The Grief in Ukraine and Our Chance to Live Out the Christian Promise
Rebuilding the destruction of war is more than just fixing roads or cleaning up cities, but bringing true healing.
Dr. Rick Morton
A friend of mine from Ukraine reached out on Easter Sunday. She was grieving. She had lost everything when her family left home at the beginning of the Russian invasion. Nearly two decades of community, torn to shambles. They lost their church family, the park where their children used to play.
This is important: The loss of material goods isn’t really what hurts. What hurts us the most is the loss of security, the loss of relationships we’d cultivated for years. The impact of such a catastrophe is hard to understate, especially for young children who are still developing emotionally and socially
But that kind of loss, important as it is, can be tough to understand. We can document and measure the number of roads and apartment buildings destroyed. We can count the cities hollowed out by war. We can count the displaced Ukrainians: 11 million.
But we can’t quantify the lasting, intangible effects of the war. Rebuilding lives is about so much more than rebuilding roads or cleaning up cities. It’s about healing deep, durable and complex wounds.
So, Christian witness is likely to look very different in light of this kind of trauma, for many years to come. The Church must provide safety and community to millions of people who’ve had these precious, basic human needs torn away from them.
Some will recover more quickly than others. Some, like children, might need a lifetime of help. We need to be there for them.
I haven’t lived through war, but I’ve lived through catastrophe. My family’s lives were suddenly upended, along with so many others’, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Everyone’s journey through these kinds of sudden, drastic changes is their own — and a war and a hurricane are very different forces. But they both have the potential to wipe out communities overnight.
When my family and I left our home in New Orleans a few days before Katrina hit, we knew we’d be coming back home soon. We took three days’ worth of clothes and left town, just like we’d done so many times before.
But we woke up one morning, and everything was gone. When we were allowed to return, we spent most of our time hugging people we’d known and weeping for what we’d never have again: each other, as we had been before the storm. We lost family heirlooms. We lost a way of life.
Of course, with time, we found a new normal. And, God willing, so will many who now suffer in the Ukraine war. But what they go back to won’t be what they left. The experience of sudden, stunning loss will leave marks on their hearts and minds.
We must bring the hope of the gospel to bear and trust Christ to heal the wounds of war.
There will be many heavy days even for those who are blessed to return to a home after the war, back to the broken silence of their old homes. And this is the darkness and pain the Church must enter. We must bring the hope of the gospel to bear and trust Christ to heal the wounds of war. We must minister patiently, with tenderness, to the millions who now mourn a loss most of the world doesn’t recognize.
The Easter promise can shine in the midst of despair, too. For example, Christ met His disciples on the road to Emmaus. They were “downcast,” the Bible tells us. And with good reason — their whole lives had been taken from them with His crucifixion and death.
Jesus didn’t reveal himself immediately. He took time to be present with them. He walked with them. He listened to them, and shared a meal with them. And suddenly, in their despair, they recognized Him. They knew He had risen.
This is the calling of the Church. After all, it is thanks to the grace and provision of God that we’re here at all. These moments of weakness and difficulty can bring us face to face with God in a way few other things will.
We can either choose to seek Him in suffering — whether it be our own or that of others — or we can try to clean up the mess on our own.
Only one path leads to true restoration. Only one path leads to healing. Only one path leads to Life, and he is the greatest need of Ukraine. The Church must prepare to walk in the tangible pain of Ukrainians, now and for years to come, and point them to the only real hope: Jesus.
The Better Samaritan blog is produced by the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College, a research institute which specializes in resilience and spiritual fortitude. To learn more and apply for a M.A. in Humanitarian & Disaster Leadership, visit our website.
Dr. Rick Morton is the vice president of Engagement at Lifeline Children’s Services. Most notably, Dr. Morton is the co-author of the popular “Orphanology: Awakening to Gospel-Centered Adoption and Orphan Care” and the author of “KnowOrphans: Mobilizing the Church for Global Orphanology.” He and his wife Denise have been married for over 30 years and have three children, all of whom joined their family through international adoption from Ukraine.