It seems like every time you access any source of news lately, the world is full of bad news and hatred and violence. There are days when it feels like the weight of tragedy and injustice is a physical thing that sits on my chest and breaks my heart. My heart has been heavy all week at the news of the mass shootings last weekend, and the hateful and vile ideologies of the perpetrators of that violence. Sometimes it seems like the world is just more hateful than it used to be, and I feel at a loss of what to do or say to help. A couple of verses have come to mind, though, that help me in these times.

“If you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter; for high official watches over high official, and higher officials are over them.” Ecclesiastes 5:8  

“[We are] hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; [we are] perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed– always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-10

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 

Ecclesiastes reminds me that violent perversion of justice and righteousness is nothing new, and I shouldn’t be shocked and surprised by it in this fallen world. 2nd Corinthians and 2nd Timothy remind me of the power that we have in Christ, and that there is no room for cowering in fear as a Christian. It’s easy to feel defeated or alone in the world when we hear about tragedy after tragedy, when we see the climate of our nation grow increasingly divided and hostile, when we feel like there is nothing to be done. But the truth is that there is always something to be done. I am not capable of changing the world, but I am capable of helping my little corner of it.

When tragedies like this happen, we often see references to the quote from Mr. Rogers encouraging kids to “look for the helpers.” Yes, when we want to bury our heads in the sand from the ugliness, we should absolutely look for the helpers, but we should not stop there. We then need to join them in the helping. How do we do that? What does it look like? I know that there are a lot of issues that come together to create the kind of person who carries out a mass shooting, and we can’t eliminate all of the factors out there. The issue is complex, and from my vantage point, a large part of it — the dehumanization of those outside of our own little social groups, the glorification of violence, the hunger for notoriety, individuals living isolated lives and being radicalized through online forums — appears to be society-wide and ingrained in our culture. How can I do anything to stop that? The truth is that with man it is impossible, but God is not constrained by our humanity. The love of God is a powerful force that can overcome anything, and our job as Christians is to shine a light that points the world to that love. THIS I can do. This we ALL can do. One Christian shining a light in their home, workplace, and community may not change the world, but it can impact many individuals along the way, who can then impact other individuals….and we will never know what kind of hatred we could be extinguishing by spreading love. And extinguishing hatred can prevent all manner of violence and evil.

Someone shared this image on Facebook recently and it really struck a chord for me. This is the attitude that I need to remember. Instead of burying my head at the stress and ugliness in the world, I need to refocus on the Teacher who saw the evil more clearly than I ever could and whose answer to it was radical, self-sacrificing love. Follow his model of loving his enemies and washing feet. Shine a light to show those around me that the love of God is greater than the hatred of men, and pray for those who are lost in hate to see that light. Reach out to my neighbors and go out in my community to really engage and love others rather than sticking to my safe little echo chamber of friends. Remove the basket and let my light shine for the world to see ( ref. Matthew 5:15). I know that this doesn’t bring back the lives that were lost and it doesn’t comfort those who have missing loved ones in their home tonight. I cannot remove the tragedy that has already happened, but I can pray for those hurt by it and I can decide to do better in the future than I have in the past. I am weary of reading these news stories and walking around with a heavy heart for a week or so and then moving on and returning back into my comfort zone until the next tragedy hits. I need to be more intentional in loving my neighbor, and I need to remember the words of Paul that even though we may be perplexed, we are not in despair. There is work to do.