Do you ever get so overwhelmed with the suffering and problems of the world you don’t even want to think about them?
Yeah, me neither.
Just kidding. ME ALL THE TIME.
Oh guys, my heart aches for so much in this broken, messy world. There is so much to say about hunger, poverty, discrimination, injustice, etc., that I can hardly get my arms around it to write about this: how it freezes me to inaction.
It’s just too much. And when you realize you alone can’t solve the world’s problems – I mean, I can barely make it to soccer practice on time – what do you do? Where to even start?
I’ve heard people say: Why are you worried about international problems when there are people outside your own door who need help?
And then others: Aren’t we all humans? Is a life here more valuable than a life there?
The truth is there is need here AND there is need there, and so much of both that it is tempting to just look away. It’s so much easier to just try to get everyone to soccer practice *almost* on time and ignore the rest.
Now, if you are a go-getter out there changing the world, I am 100% not talking to you. You are amazing, you inspire people, and you probably make me feel a little guilty but that’s fine – keep going! We’ll chat another time.
I’m talking to anyone like me who feels paralyzed under the massive scale of injustice and poverty and disease and orphans and sexual assault and access to clean water and sanitation and education…you get it. Anyone who knows they can retreat to the safer orbit of their own life but doesn’t quite want to, and just ends up between the two, staring and discouraged.
To you, fellow overwhelmed friend, I wanted to share these two tiny steps I am taking. This is my starting point.
#1: Take the Earth off of your shoulders and put it squarely in God’s hands.
I feel paralyzed to act because *I* am holding it, *I* am taking responsibility and am absolutely crushed under the enormity of need and guilt.
But the world is not mine alone. I didn’t create it. I popped up here, just like everyone else, as a tiny dot of a big map.
Now I know how that might sound, so don’t mistake this: I DO have responsibility in it, a lot of it. But if I am so overwhelmed that I just want to look away from EVERYTHING, then I am helping NOTHING.
So I take that crushing weight and hand it to someone I believe IS more-than-human, and who I believe DID actually create the world, and who CAN actually handle it. I hand the weight and responsibility to God. Repeatedly.
There, now I can move again.
Step #2: Pick something/someone/somewhere to get involved.
Because picking one way to improve this world is better than picking none.
Because I think it is BY DESIGN we all have a heart for different things: mine might be homelessness and yours might be foster kids and his might be the humane treatment of animals and hers is international refugees and instead of judging the merits of each just saying “YES! You do that and I’ll be here. We are both needed.”
Because I don’t have to be a rushing river for God to use me; a stream in a desert still brings relief. It doesn’t have to be impressive, it just needs to be there. Small, persistent streams still change landscapes and wear away even the most daunting of stones.
Pssst! Parents, meet me over in the blockquote.
Mamas of small kids, I know you literally can NOT leave the house without it taking 45 minutes, a lost shoe, two sippy cups, and an extra diaper change. Forget working the ladle in a soup kitchen, that might not be an option for you right now, and THAT IS OK. But something is, just keep your eyes open. It might be as small as inviting over a(nother) struggling mom for a playdate and letting her laugh and cry on your couch. (I know from having been that second mom, it matters!)
And you are (hopefully) raising your kids to be good humans, and that honestly, truly holds power for change even if you can’t see it yet.
You’ll get a glimpse it when your daughter comes home from school and tells you she befriended the new girl on the playground because that girl looked lonely and you *may* somewhat embarrassingly over-hug her and tearfully tell her she did a good thing and secretly mark a check in that woefully-underused “parenting win” box.
So, when I am overwhelmed with the aching needs of humanity in my newsfeed, holding a sign outside my car window, or overheard in the grocery line – I don’t have to turn away under the weight of it. I see it. I ask God for mercy as I hand it over to Him. I ask Him for rivers of relief. I ask for clarity on where He wants me, and then keep trying to move in that direction.
And if I’m moving in my direction and you’re moving in yours, we can cover a lot of ground.