Q: How Can Your Family Experience Peace During Tragedy?

Most people find it difficult to adjust to change. Living in a broken world with life’s expected and unexpected suffering, loss, and tragedies, how are we to respond?

The Bible teaches we should have appropriate sorrow alongside gratitude. The Bible points our attention toward the worthiness of Jesus Christ and the power of the Spirit to help us as we seek to respond to these life-changing events. In moments of great despair, as we desperately seek to respond to life in God-honoring ways, we turn to Jesus for our help and our hope. Jesus provides a word of comfort as we strive to follow Him humbly and faithfully in and through these times of trials. It is in the midst of these circumstances Jesus exhorts us to take heart, be courageous, and be of good cheer.

On several occasions Jesus exhorted individuals to be of good cheer. To be of good cheer (tharseō) means an overarching joy that remains and promotes faithfulness regardless of the earthly circumstance. In each instance, Jesus emphasized how He provides joy which builds confidence; which in turn, minimizes fear, distress, anxiety, and discouragement. Only Jesus had the authority and power to give this type of encouragement. He offered an enheartened soul because he pinpointed the heart of the matter.

Consider the following examples which will help your family also be of good cheer in tough circumstances.

(MATTHEW 9:1-8) A group of friends brought a paralytic man on a bed to Jesus to be healed. Although Jesus did heal the man, he emphasized the spiritual before the physical. “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ’Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you. Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.’” (Matthew 9:6). This story demonstrates that Jesus has power over the physical and the spiritual (cf. Matthew 9:22; Luke 8:40-56). In tragedy, we look past the physical loss to a much greater and important reality; that is, we are encouraged by our forgiven sins.

(MATTHEW 14:22-27; MARK 6:45-52) After feeding the five thousand, Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee to the west by himself to pray. The seagoing disciples headed back across the Sea. As they did, they found themselves in a tempest with giant waves. Very early in the morning Jesus came walking to them on the water. He said, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27). In the midst of their fear, He offered His presence as a means of comfort. He also demonstrated His power over nature as the Sea calmed. When we face tragedy, we can be encouraged because Jesus is with us and His presence is greater than our problems (cf. Matt 28:20). We do not have to be filled with fear because He never leaves us regardless of the tragedy or even our response to it.

(JOHN 16:25-33) While in the upper room and just before going to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prepared His disciples for His leaving earth by means of the cross. He told them, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). For His disciples, tribulation had many looks, just as it does today. Tribulation may include persecution and oppression, as well as many types of tragedies and trouble like political unrest, social unrest, and continued issues related to our culture. Jesus reminds us that regardless of the pressure or evil we face, He has overcome the world.

(ACTS 21:26-23:22) Paul had been in prison for several days in Jerusalem after his arrest in the Temple. Many wanted him dead. However, the resurrected Jesus stood by Paul and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome” (Acts 23:11). Although the circumstances looked bleak, Paul was reminded of the greater plan of God. For us, we can always be encouraged by God’s providential control over life’s events.

If we are to experience peace during tragedy, we must take our eyes off the circumstance, loss, or event and look unto Jesus who is uniquely qualified to comfort us. He declares, “Be of good cheer.”