After Tragedy, Help Your Congregation Ask, “What Can We Do Now?”

By Rick Warren

cross We live in a fallen world, and God’s will is not always done on earth.

Still, when we’re faced with such an immense tragedy as the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, we are tempted to ask, “Why?”

But such questions are unanswerable – we simply don’t know.

Instead of asking, “Why?” we need to help our people ask, “What can I do now? What is my next step?”

As you know, the book of Nehemiah is about rebuilding after tragedy. Nehemiah tells the people, “You know well the tragedy of our city; it lies in ruins and its gates are burned. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and rid ourselves of this disgrace!” (Nehemiah 2:17 LB)

Rebuilding is much harder than building from scratch. It’s true for cities, and it’s true for our lives.

To help people rebuild their lives, we must help them understand this:

  • Express your grief. It is OK to mourn, but it is not good to resist, rehearse, reduce, or repress our grief.
  • Get help from others. The best way to do this is to get in a church and in a small group. Build a network of support to help you through your grief and recovery.
  • Refuse to be bitter. Becoming bitter or maintaining bitterness is a choice, one that will only destroy your life. Bitterness only prolongs the pain, so ask yourself, “Do I want to stay bitter or get better?” Pray for good to come out of the tragedy, for the comfort of God’s love, and for hope.
  • Clarify what matters most. You cannot change what has happened but you can live the remainder of your life focused on loving others and doing the things that are most important.
  • Rely on Jesus. We can lose everything, but there’s one thing that can’t be taken away – a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Rick Warren

Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of, a global Internet community for pastors.