I turn on the news and the headlines hit me with a weight that is too heavy to bear: mass genocide, ethnic cleansing, gruesome murders, starvation, ghastly disease. There is Ebola in Africa, war in Israel, and heinous death, torture and persecution in Iraq. I read a headline, see a picture, glance at an image, and I am undone. A deep, tears- flowing, stomach-churning despair threatens to consume me.
The pain is so great and the burden so heavy … I want to turn away, close my eyes, cover my ears. There is a part of me that wants to simply pretend it’s not happening, because the burden of the truth is crushing.
Wanting to turn away from such unspeakable suffering is understandable; the pain is just too agonizing. But turning away isn’t an option for Christ followers. Jesus came to save the hurting, to redeem the oppressed, to free the captives. You and I are His hands and feet, and thus we are compelled to act in the face of suffering.
The question then becomes “how?”. How do we—members of free nations, moms, dads, sons, daughters, those of us living in relative safety and contentment with ample provisions and far-reaching freedoms—how do we act in the face of such suffering?
I’ve been thinking about this question for several days now. I’ve read articles and researched relief organizations. I’ve lifted my eyes and cried out to God, asking why, asking how. And although the why answer has not necessarily come easily, the Lord’s response to how has been a quiet, simple answer: YOU through the power of ME.
As followers of Jesus Christ, you and I are empowered by the Holy Spirit, and we have an obligation to intercede for others in the name of Christ. We can’t simply defer to justice organizations, ministries or professional Bible teachers. We can’t leave those who are serving on the front lines with the lion’s share of work. You and I are members of the body of Christ, and we play an integral role. We can effect change, provide hope, extend grace when we become a conduit of God’s mercy and allow HIM to work through us.
So what does that look like from a practical standpoint? How do we engage a hurting world without becoming so despaired that the pain causes us to shut out current atrocities? Here are four ways I believe we can engage and assist suffering people without becoming disillusioned and destroyed by the weight of such pain.
Sometimes prayer can feel passive; when we see such desperation, we long to do something that will meet tangible needs. But the power of prayer must not be underestimated or over expressed. By the blood of Christ, you and I can approach the throne of God boldly.
Do you understand what that means, really? Do you grasp the weight and the power of it? You and I can come before the throne of He who created this world. We can lay our requests before Him, and He promises to listen and to act! That is a privilege not to be ignored! Prayer opens the floodgates of heaven and causes God to reach down and intercede. There is NOTHING that you and I can do that is more powerful than that. It is not trite to say that we must pray; rather it is the one thing we must not be found lacking. For when God intercedes to answer a believer’s prayer, lives are changed, families saved, nations spared.
Pray fervently with your knees bent and your face to the floor. Pray for evil to be held at bay, pray for the gospel to be proclaimed, pray for hearts to be softened and eyes to be opened. Pray for lives to be spared, for rescue, for freedom. Pray for revival in your heart, your family, your neighborhood, your country. Pray that a sleeping church would awaken!
And pray for our enemies. Pray that scales would fall from eyes, that hearts would change, that the truth would be revealed. Pray that they would be overwhelmed by their sin and would realize their need for the one true Savior.
Prayer is the one thing we can all do, so let us pray in solidarity. Because although I may simply be a stay-at-home mom, I’m a stay-at-home mom who has access to the throne of grace. You do too. Let us not take that privilege lightly.
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Second to prayer, let us give. There are people working on the front lines, fighting in the trenches, and they need tangible support to continue their work, so let us give of our resources. You may not be able to go to the battle zones, but you can certainly help meet the needs of the people who are serving there by providing for their everyday necessities. If you truly want to engage, if you want to do something to make a measurable difference, don’t just change your Facebook profile picture … take action. Pray and give!
Do your own research and give to a reputable organization that you trust. There are myriad organizations serving in desperate situations, and they need your support. If you need a suggestion, consider giving to Voice of the Martyrs. They’re a highly respected ministry dedicated to assisting the persecuted church worldwide. Click here to specifically support Voice of the Martyr’s work in Iraq. Your donation will go directly to helping displaced Iraqi Christians.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
Thirdly, watch. Don’t let the despairing nature of the news cause you to disengage altogether. I know it can be tempting to turn a blind eye to current events because the weight of it all is too heavy, but I don’t believe we have that luxury. Yes, there needs to be some moderation; constantly consuming the news is neither healthy nor beneficial. But as Christ followers, we are compelled to be ambassadors of His mercy and grace. And if we are to reach a hurting world, we must be aware of that hurt. So watch the headlines; be informed so you know how to pray and engage.
But also watch for GOD’S GLORY! As the people pray, as Christians stand in solidarity, as believers refuse to refute their faith even in the face of horrendous atrocities, God will act. Watch for his hand of redemption and rescue; watch for unexplainable miracles; watch for the advance of his church despite efforts to snuff it out!
“This is what the Lord says: ‘Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.'” (Isaiah 56:1)
And lastly, let us hope, because our God is the great I AM. Our pastor recently gave a compelling sermon on Exodus 3 where God reveals his name to Moses. Although our English versions translate God’s name as I AM, there is not a true English equivalent for the original Hebrew. The Hebrew name is an ongoing action that indicates I WAS, I AM, and I WILL BE. God is eternal, unchanging.
This truth provides unspeakable hope and security to all believers everywhere. The God who parted the Red Sea, who rained manna down from heaven, who tumbled the walls of Jericho, who turned the hearts of ancient Ninevah (modern-day Mosul) to Him … that God is the same God we serve. He was, He is, and He will be … never-changing, all-powerful God.
Isaiah 30:18 declares, “For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.”
God is still a God of justice, and he will ultimately be the victor. Let your hope rest on that truth; cling to it! And when the headlines are haunting, your heart is breaking, and the world seems to be spinning out of control, remember that I AM is still on his throne.
Special thanks to my husband and pastor for reviewing this post; your input helped to strengthen the piece.
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