the shape of leadership

Three Ways to Respond to Tragedy as a Leader

Walking with people through difficult times

Kent Ingle on July 22, 2019

It seems we can hardly turn on the news without seeing stories of violence and tragedy. It’s difficult to hear about these things. But it’s much harder when they hit close to home.

Part of our responsibility as leaders is to come alongside people who are suffering. Sooner or later, you will be called upon to reach out to someone who is facing intense grief. When that time comes, you will need to step up and provide encouraging comfort and care.

Every situation is different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. But over the years, I have discovered three keys to offering support as a leader in times of tragedy:

Welcome Emotion

First, encourage people to express what they’re feeling — both to others and to God. It’s not healthy to repress pain or deny it exists. After all, God created us to feel these emotions. He doesn’t expect us to bury our grief.

Jesus declared in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). As leaders, we can remind people it’s OK to express sorrow. We can help them find the freedom to be honest about what they’re going through.

As leaders, we can remind people it’s OK to express sorrow.

Empathize With Pain

Galatians 6:2 tells us to carry each other’s burdens. In a world of suffering, it’s easy to become desensitized to pain. But God calls us to empathy. We can help carry a part of the load by reaching out to the hurting and oppressed, hearing their stories, praying for and with them, and offering practical help.

Everyone needs the support, encouragement, and presence of others, especially in the aftermath of tragedy. Some people make the mistake of isolating themselves when they’re going through a struggle. Encourage them to receive help and to accept care from others.

When we carry the burdens of those around us, we’re not only living out what Scripture teaches, but we’re also demonstrating the love, grace and compassion of Christ.

Point to Hope

Tragedies create a moment when we can shift our dependence from what is temporary to what will last forever. Through difficult situations, God teaches us that while we may experience a major loss, we will never lose our relationship with Him. He promised to never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). And that’s a forever security upon which we can build our lives.

As a leader, you can remind people of these truths and point them to the life-giving promises of Scripture.

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