The news these days is A LOT. Whether it’s the global pandemic, frightening levels of unemployment, racism, clashes about government overreach vs. inaction, an ever-growing refugee crisis, human trafficking, natural disasters, or international tensions – there is so much we could worry about.

What is the Christ-like response?

As Christians, how do we react to all the turmoil around us? I’ve wrestled with this question for years, but especially in this crazy year. Some suggest that we should just turn off the news and focus on our own families. That can feel like the right answer, but I don’t think it is. While ultimately we all have limits in what we can do, that is no excuse to ignore the suffering of our neighbors.

Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’”

Matthew 25:44-45

But we also should be cautious about our news consumption. It’s possible to become so consumed in keeping up with the latest tragedies that it’s unhealthy for our minds and hearts. God gave us the example of resting on the Sabbath for a reason – we are not made to go 24/7 and try to carry the weight of the world on our own.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

Balancing Act

I’ve heard an analogy of walking the “narrow path” as a literal road. It’s possible to veer too far in each direction and end up in the ditch. This applies in a crisis as well. We must walk the straight path to avoid both the savior complex and apathy to suffering.

There have been times in my life that I fell into the apathetic category. Sure, I gave money to the church and donated to charities occasionally. But I wasn’t personally invested in the well-being of my neighbors. My life was about myself.

I have also had times when I got caught up in “saviorism.” I have a tendency to feel like I need to have all the answers, a solution to every problem, and time to meet every need. That’s not only impossible; it’s arrogant.

It’s still a work in progress for me to find the balance between those two extremes. I’ve learned that I need to trust God more and myself less. I’ve also learned that it takes some effort to be aware of the needs of others in order to respond. It’s easy here in the US to get caught in our comfortable little bubbles where everyone looks and lives like us. When we make no effort to widen our circles, it’s easy to ignore how many people in the world are living in pain and need a friend. We need to do better at finding these people and walking with them as friends and neighbors, while also acknowledging that we can’t save them – only God does that.

Take the first step

Sometimes I think the obstacle is not that we don’t care, but that there are so many things to care about that it’s tough to know where to start. What I’ve learned over the years is that there are plenty of issues to go around; so you really can take your pick. Here’s a place to start: think about watching the news or scrolling through social media when a story crosses your path. Which stories stop you cold? Which heartbreaks keep you up at night? What issues do you see that aren’t getting enough attention in your community? That’s where you start.

Use every available resource to learn more about that subject. Seek out local organizations involved in the work and see if they need help. Consider your own talents and experience, and how to leverage those assets in your community. Also remember that just because someone else pursues a different passion, doesn’t mean your passion doesn’t matter. There is room for all of us to make a difference.

Proceed with purpose

I love the illustration below from Oh Happy Dani. It’s easy to bypass one of these steps, but in order to have the best impact, we need to focus, learn, partner with others, and actively engage. When we skip the focused learning, our efforts can be disjointed or even do harm. Other times we can get distracted and never advance past the learning stage. Neither of these are effective ways to help anyone.

Illustration by Oh Happy Dani

I listed some practical ideas on loving “strangers” in a previous post. There are so many people out there with guidance on ways to help our neighbors.

I really appreciate the emphasis on local helping in Dani’s illustration above. There is certainly a need to donate to the large national and international organizations and the great work they do. But if we stop there, we can find ourselves disengaged from the people we are most equipped to help. No matter where you live, there are people nearby who need something you have to offer. With some digging, we can all find people to learn and work with.

No one person can be an expert on every cause, but we can all become more educated and active on issues that affect our neighbors.