As I sit here at my computer, I’m not in a town that’s been ravaged by bushfires or a city awash with floodwaters. I don’t live in a state that has endured long, long weeks of lockdown and whose hospitals’ intensive care units have strained under the weight of COVID nor do I live in a war-torn country.
But here I am as one who has wept over the images on my computer screen, but then got up to make dinner. I am one who has passed fitful nights in prayer, but then got up the next day to go to work. I am one who has felt the guilt of pressing on with daily life while others suffer. What am I to do with the disparity of this heaviness of heart and mind as tragedy unfolds elsewhere, but my own life continues to skip along?
Here are a few things I have thought about in the last couple of years that have been so full of tragedy.
Take Some Time to Grieve
Don’t have the horror on an endless loop … Look for long enough to be informed and moved, but then try to step away back into our own life.
It would be a hard heart indeed that hasn’t wept over the images that have appeared in our newspapers and on our screens. So set aside some time to be sad and to weep. But limit your screen time. Don’t have the horror on an endless loop and end up an anxious, depressed mess. Staring at it won’t change the outcome. Look for long enough to be informed and moved, but then try to step away back into our own life.
Give thanks to God
We should give thanks. In his mercy, God has placed me here, not there, for today. God is sovereign. God is trustworthy. All of His promises have their YES in Jesus. He knows how this story finishes, and for the believer—no matter what their current circumstances—it finishes gloriously. Give God all the honour and glory, trusting that He is sovereign over all circumstances, including your own current location and circumstances. He knows.
Make use of peace and freedom to pray. Pray for catastrophes to end. Pray for a change of weather or for change in a leader’s mind. Pray for those making decisions on the ground to do so with clarity and justice. Pray for those making decisions higher up the chain of command to be able to see things from all the angles. Pray for the resources needed. Pray for Christians in the midst to hold firm to their faith and to shine like stars in the night, and, if it comes to it, to be steadfast to the end. Pray for others to turn to God for help; for comfort, for peace, for strength, for hope.
Prayer is not small work. It’s the best work.
Prayer is not small work. It’s the best work, and those of us with tender hearts and peaceful circumstances are well-placed to be doing it.
Seek to Share the Hope we have with Others
As Christians we have a hope that is real and sure; a hope that gives us strength and purpose, and a beautiful, eternal future. Make use of the peaceful freedom we enjoy to keep whispering Jesus into our friends’ ears. Keep our Saviour in the conversation, and prayerfully press on trying to keep that conversation on the table.
Do Something Practical
Maybe you’re near Ground Zero and can give help? Or ,maybe you know of a church or mission organisation on the spot to which you can direct resources? But if not, there’s still something else you can do. Make use of the tender compassion that is welling up by letting it drive and stretch you to help someone else. There are others near by who also need your help:
- the newly widowed woman who sits in front of you at church;
- the single mother; the family whose parents are both unemployed;
- the housebound;
- the elderly;
- those serving refugees or the homeless.
They need help too, and you can be that help.
Like squirrels who use the warmer months to store up for winter, let’s use times of peaceful freedom to dig deep into (and memorise) parts of God’s Word. If we develop good habits of prayer and strengthen bonds of good fellowship; if we fill up, build up; if we put down deep roots, we will be ready when the winter comes. It might be a bushfire; it might be flood or war, or it might be something closer to home but equally hard. But if we have our stores ready we will be able to face them in God’s strength.
God says in Zechariah 4:10, “Do not despise the day of small things.” In the face of large-scale tragedy, most of these things seem so very small and insignificant. But God does not despise such small things. In his sovereignty he has not placed me in the midst of war, a flood, a bushfire or a location hugely impacted by the pandemic for today. For now he has put me here, and so I will seek to do what I can where he has placed me, to his honour and glory.