There are some days when I simply cannot handle all that is going on in the world. Days that I have to shut my computer, turn off the television, and avoid social media at all costs, all because the scrolling headlines are just too overwhelming.
A devastating plane crash. ISIS, kidnapping and threatening to kill hundreds of Christians. More terror inflicted by the group Boko Haram. The reality of human trafficking. Shootings. Rioting and mounting racial tensions throughout the country. The list goes on and on. There are new headlines everyday. Fresh reminders of the reality of evil and existence of pain in our broken world.
There is so much to take in; so much to process. At times, it feels as though we are inundated by darkness. And although I know that I should be grieving these things, it is easy to become callous to the suffering. To to succumb to the temptation to feel too small and powerless. Rather than allowing ourselves to respond to the devastation, we often move through our days consumed by our own lives, shutting out the rest of the world because we don’t quite know how to keep the hope. In fact, in the midst of pain and terror and all that our world is facing, at times it feels foolish to hope at all. Futile even.
Yet that is exactly what we should be doing: keeping the hope. Here are a few ways to do so.
Allow Yourself to Feel it
It’s OK to feel grief and anger when we are confronted by atrocities in the world. Lament and mourning are a proper response to suffering, and there will be days when we feel the weight more acutely than others. We are not called to turn our backs to the suffering of others, but rather join them in it. Weep with those who weep, and pray for God to break our hearts for what breaks His. Live in the tension.
Yet with that, we are not called to live our lives paralyzed by sadness either. It is faithfulness that moves us forward, even if it is only inch by inch.
Trust in God’s Transformational Love
If ever there has been a lesson that I’ve had to relearn over and over again it is this: joy and pain can and do coexist.
We see this truth throughout the biblical narrative. Suffering is rarely mentioned in the New Testament without a mention of the blessings that accompany it. One of my favorite quotes is by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a man who knew of the coexistence of joy and pain all too well as he encouraged South Africans in their struggle for human rights. He says, “There is no such thing as a totally hopeless case. Our God is an expert at dealing with chaos, with brokenness, with all the worst that we can imagine. God created order out of disorder, cosmos out of chaos, and God can do so always, can do so now—in our personal lives and in our lives as nations, globally. Indeed God is transforming the world now—through us—because God loves us.”
As we read current events and tragic headlines and wonder how to make sense of it all, it does us well to remember that God works through chaos, suffering and brokenness. He grieves with us, but is also the reason that we have hope. Although God calls us to mourn, He has the power to turn our mourning into dancing.
Express Hope Through Action
It’s hard to know where to begin to respond when we hear of such pain and suffering. In fact, many of the world’s problems seem insurmountable. So how do we begin to move a mountain? One small stone at at a time. That is faith in action.
Our response should be out of compassion, not fear. Educate yourself and others. Stay teachable, seeking to learn and to understand. When you feel particularly discouraged, talk about what is going on with those who love you and speak into your life best. Support organizations that are dedicated to peace and justice.
Mourn with those who mourn, but also rejoice with those who rejoice. And above all, let our hope manifest itself through love. For we know that God’s perfect love drives out all fear.
This article appeared in an earlier form in March 2015.