When Words Fail: A Pastoral Reflection on the Boston Marathon Tragedy

*Editors Note: Due to the horrific events of the last week in Boston and given the number of partner churches we have in that City, we wanted to share with you the words of Pastor Tanner Turley. The following is a repost from the Redemption Hill church blog and is used with permission.

The tragic bombings and aftermath of the 117th Marathon in our great city have left us searching. It hits all too close to home. Krystle Campbell, one of the victims who died, was a 2001 graduate of Medford High School. Her family lives in our city, and our deepest condolences and prayers go out to them. We are also praying for a new family in our church whose grown son sustained injuries from the explosion near the finish line. Thankfully, he is recovering well thus far. A beautiful day of celebration and triumph turned into a swirl of destruction and loss.

For these and countless reasons, words fail us in times like these. That is not only normal; it is good. Rather than conjuring up words of eloquence and resolve, I am drawn to words already spoken, powerful words that have often liberated my perplexed mind and tattered soul. These words are found in the sacred writings in the Old and New Testaments. They are words of sanity for our suffering and truth in our terror. I hear voice of God through Jesus saying to us . . .

This is not the way it is supposed to be. The world I created was free from evil, free from brokenness, free from atrocities like those experienced Monday on Boylston Street (Genesis 1-2). I am not the author of evil. I hate it, infinitely more than you do (Hebrews 1:9). I am the author of life and all that is good (Psalm 139:14).”

I am near.  Your city streets are plagued by sin, but I was there. I fill heaven and earth (Jeremiah 23:24). They call me “Immanuel” because it means “God with us.” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). Make no mistake: I entered your darkness (John 1:14). I am near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18). I care for you (1 Peter 5:8). Come to me for rest (Matthew 11:28), and I will fill you with an incomprehensible peace (Philippians 4:6).”

I suffered with you. I felt pain and wept over death (John 11:35). I carried your sorrows and bore your griefs (Isaiah 53:4). I am able to sympathize with all of your weaknesses and tribulation (Hebrews 4:15). When the flames rise, I will walk through the fire with you (Isaiah 43:2).”

I suffered for you. I was not only willing to suffer with you, but I willingly gave my life as a sacrifice that I might suffer for you. I tasted death that you might taste life (Hebrews 2:9). I was broken that you might be healed (Luke 4:31). Your guilt, shame, and sin were nailed to my cross. My death shows you that the greatest injustice can result in the greatest good (Romans 8:28-39).”

This is not the way it will be! Take heart, I have overcome the world (John 16:33). One day, full and complete justice will be served on a cosmic scale. One day, every wrong will be made right. One day, all war and oppression, pain and sickness, sorrow and tears will be no more. My gracious and audacious love will conquer. My restoration of this fallen world will be complete (Revelation 21:1-4). My resurrection tells you there is hope beyond despair and triumph beyond the grave.”

Jesus is “the truth” (John 14:6), and he promises that his truth “will set us free” (John 8:32). This is our greatest need. May the God of truth fill us with his presence, peace, and power as we wade through these difficult waters, and may he lead us to a better hope in him than we ever thought possible.

* Redemption Hill Church is here for the people of Medford and Greater Boston. Here are a few ways we are responding as a church to love and pray for our city.

  • Tonight (4/17), we will be gathering at Hope Fellowship Church in Cambridge for a prayer service (7-8pm) at 16 Beech Street.
  • If you would like free counseling, a shoulder to cry on, or time to explore spiritual questions, we are here for you. Contact us to setup a time to meet with one of our pastors.
  • During our service on Sunday, we will hold a special time of prayer for all affected by the Marathon tragedy. Our sermon will also be focused on many related issues. Please join us for a valuable time of reflection and encouragement.
Tanner2Tanner Turley is the Lead Pastor and Planter of Redemption Hill Church in Medford, MA (Greater Boston). He and his wife, Marsha, have two girls, Parker and Kesed. He enjoys hanging with friends and family, frequenting coffee shops, reading, and following the Red Sox and Celtics. His desire is to see people become missional disciples who love Jesus, his Word, his people, his mission, and his glory. He holds an M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees from SEBTS.