Any community of faith will experience tragedy while it is trying to live heroically. It’s a fact that will stay true until God comes back and makes things right on this earth. Elisha experienced this when he took on leadership over Elijah’s crew while mourning Elijah’s departure. Elisha knew that it would be hard to come into leadership with Elijah’s legacy right behind him, but he took up the mantle of leadership and ran with it. The others saw this and began to look to him for leadership. It is hard to say if they or Elisha knew if he was going to measure up to the legacy of Elijah, but Elisha knew he had to lead. Not only that, he also had to lead with the loss of a great leader on his shoulders.
We all will go through times when we get the mantle passed down to us and plenty of those times will be during or because of a tragedy in our communities. It is one of the hardest things to do and will challenge whoever tries it. What makes it difficult during tragedy is that the emotions can take us low and leave us feeling incapable of any act of heroism. Although it can feel debilitating, tragedy leads to one of two possibilities, either giving up or rising up. It’s not wrong to mourn loss. Mourning is a part of being human and emotion is mostly an inescapable part of us. However, we must be ready to keep moving at the same time. The movement of God is about moving forward brave and hopeful, realizing all the great possibilities God has to offer. In tragedy we have seen the greatest heroes rise up. Like the emergency workers who ran into the Twin Towers, heroes can be made in terrible circumstances. The tragedies of losing great people stick with us, but the possibilities that follow the tragedies help us see how God used those people to move heaven into the moment.
Elisha did not get a break for his loss. He was tested with something that was simply impossible. There was no break in the story for mourning. How was someone supposed to make salty water clean and drinkable, especially in the middle of heartache? The crazy thing about salt and water, if you remember high school science, is that once its mixed, it cannot be separated in normal circumstance. If tragedy was not enough, God brought impossibility. The question why is definitely first. Why does God do this? Why is always a good question (something I learned from Erwin McManus’ Unstoppable Force.) If we can find God’s why, we might find a God worth chasing. The Bible and Church history does not give us every detail of God’s why. Among Christians there is much disagreement on the answer to that question. One thing is for sure, God is planning something big. It is something that makes all things new and leaves nothing dead and destroyed. He wants His creation to experience life. Not just existing, but life on an extraordinary level. It’s hard to see this when tragedy surrounds us, but all the times we see God act in the Bible, we see a God that is in the business of reviving and moving. We also see a God that wants to utilize His people to do something big. We are actually required to do something. God is calling us forward not to exist in a greater form of heartache but into something that transforms the tragedy into something good.
God can do great things but his plan is for us to act. It is up to us to be the heroes that God uses. He is calling us, but will we act? Heroes do not lack feeling, but they do not lack resolve either. We are approaching the holiday that celebrates an excellent example, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Many of us still live in the tragedy of his passing, but very few have picked up his lifestyle. We cannot be a people who look back all the time at heroes that have passed while wondering who is going to pick up where they left off. We have been given the opportunity to be heroes today who inspire of the heroes of the future. All the emotion that comes from the tragedy of losing heroes reminds us of why God drove them to do what they did. That is what makes them heroic, not their death, but their life. With that memory, we will remember to join God and face impossibility. Elisha kept moving with God and watched the impossible situation turn into the extraordinary moment. We should do the same, because the world around us is in tragedy and waiting for God to do something extraordinary through His Church.