How do you react when tragedy strikes?

6594469965_56ce8ca4fa_z.jpgSeattlite and college student Amanda Knox recently received the news that she’d be going to jail for another 28 years for a crime of which she’d already been acquitted.

She’s already had a taste of jail, however, serving four years of her previous 26-year sentence before being freed. She was accused of helping kill her roommate, but none of her DNA was even at the crime scene. Another man’s DNA was on and in the victim, so Knox should have had no reason to be involved further in the case.

And yet she was. Despite no physical evidence, she was accused, then convicted. She was a student abroad in Italy when suddenly, one of the worst scenarios happened to her.

(SEE: Conviction Reinstated)

She has conveyed her shock and dismay in multiple interviews, expressing her terror of having to spend more years in a cell than she’s even been alive. Her conviction seems so mindless, so callous, so unfair.

Unfairness is a natural part of life. There will be tests you spend days preparing for that friends who studied for 20 minutes will do better on in grading. There will be people who won’t let you enter their lane even when you let them in earlier. And there will be people you invested your love in who will blow you off. Such a harsh realization can leave you feeling hopeless and pretty cynical.

And sometimes I wonder if that’s how Christ must have felt. I can’t think of a more unjust situation than the most perfect person being shamed and sentenced to death. He was speaking the truth when he claimed to be God in human form, but was still accused of blasphemy. He came to save the world and not condemn it, and yet the world insisted on condemning and not saving him. His innocence seems obvious, his death grossly unfair.

But then I remember Jesus’ response to the world’s cries of “Crucify him!” and I pause. His response was humble—it was prayer. His reaction to injustice wasn’t to lash out. He reprimanded Peter’s violent outburst without complaint.

Christ suffered the ultimate injustice, but this unfairness became the greatest gift to mankind;sometimes unfairness can result in something beautiful. Aslan’s death ended winter. Sydney Carton’s sacrifice reunited an otherwise doomed couple. The crucifixion brought us grace and life. What seemed evil, God used for good (Gen. 50:20). And it started with a prayer.

Dr. Minnie Claiborne, a counselor and therapist, endorses what she calls “prayer therapy.” She recommends praying to help heal both body and mind from affliction. Through prayer therapy, she has helped students from APU overcome past tragedies and walk toward future healing.

Now, this isn’t to say that we should accept all injustice. We are called to defend the weak and the poor and those who have no one else to stand up for them (Psalm 82:3). But we need to check our initial reactions to unfairness and see what motivates them.

What’s our tragedy reflex? How do we react when something unexpected or unfair comes our way? I think we often respond in self-pity, seeking condolence from others. We can respond in complaining, moaning about the bad circumstances we are enduring. Worst of all, we can let bitterness stifle any progress toward accepting tragedy or what seems unfair to us. We allow it to grip our hearts, stopping the flow of life until we are no longer breathing.

So how should we respond when smooth stretches of life are suddenly interrupted, peppering us with fear, rage and doubt? Like children who are scared or sad, we should go to our Father. We are to “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil. 4:6). Our reaction to tragedy should be prayer.

Maybe that’s why our reflexes are always tested on our knees.

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