"Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are."
-Romans 12:15-16 (NRSV)
Earlier today a catastrophic earthquake struck Kathmandu, Nepal. The disaster wreaked havoc on that nation's largest city and has killed at least 1,400 people (UPDATE: Less than a day later the estimated death toll is over 2,500). I cannot imagine the devastation. City blocks leveled to rubble. Religious and historical sites that have been in that nation for hundreds of years, if not longer, were wiped out. People spent the day in terror: either losing their lives, watching their loved ones die, or not knowing whether the people close to them had survived. Again: at least 1,400 people with hopes and dreams, people who were loved, people who laughed, worked, and played are now dead.
Reading the news, I was reminded of Paul's instruction to the Church in Rome to weep with those who weep. I prayed for the people of Nepal. But frankly, I don't always know what to do in these situations. Our planet is so connected these days that not a hour goes by in which I don't learn of more people whose worlds are shattered. A family loses a house in a fire. Another unarmed African-American is killed. A group of Christians is brutally executed by terrorists. A friend is having a brutal week. A war takes another ugly turn. A friend is laid off from a job. A plane crashes. A couple loses a child. Natural disasters tear through lives all over the world.
When the world is overflowing with hurt, how do you genuinely mourn with all those who mourn? How do you not let yourself become numb to all the heartache without living in perpetual misery? Because I don't want to be numb to the pain of others. You can't pick and choose. You can't opt to mourn only when the tragedy hits close to home. You can't decide to weep only if the disaster is big enough.
It is probably shows a dash of legalism in my belief that I am trying to figure out how to mourn the right way, but this dilemma is something that bothers me whenever a disaster strikes a world away. I realize that this tragedy is just as devastating as one that would happen over here and then I remind myself that the small tragedies that happen every day are still just that: tragedies. Then I wonder why I am not more attuned to those who are suffering. After all, Paul encourages us to identify with those who have been laid low by life.
The two other things that I take from Paul's encouragement is that we should not claim to be wiser than we actually are. It is a built-in reminder that we are not going to have all the answers, which is good news for me. He also tells his readers to rejoice with those who rejoice. It is a counterbalance to the heartache because, even though this is a world of hurt there are also beautiful things to celebrate each day. We cannot forget to rejoice.
I would be interested to hear what others think about this dilemma of how we weep with so many who are weeping. I don't have an answer. All I know today is that I pray for the people of Nepal and I hurt for them. I hope that I don't grow numb to the suffering that happens day in and day out.