kill them in their own lands, behead them in their own homes, stab them to death as they walk their streets thinking that they are safe.”
Those words sink in, echoing around in my heart. I read it and imagine it directed at me, or my dad; at my uncle or brother or grandfather or friend. Those 100 people on that list are just that: fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons, husbands and wives, grandparents, friends, neighbors, employees…and each of them will go to bed restless tonight. I would if I were them. Their lives will be altered. They will worry for their children and their spouses. They will constantly be checking over their backs. Will they fear walking into their dark homes after being gone all day? I can only imagine

My heart shatters as I wonder where the 500 kidnapped women and children are. I read the news articles and I imagine my sister or my mother in their places. I imagine the terror they must feel, the uncertainty – will they be used as suicide bombers? Sex slaves? Bargaining chips? Soldiers? Will they be beaten, humiliated, and violated? I imagine their families who are left behind to wonder about their fates; friends and relatives who are devastated and hopeless. 

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau. (AFP/Getty Images)

A plane flying from Spain to Germany was deliberately flown into the side of a mountain, killing 150 people. I remember my own international flight a week ago. Max sat beside me; from the moment he sat down we became fast friends. We talked about our dreams and passions, what we’d done and what we hoped to do. We discussed our favorite books, favorite food and favorite things. I imagine being mid-sentence or mid-laugh or mid-joke with Max, only to look up and realize we were way too close to mountains and heading even closer, to learn that we were crashing. My life would flash before my eyes; I would beg Max to accept Jesus as His Lord and Savior, I would think of my precious family. The pilot would be banging on the cockpit door in the background, begging to be let back in. Slowly screams would spread throughout the plane. 

149 people experienced this, but for them it was very real. Mothers and fathers and spouses and friends thought about their loved ones as they realized they would not see them again. Some surely panicked. Some likely had no idea what happened when they died. Some had regrets. 150 people lost their lives. Yesterday, today and tomorrow families and friends will mourn; parents’ hearts will break, spouses’ will be devastated.

French emergency workers at the site of Tuesday’s crash of Germanwings Flight 9525. All 150 people aboard
were killed. CreditFrancis Pellier/French Interior Ministry, via Associated Press

And on the other side of all of these stories stands completely broken people – capable of maliciously treating,  harming and often violently killing other fellow humans. That is sad. ISIS, Boko Haram and the pilot of the airplane are all people too. They are lost. They desperately need Jesus.

Take a moment and let all of this set in. Let it settle deep into your bones, let your heart ache.
Truth be told, my heart breaks. I should be writing papers, preparing projects and studying. Sleep and cleaning are also viable options. But I sit on my couch with a tear stained face and a heavy heart, burdened by all of the evils in the world.

Last week my heart was broken by hundreds of thousands of Dominican students who don’t know Jesus; it was broken by Max – my airplane buddy who is missing out on a full and abundant life in the Lord. 

Last month my heart was broken when 21 Christians were beheaded by ISIS.
Last year my heart was broken when 200 school girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram. 
And the year before that? An ill-cared for factory that made our clothes collapsed in Bangladesh , killing over 1,100 people.

I’ve discovered that each terrible headline makes the last one seem a little better. Slowly and surely, if I’m not careful, I can meet broken people who don’t know Jesus and be unaffected. I can read about dozens or hundreds of people who have lost their lives at the hand of evil and not be moved by it. Problems can seem distant and worlds away. As a result, each day is a constant battle to not let my heart be hardened, to not turn a blind eye or deaf ear when tragedy strikes. 

But I don’t want to walk through life, constantly crying and devastated. Surely there is a balance between finding joy in the Lord (Isaiah 61:10) and mourning with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). I don’t know what that balance is; some days I’m better at it than others.

What I do know is that Jesus came to heal brokenness.

In Luke 5:31-32 Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

I find so much hope in that.

Always remember that Christ is victorious – he has fought this battle and he has won. But I beg you, watch the news, read the headlines and cry. Cry hard and cry long. Mourn for those who have been killed. Hurt for those who are lost – who believe that suicide bombings are an automatic entrance to Heaven; who can harm little girls and still sleep peacefully at night.

Be tender, be open and be vulnerable. Allow people you’ve never met to break your heart. Allow that broken heart to lead you to the feet of our victorious, triumphant King of Kings and Giver of Peace. 

Because He is the mightiest of Healers, I embrace broken-heartedness.