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Suffering and tragedy

When tragic events take place in our lives, we ask, “Why?” See below for some resources to help you cope with the sadness and confusion created when you experience loss or injustice.

Message from Tim Keller | Sermons | Help for children | Psalms

Message from Tim Keller

"As a minister, of course, I’ve spent countless hours with people who are struggling and wrestling with the biggest question — the Why question — in the face of relentless tragedies and injustices. And like all ministers or any spiritual guides of any sort, I scramble to try to say something to respond, and I always come away feeling inadequate — and that’s not going to be any different today. But we can’t shrink from the task of responding to that question. Because the very best way to honor the memories of the ones we’ve lost and love is to live confident, productive lives. And the only way to do that is to actually be able to face that question. We have to have the strength to face a world filled with constant devastation and loss. So where do we get that strength? How do we deal with that question? I would like to propose that, though we won’t get all of what we need, we may get some of what we need three ways: by recognizing the problem for what it is, and then by grasping both an empowering hint from the past and an empowering hope from the future." - Tim Keller

*Excerpt above is from the transcript of a sermon preached by Tim Keller at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on the fifth anniversary of 9/11. It addresses suffering and how to cope with it and was delivered to various dignitaries and survivors of responders from the NYPD and NYFD. Transcript provided by Michael Keller.

Read the full transcript.

Sermons related to tragedy

The Birth of Jesus (Light in the Darkness)
Tim Keller
Luke 2:1-7
​December 16, 2012


The Furious Love of Jesus
Tim Keller
John 11:32-44
December 8, 1996


Praying Our Tears
Tim Keller
Psalm 39:12-13; 126:1-6
February 27, 2000

All the laments in the Psalms suggest that there are three things we need to do with our tears: expect tears, invest the tears, and pray the tears.


Praying Our Fears
Tim Keller
Psalm 3:1-8; Genesis 15:1-8
February 5, 2000

We all know that fear is a very present reality. How should we deal with it? Defining moments from the lives of David and Abram give us biblical and practical ways to deal with fear.


Service of Hope: Truth, Tears, Anger and Grace
Tim Keller
John 11
September 16, 2001


(Entire service)


(Sermon only)

Help for children

Many parents struggle to know how to talk with their children about tragic events like the Newtown, CT shootings. As parents, we frequently feel inadequate in providing for our children’s needs, but events like these truly leave us at a loss. Below are a few suggestions to help equip parents to talk about tragic events with their children:

  • Listen: Give your child the space and time to ask questions and process out loud. For younger children (preschool), follow their lead in the discussion. Many children this age may be totally unaware of the events. If so, it is not necessary to talk with them about it. Older children in elementary and above have most likely heard about events from the news, the internet or their friends. Pick good moments to ask open-ended questions about how they are feeling and what they are thinking. Bedtimes and meal times are good times of the day for checking in with your child.
  • Answer: Answer your child’s question directly and honestly. Children don’t need a perfect answer, but they do need an honest answer. Listen to what is behind the question but be careful to not overload young children with too much information. And remember that it is always okay to answer with, “I don't know.” You can follow up with, “But what I do know is that God loves us and he will help us figure this out.”
  • Maintain routine: One of the most important and tangible ways we can help our children feel safe is by creating an environment that is predictable. Especially during times of tragedy, daily routines are very important and reassuring to children. Plan some extra “family-time.” Fun times together as a family provide comfort and feelings of safety for children.
  • Be patient: All of us process grief in different ways, which often sets relationships up for conflict. Be patient with yourself and your children as you process. Understand that members of your family may be in different stages of grief. Give each other grace to be in whatever stage of grief each of you are in.
  • Take care of yourself: During times of tragedy and grief, self-care is one of the first things to go, and yet it is crucial to our ability to heal. Make sure you as parents are getting rest, eating well, exercising, and having down time for processing and prayer. Talk to other parents about how they are doing and how they are processing with their children.

Psalms of comfort and encouragement

Psalm 3 | Psalm 5 | Psalm 43 | Psalm 46 | Psalm 121