What to Do When You’re Overwhelmed by the World

Is anyone else exhausted? I don’t mean the kind of tiredness from long hours at work. Or because your baby was awake at 3 a.m. Or because you were up too late last night watching a House of Cards marathon. That can be part of it, I guess.

But what I really mean is that feeling of exhaustion from the barrage of depressing, discouraging—and sometimes downright infuriating—news stories. Planned Parenthood. Ashley Madison. Murdered reporters. The migrant crisis.

It can be an emotional rollercoaster. And sometimes, to be quite honest, it’s very tempting to just get off the ride—to become concerned only for my life and my family and my circle of friends. To bury my head in the sand—or at least commit to only watching videos about baby zoo animals doing cute things.

I confess that because my background is in journalism, it used to bother me when people didn’t know what was going on in the news. And because I’m a very passionate person—which I’ve tried blaming on my hot Latin blood—it used to really irk me to see people go about their lives seemingly unconcerned about injustice and oppression. My poor husband has patiently listened to many impassioned speeches from me about some current event or another. God bless him.

But now I totally understand statements like, “I don’t pay attention to the news; it’s too depressing.”

In the last few weeks, I have been especially saddened, outraged, contemplative and disturbed. I vacillate between wanting to put on a cape and a mask and dedicate my entire life to eradicating injustice in the world, to feeling completely overwhelmed because I am just one person.

It seems that I am too small and the problems are too big. Sometimes I really wish I didn’t care so much.

Although the bad news of the world can seem too overwhelming at times, amazingly, these dark and confusing times have actually driven me closer to God. Once I remembered to take my eyes off the bleakness and back onto Jesus, I have found solace in my faith, in prayer and in the wisdom of the Bible.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the world’s problems, here are a few things I’ve found helpful:

Find Balance

We can’t spend our lives thinking the world is all about baby zoo animals doing cute things, but we can’t dedicate an unreasonable amount of time to negative news stories either. (I’ve definitely been guilty of the latter.)

There is good and evil in the world. It’s illogical to focus solely on the good and ignore the evil. Doing so makes us no better than the city of Sodom, whom the Bible says was guilty of being “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:49).

To insist that people “Focus only on the good in the world,” sounds really nice. But what if everyone during Nazi Germany or the Jim Crow era adopted that same mentality? We can’t pretend life is sunshine and rainbows when there is real suffering and injustice all around us.

On the flipside, let’s not become so discouraged by the unfounded belief that good no longer exists in the world. There are still people who will help an elderly neighbor or feed a homeless person, knowing they will get nothing in return. There are vigilant people fighting against human trafficking and working to restore victims. There are sweet saints who are rescuing children from abuse, neglect and poverty.

People still love. People still care. People are speaking up for those who don’t have a voice. Rejoice and be encouraged that the world is still filled with people like this. God is working out beautiful stories and miracles all around us!

See Also

Don’t Dwell—Do

Confession: I have a tendency to mentally dwell too long on bad news. I keep thinking, “Why did this happen? How can a person be so cruel? How awful must it have been for the victim?” My heart becomes incredibly grieved, and while we are to “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” according to Romans 12:15, I don’t think God wants us to stay in that place of sorrow for too long. A depressed state can be quite debilitating, rendering us ineffective to make a positive change in the world.

Lately, I am trying not to dwell too long on an emotion. I have found it helpful—both for my sanity and for the cause for which I’m passionate—to pray, serve, sign a petition, spread awareness on social media, vote, call my senators and my representatives in Congress and ask them to act.

It’s good to feel empathy about a particular situation; it’s far better to do something about it. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

Harvest Hope

In the novel-turned-movie, The Hunger Games, someone asks bad guy President Snow why he chooses a winner of the battle royal—instead of just executing all 24 players to intimidate the districts from whence they came. President Snow answers, “Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine, as long as it’s contained.”

Hope is powerful, and it’s contagious. In the midst of all the scary things that are happening in the world, it’s easy to become fearful. But instead, God calls us to have hope, to have a confident expectation that something good is going to happen. And ultimately, to trust that Jesus Christ is coming back to make all things new—to wipe away every tear, heal every disease and take away pain and death (Revelation 21:4).

In these troubling times, I have been reminded again and again of Jesus’ words in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
 
Thank God that despite all the craziness in the world today, there is always, always hope.

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