What’s Your Filter for Viewing Tragedies?

On April 19, 1995, a truck exploded outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, including 19 children, and injuring more than 650 others. Over 300 buildings in the area were damaged or destroyed. Up until 9/11, this was the worst terrorist attack to take place on US soil.

This was one of those events that is frozen in time in my head. I can tell you exactly where I was when I heard the news—exactly which street in Roswell, GA when I heard the radio announcer describe the devastation.

Four years ago, I was in Oklahoma for a business trip and decided to visit the memorial. As I drove up the street, this is what I saw:


Straight ahead would have been the street on which the truck-bomb was left, with the Murrah Federal Building on the right. The cream building you see to the left is now the Museum. That building was damaged as well, but has been rebuilt.

In place of the street is now a reflecting pool that is bookended by two charcoal colored walls. The first one you see says this:


We come here to remember
Those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever.
May all who leave here know the impact of violence.
May this memorial offer comfort, peace, strength, hope and serenity.

The interior of the memorial is beautiful.


Opposite the museum are 168 chairs that represent the victims.


At night they light up.


While this is certainly a moving memorial, it was a statue that sat just outside of the memorial that caught my eye.


Yes, Scripture tells us that Jesus wept. In fact, it was in response to the death of his good friend, Lazarus. Jesus, the Son of God, who in mere moments would raise his buddy from the dead, wept. He was experiencing, as a man, the devastation of death. The One Who had created humanity for eternity felt the effects that the original sin caused–death.

I find it fascinating that this statue sits just outside the memorial.

When we face any kind of tragedy, whether it’s the personal loss of a loved one or a national loss when a mass shooting occurs, it matters the filter we choose to look through. We can either use the tragedy as our filter and have it shape our view of Jesus, or we can use Jesus as our filter and have Him shape our understanding of the tragedy.

It matters. Perspective is everything.

If we look at Jesus through the tragedy, it can distort our perspective of Him. The weight of the immediate pain can become unbearable and we can wonder where He was, why He didn’t intervene, and how He could possibly make things right now. In the midst of our distress, He seems too far away.

On the other hand, if we stand outside of the tragedy, next to Jesus, and look at it from His perspective, we see Him weeping, identifying with our sorrow, saddened at the loss, heartbroken over the mess that sin has made. And we can be reminded that often God’s glory and His goodness follow tragedy. It may not be splashy, as when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but it may be found in the long lines of fellow humans waiting to give blood. It may be in the rows of gurneys prepared to take the victims. It may be seen and felt in the hug that lingers a little longer.

Jesus is not a cold, distant God who cares little about the suffering of His creation. No. When He put on human skin, He felt within His own bones the ache of longing for life to be as He’d originally designed. He felt the pang of sorrow and the agony of distress. And yet He promises that one day…one day…He will make everything right. Satan and his band of evil doers may seem victorious now, but one day God will conquer all sin…and death…and will make everything right again.

In the mean time, we can rest assured that God is with us, grieving with us, providing comfort and preparing for the day when all will be well.

Come, Lord Jesus. Come.

| Filed under Spiritual Growth

6 thoughts on “What’s Your Filter for Viewing Tragedies?

  1. Beautifully written. It’s crazy to me that Jesus had some of the same emotional responses to situations that we have today. What stuck out to me was perspective through which we view our struggles. When we stand with Jesus, we see the wretchedness of sin, & look to our Savior for help. But if we look at God through our struggles, our perspective is skewed & we dont have the right image of God in our minds. This sentence sums it up so well, “On the other hand, if we stand outside of the tragedy, next to Jesus, and look at it from His perspective, we see Him weeping, identifying with our sorrow, saddened at the loss, heartbroken over the mess that sin has made.”

    1. Yes, Graham. Having the right perspective makes all the difference! And I agree with you–I love seeing that Jesus was emotional and not aloof and distant. In fact, Hebrews 2:17 says that “He had to be made like them [His brothers], fully human in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people.” He is so very merciful because He has experienced the same things we have.

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