The world is a broken, hurting place. While this has always been true, our collected pain seems to have become almost palpable as of late. From news stories to Facebook posts, from blog entries to conversation, from church services to angry graffiti – it’s on everyone’s mind.
If you read and believe the Bible to be true then you’ve always known this to be the case – the Bible contains no end of stories and teachings about how horrible the world can be, simultaneously containing pleadings and begging for it to be different.
I believe the Bible (or at least Christianity [read: following the teachings of Jesus]) also offers answers. Somewhere. However, those answers differ greatly depending on who you talk to.
Everyone has a moment when they realized the world is very screwed up. It could happen at any time and for a number of reasons. It could be gentle or you could be forced into it by a deep and personal tragedy, like being shoved off a cliff into freezing water when you don’t know how to swim.
Regardless of how it came, now you know the world isn’t only ever sunshine and rainbows. People get hurt. People die here. So what do you do next? You make a decision, even if that decision is to do nothing (choosing not to choose is often the most harmful choice you can make).
Do you turn away, or take steps toward? Do you walk by your neighbor, as the priests and the Levites do? Or do you stop and help? If we’re being honest, we walk away more often than not. We turn away more than we step toward. I’m not judging, I do too. I’m writing this because I hate that.
My heart cracks a little deeper every time I hear of another tragedy, whether in the life of someone I love or in this world that I love, and I’m faced with the same questions –
“What the heck, God?”
I’ve seen just how awful the world can be, and I still walk away more often than not. I still turn away more than I step toward. Not for lack of caring, but for lack of knowing what the heck I can do.
Any time I open social media I’m immediately overwhelmed both by all the people calling out problems in the world and the vast number of opinions detailing what needs to change and how.
Any time I start to think, “oh, here’s a problem I can help with,” I look up to see the thousands more seemingly waiting in a line as if I were the only worker at the counter.
Want to help the refugees? What about our homeless?
Want to care for the homeless? What about the starving in Africa?
Want to feed the hungry? What are you doing about child sex slavery?
Want social justice? What are you doing about the refugees who die every day leaving the war-torn areas they used to call home?
While I’m stuck spinning my wheels, trying to get traction and move in some, any, direction, I’m always hit with this question – “Am I good enough?” Not “am I affirmed/do I have a good self image/am I loved,” but “am I a good enough person?” Am I doing enough? Am I loving enough? Am I even making a difference here, or am I just making life more comfortable for myself?
Perhaps this struggle is what comes included in the box containing a caring heart. That the world is always going to be just a little more broken than you have the power to fix. That if you open your heart a little to let other’s pain in it’s going to be ripped open a mile wide like a broken dam, tragedy and suffering gushing inside in huge waves.
Does anyone else feel like Western tradition is often in direct conflict with the altruistic heart? With an emphasis on individuality, we champion the cause and needs of ourselves. We’re concerned about money, things, security, and subsequently about how unhappy we are. Heck, the American dream is to accumulate enough wealth for yourself that you can live your life as comfortably as possible as early as possible. Does this bother anyone else?
Perhaps we’ve realized that to care about others’ hurts means to be hurt ourselves, and we’ve steeled ourselves against it. Because to help means to get involved, and getting involved means getting hurt. It means being vulnerable, engaging in relationship where mutual gain is the least of our concerns.
So. Are you doing enough? I can’t answer that. Am I doing enough? I hope not, because I don’t feel like I’m doing anything. I can’t offer you answers, just encouragement that someone else is going through the same struggle.
I read something once that said, roughly, “So you want to save the world. That’s why you’re in college. What if you can’t? I’d propose to you that even if the only part of the world you save is yourself, that’s okay.” Maybe that is okay. But not with me. And I would guess not with Jesus either.
Maybe we’re not supposed to fix the whole world. Maybe we’ve all been given talents and passions to make a little piece of the world better for a few people, so they don’t have to suffer as much. Maybe we’re called to trust in a God that loves the world (read: this earth and humanity) more than we ever could, and has a plan to fix it. Maybe those together can be doing enough.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:18
For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite.” – Isaiah 57:15
He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds. – Psalm 147:3
And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him. – Colossians 1:20-22
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. – I John 3:16