Collateral Damage

My colleague and I were late finishing up our lecture on Thursday, which meant the professor teaching after us had to stand there as we gathered up our things. I didn’t recognize him, so I started a little small talk to ease the awkwardness of making him wait.

“What’s the lecture for today?” I asked, expecting a quick rundown of Plato’s Phaedo or some other ancient text of philosophy. After all, that’s the sort of thing we often discuss in the Humanities Department. All I got, however, was a bewildered stare.

“Dr. Darrow is our professor of Russian History,” my colleague, Sue, cut in. That explained the stare. Russia had invaded Ukraine only a few hours earlier.

“Oh,” I stalled, feeling both foolish and insensitive as I shoved the last book into my bag. “What do you make of all this?”

His reply came in a whisper. “I don’t know,” he said, obviously still at a loss for words. “I don’t know what to think.”

Image courtesy of

If I’m being honest, I don’t know what to think either. Since opening my newsfeed Thursday morning and learning about the invasion,  I’ve tried to make sense of it. Nothing has really helped. My first thoughts were simple, and they’ve stayed there: People are going to die. In war, people always die.

These past few weeks, I’ve assumed Russia was only posturing. A friend of mine from Ukraine noted how this sort of thing is pretty par for the course over there. Threats and feints along the border happen every few years, but they’re more bluster than substance, so I never seriously believed it would escalate into outright war. But, here we are, and I don’t know what to think. My Ukrainian friend’s family is okay — for the moment — yet I also know someone who has a customer in Ukraine. He died yesterday in the crossfire, a victim of what we callously call collateral damage.

John 11 tells us a story of how Jesus, overwhelmed by the death of Lazarus, could only stand there and weep. “When Jesus saw Mary weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’” That’s when we get this profound glimpse into the heart of God. John says it simply: “Jesus wept.” If there’s an image to go with these past couple of days, it’s that one: Jesus, unable to keep it all together, profusely weeping. 

Today, more people are going to die. Our neighbors are going to hurt. More and more men and women will be sent to shoot and to bleed. What more divine response to all this is there than to weep?

In the midst of not knowing what to think about this war, maybe you, like me, have struggled with how to pray for it. What follows helped me. Let us pray it together as we weep with our Lord in the face of death and of war.

O Lord Jesus, Servant and Master, Bringer of Peace and Reconciliation, we cry out to you for the beginnings of this war now occurring in Ukraine. We long for you to arrest this violence and destruction, to bring this war to a just end, and for your protection for all innocent victims and everyone directly involved in military action, in Ukraine and in Russia. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

There are many relief efforts going on for the people of Ukraine. Here are but a few. We encourage you to help anywhere you can.