This weekend our team was tasked with tackling a very difficult subject: “If God Is Powerful, Why Does He Allow Tragedy and Suffering?” We could have dealt with this discussion from a philosophical level, theoretical level, or even at an academic level, but in truth this subject is troubling for most of us because it hits each of us at a very personal level. Each of us know tragedy and suffering first hand in our own way. In truth, there are no easy answers to the question at hand, and cliché answers tend to be offensive especially when we’re in the midst of suffering.
Therefore, our team felt we needed to find a story that encapsulated the personal struggle each of us feel with this topic, but also find one where hope wins in the end in spite of the lack of easy answers.
We found such a story with Jordan & Danielle Connell and their son Carson. The Connell’s gave birth to their son Carson in April of 2015, and everything seemed fine at first. But soon it was discovered that Carson had a rare, but life threatening, liver disease where the only cure was a liver transplant. Carson brought nothing but joy and smiles to all around him due to his infectiously positive attitude and heart-warming smile. In spite of all the hardships this little boy faced, he took all of them head on with a grin. Still, the disease was too much for Carson… and within eight months Carson lost his life. Obviously, the Connells were devastated, but in those eight months they grew closer to Jesus more than they ever had before. They didn’t have answers as to why God allows tragedy or suffering. All they knew was that those short eight months with Carson shaped them for eternity in a way nothing else could.
Some of us on our Creative Team had been journeying with the Connell’s through all of this and felt like their story would fit exactly what we were looking for. We decided to shoot a video of their story so that the audience could personally connect with their story.
But we also wanted some form of live element with the Connell’s at the end to bring a message of hope. So after a great deal of discussion we landed on something we had never really done before: We had Jordan and Danielle on stage (on stools with hand held microphones) immediately after their video to share a message of hope live and in person. As a team, we felt that just keeping the story in video form only – though powerful – would not deliver the full impact we were seeking. We wanted to show the persistent tenaciousness of HOPE in the face of tragedy and suffering. Having Jordan and Danielle on stage after telling their story to share that part live was our best idea for achieving that. This made it…personal. It’s not something we would normally execute to on regular basis, but our sense in this place was it needed that touch and it proved to be true.
We concluded this moment in the service with the Ben Rector song, “When A Heart Breaks.” This was a song we accidentally landed on a few weeks out after laying in another song earlier. We loved the tension that the song created and allowed people to wrestle with their true feelings around pain and suffering. The staging and execution of the song allowed for people to process what they had just heard (message) and experienced (Connell Story). It was a positive use of a song to put a period on the moment.
- When dealing with a difficult and emotional topic, resist the temptation to address it in intellectual fashion only and address the personal and emotional issues the audience is wrestling with.
- Stories matter. A story can help everyone process a difficult subject in a way that talking points cannot. When it is personal, keep it personal.
- Get a sense for where God is leading in the service and clear the pathway to that end. What will drive that message home the best? Lean into that.
Sunday Set List:
Special: When A Heart Breaks
Run Sheet: January 24, 2016