Unexpected Tragedy – Unchanging Truth
The Musée Rodin in Paris, France is dedicated to the works of the French sculptor Auguste Rodin. The displays include 6,600 sculptures, 16,000 drawings and old photographs, and 7,000 objects of art. Each year, 700,000 visitors frequent the collection.
Probably most famous of all Rodin’s creations is the original work titled, The Thinker. First cast in 1902, this bronze figure of a nude man sits atop a marble pedestal. Hand on his chin, looking down but thinking deep, he ponders. And we wonder. What is he thinking about? My first thought is that he must be working hard to remember where he left his clothes. In reality he simply represents the journey of all human earth travelers. As the biblical writer Job noted, we came into the world naked, and naked we will return. Stripped of all the superficial trappings of life, we are left with our thoughts and looking for answers.
As the biblical writer Job noted, we came into the world naked, and naked we will return. Stripped of all the superficial trappings of life, we are left with our thoughts and looking for answers.
Created to Go Deep
The truth is, we were created to think deeply about something more than meets the eye in this life. The Bible says God has placed “eternity in our hearts,” compelling us to yearn for conclusions that will satisfy the soul. We were made to ask questions; to discover meaning beyond mere physical existence. Thus begins the quest.
The truth is, we were created to think deeply about something more than meets the eye in this life. The Bible says God has placed “eternity in our hearts,” compelling us to yearn for conclusions that will satisfy the soul.
The deep longings of our soul drive us to ask questions and seek answers, but rarely do we arrive at any sound conclusions. We search through the latest Smartphone apps and download e-books on self-improvement. We scroll through posts and pins looking for inspiration, then repeat and “re-tweet” the insights of others. We increasingly look to the cloud to organize and simplify our lives. Still, most of us crawl into bed each night with a feeling that something is missing. Too often, it is.
Yearning for More
We all yearn for a compelling mission in life, if only we could figure out what it is supposed to be. We feel the need to be guided by a clear set of values and long to leave a lasting legacy, but lose our way in the fog of daily distractions. Disoriented, we don’t know which direction to go. We feel like Alice in Wonderland when she observed, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”
We all yearn for a compelling mission in life, if only we could figure out what it is supposed to be. We feel the need to be guided by a clear set of values and long to leave a lasting legacy, but lose our way in the fog of daily distractions.
The demands of work, family, church, and home leave us feeling overwhelmed. Each night our “to do” lists remain full of undone tasks. As we doze off to sleep, we feel this haunting sense that we will never get on top of things. When the alarm goes off the next morning, we quickly shower, eat, and rush out the door saying to ourselves, I’ve got to get going. Perhaps we would do well to ask, Where am I going? and Why am I in such a hurry to get there? followed by How’s this working for me?
Perhaps we would do well to ask, Where am I going? and Why am I in such a hurry to get there? followed by How’s this working for me?
The Power of Personal Answers
On Monday, April 15, 2013, such a tragedy visited Pastor Greg Haroutunian and his family – along with thousands of others. And it was in those moments of unanticipated testing that Greg fully realized the value of knowing the answers to life’s deepest questions.
As Greg and his family stood along the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, cheering on a friend who was racing to raise money for cancer research, they were enjoying a spectacular “Boston” day. His wife, Sossi, eleven-year-old son, Mark, and nine-year-old daughter, Ani, stood just behind the aluminum barricade, leaning into the street, eagerly awaiting their friend’s approach. Greg was close by with their youngest son, Alexan, standing just behind the crowd.
Tested by Tragedy
First, they heard what they thought was a cannon shot celebrating someone crossing the finish line. Actually, it was the first of two bombs. Suddenly, seconds later, just 15 yards away directly across Boylston Street, a second bomb that had been placed in a pressure cooker exploded and sent the entire city, and country, into panic. The moment seemed unreal, beyond explanation. In the first minutes that followed, his entire family witnessed front-row carnage, including the tragic death of an eight-year-old boy.
Greg’s wife, Sossi, grew up in Lebanon and is no stranger to violence. Yet both she and Greg describe the experience as one of unparalleled vulnerability and horror. After the fire trucks and rescue teams arrived, blocking the street between their location and the crime scene, his family made their “getaway”.
Walking to the Boston subway, they turned a corner. Greg spied a trash can on the street and understandably thought that it, too, could contain a bomb. Shielding his family as they passed by, he was suddenly overwhelmed with the assurance that their lives were in God’s hands.
The hours and days to follow were extremely tense for Greg and his family. We spoke on the phone one afternoon while their neighborhood was on “lockdown.” They were restricted to their home as police went door to door looking for the remaining suspect that had orchestrated the crime. Greg and his family were right in the middle of it, his kids’ school just a block and a half from the center of the search.
Thankfully, in the months preceding this tragic experience, Greg had been part of a pastors’ group I was leading through The Deeper Life process, clarifying some of the core questions of the soul. He had taken the time to write out his own personal theology statement. Reviewing the Scriptures he had memorized from his days with The Navigators, and some of his favorite books on the character of God, Greg had written and memorized his answers to life’s greatest questions.
The Relevance of Renewal
And on the afternoon following the bombing, Greg recounted these declarations. He leaned heavily on them. He affirmed himself again and again with what he had written:
- “God is unchanging, good, faithful, holy, sovereign, almighty, gracious, condescending, merciful, loving, righteous, kind, the Father, the Lord, communicative, and worthy.”
“God is unchanging, good, faithful, holy, sovereign, almighty, gracious, condescending, merciful, loving, righteous, kind, the Father, the Lord, communicative, and worthy.”
- “Therefore…He will care for me, keep His promises, reveal Himself, accomplish His desires, guard me, allow difficulties & trials, never give me more than I can bear, mold me into Christ’s likeness.”
- “So…I will rest, trust, sacrifice, live with abandon, full-tilt, be unashamed, confident, not self-conscious, cling to hope, embrace my humanity/weaknesses, care for others, never stop learning, growing, seeking to know more and express more of our awesome God to anyone who will listen.”
Today, Greg recounts: “Having these realities memorized made the truth accessible. I was refreshed, rejuvenated, and lifted. The world literally blew up right in front of my face. But God did not blow up…This very concrete, practical engagement with God’s character through this process assured me that I was absolutely invincible until the Lord calls me home.”
With these encouraging words, Greg adds, “Having done the work of focused meditation on the character of God, and how I can respond, made all the difference. Not just when I was in this tragedy, but even more so afterwards as I tried to regroup. It literally brought me to life with the assurance that I can live abandoned and fully for the Lord.”
Theology, Identity, Purpose, and More
Greg has also articulated a biblical identity statement along with his written life purpose statement. He meditates on these truths each evening as he falls asleep and each morning as he awakens. He reflects, “This process is very encouraging. It anchors me as I fade into sleep. These statements are rooted in the Scriptures and naturally keep my mind centered on the truth. This whole process has been so empowering, and gives me deep enthusiasm to start the day. I am able to find purpose in the midst of the chaos.”
We all desperately need what Greg discovered, whether in the midst of tragedy or tranquility. God is waiting to reveal a deeper life to us, but we have to ask, seek, and knock. The truth-based foundation will become clear and our lives will never be the same.
God is waiting to reveal a deeper life to us, but we have to ask, seek, and knock. The truth-based foundation will become clear and our lives will never be the same.
Copyright © 2019 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.