We will never run out of things to care about.
One glance at the internet, particularly if you run in certain circles, will bombard you with things that urgently need your prayers, your attention, your energy, your money. A great number of them are truly worthy. Like a deer in headlights, a sensitive person is arrested by need and overwhelmed by urgency. Each ‘terrible thing’ is like a gut-punch. How can we be okay, when there are things in the world that are not okay? How can we have peace, without guilt, in the face of injustice, horror, and evil? Should we be ashamed to be happy?
First of all, I have to remind myself that this is not a healthy metric. If I am waiting to feel peace on the condition that all the world is at peace, I will be waiting a very, very long time. So, while God does not ask me to turn a blind eye to the world’s inexorable needs, He does tell me that His joy and His peace are available to me within that context. If He was able to leave His peace with the disciples in the middle of the vicious Roman Empire, then He can surely leave it with me, too. So, on days when I feel overtaken – steamrolled by the sheer torrent of crises facing our world – I can take heart. Breathe. It is not all on me.
Yes, time on this earth is short. Yes, we are moving toward the fulfilment of the ages. But no, God is not in a hurry. His ‘suddenlies’ are His own business. And they that believe will never be in haste (‘be stricken with panic’). Panic is of Pan, not of God, and the gates of hell will never prevail against the church of God, because He is her builder.
The children of God should be peace in a churned world. It is not irresponsible, nor is it callous, nor ignorant. Peace is a Spirit-fruit flavour, and one of the world’s sorest needs is oases of peace. Be such an oasis. Don’t get sucked into survivor guilt because of the suffering of the world. Just do whatever God tells you to do about it, and do it with all your might.
There are three responses to the influx of negative information that come to mind, straight-up.
- Flee the vicinity. Take a Facebreak, or snooze anything that is too meaningful to cope with, if it arrives in a flood of meaningful appeals. This is a good temporary measure, especially for mental health reasons.
- Tackle them all. Give to them all, repost them all, get involved in them all. (That way lies madness.)
- Ask God which you should focus on, and give the rest to Him.
At the moment I am trying to go with (3). Amber alert? Lord, help that child get to home or to safety. Give them opportunities to make wise choices. Open clean paths before them. Awaken their hearts, close the eyes of their captors, send good people to help. Call them to Yourself. Environmental crisis? Lord, give us solutions to make positive changes in the way we care for Your planet. Give Your people bright, sustainable ideas that honour You and Your creation, leaving a clean legacy for future generations. People group in danger? Lord, bring change to that situation. Empower light and raid darkness. Rebuke the enemy for us, Lord. Make a way for these people to know You. Shift the politics. Show us what action we may need to take. Let there be a solution and a way forward that opens paths to righteousness and faith in You. … Now. To business.
Your prayers will differ from mine, but you get the drift: God is across all of those needs, and for whatever reason, delights in partnership with us. We won’t know how powerful our prayers are until the curtain lifts at the end of the show. They might be small increments that require many of us to wield them. They may be single nation-transforming sentences. We don’t know.
What we do know is that we are called to run our race, but only in our lane. St Paul might have had a tremendous ministry as a gospel singer, for all we know; but he gave it up to be a missionary. Perhaps he had many talents we don’t know about, but he picked tent-making. Was he wrong, or wasteful? No. He ran in his lane.
The world needs many things, and as God’s agents, we are part of its answer. But Jesus Himself needs only one thing from us: to sit at His feet. From there will come the awareness of our individual and corporate calls, and the assignments that fit within that scope. The passion of His heart runs in millions of directions, but we can only run in a million directions because there are millions of us. We have just two legs and one lane each. Therefore run in such a way as to get the prize.
As writers we can sometimes be lost in a myriad of opportunities. The scope for writing is wide and deep. There will always be a nagging or hysterical back-voice that says, ‘What are you playing at?! You should be writing about THIS!’ Unless this is the voice of the Holy Spirit, resist it. Write what is given you to write. Write what you know. Write into what could be, calling things that are not as though they were. But never submit to a tyrannical sense that whatever it is you write about, it’s not enough. It is enough. You were not created to be everybody. For every good work that you do, for every piece you deliver that says, ‘This issue matters,’ there will always be a chorus snapping back at you, ‘ALL issues matter!’ For every voice decreeing that you should be pouring the oil of your talent on the head of Jesus, someone else will be insisting that you should sell it for charity. But only one opinion truly matters. Focus on discovering, in partnership with the Lord, exactly which good works were prepared in advance for you to do. And have peace that the remainder will find good homes.
Lord, when my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I. My heart wants to contribute to Your mission, and it goes out to all whom You love. Yet I am just one person. Show me the path I should walk in. Teach me to hear Your voice accurately, so that I don’t drown in scope-creep. And when I am low on peace, please lend me Yours, from the bounty of Your Spirit, from which all the fruit emanates. Ripen Your fruit in me as I turn continually toward the Son. Thank you for all You do in and for me, and in and for the world. I’m Yours. Amen.