I wrote this post a few weeks ago, but for some reason I couldn’t bring myself to post it. I think I worried that it was “too late” since everyone had stopped talking about the crises in the news. But I wanted to post this for the next time the world seems scary and dark and overwhelming.
The last few weeks have been full of bad news. I probably don’t even need to list them all out, because between the unjustified deaths at traffic stops and clubs, police shootings, the Bastille Day attack, the execution of a priest, and the coup, it seems like it’s all anyone can talk about. My head has been spinning, and I’m not sure these jumbled thoughts will make much sense, but they’re the best I have right now.
“Has anyone tried turning the Earth off and back on again? It’s broken.”
“This is it, guys, this is the end.”
“Giant Meteor 2016 — Just end it already.”
My social media feeds are full of panicky half-jokes about how this is it, this is how it’s all going to end. It feeds into my anxiety, and soon I’m wondering, “Is this really it? Are things really getting worse than they’ve ever been?”
But then I remember the aftermath of 9/11 in 2001, and the panic that swept through the country. I read about plane hijackings in the 70’s and 80’s, and think about all the crises that have happened throughout history — WWI and WWII, the Crusades, the Black Death, widespread colonization, the growth of cruel empires. I think history kind of ebbs and flows — there will be a lull for a decade or two, and then there seems to be a few years when horrible events fall like dominoes. I’m trying to keep some perspective so I don’t become so afraid that I hide in bed all day.
I don’t think that turning into doomsday preppers and hiding from the disasters all around us is the right answer. First of all, that’s not an option for many people in other places around the world, so it’s totally unfair to expect that for ourselves. Instead I think we need to reach out to those who are suffering — the widows and orphans, the disenfranchised and homeless. There are so many hard conversations to have about policy changes, and instead of using arguments as battering rams, it might be a good time to pull out the empathy and use it.
Jeremiah 29:11 has been running through my mind constantly lately: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” That verse was written to the Israelites after they were exiled to Babylon — Jeremiah 29 is full of dire warnings to false prophets and hard-hearted kings, but this verse is a glimmer of hope in the midst of hard news. I know a lot of people would say I’m stupid for believing that God has a plan that will bring about good through horrible events, but I have to believe it. Scripture is full of unlikely people being chosen to save the Israelites, and I know he’s still working, even if it’s hard to see in the moment. It makes me think of Mr. Rogers’ quote about the helpers:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
Update: I heard about Khaled Omar Harrah’s death yesterday, and he and the other White Helmets are amazing examples of helpers. I can’t even begin to compare to their selflessness and bravery, but I can keep listening, learning, looking for ways to help, and praying for peace. But I’m holding onto hope too. Even though sometimes it seems totally impossible and it’s so easy to wonder “Is this it?” it’s all I really can do.
Hoping you’re safe and well, and praying for peace and grace for all those affected.