A world in need: What’s our role?
Keeping up with world events can feel confusing and overwhelming. There are so many people who profess to be experts that it’s hard to know whom to trust. And this skepticism can lead to avoiding the news altogether.
But hiding from the challenges of the world doesn’t solve anything. Is there a way to stay informed without being overwhelmed, and maybe even being able to help others?
In the Bible, the second book of Kings tells how the Hebrew prophet Elisha dealt boldly with a threatening report that he received from his servant. When he told Elisha that they were in danger because the Syrian king’s forces had surrounded them, Elisha responded, “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.”
To me this indicates that Elisha trusted that, regardless of what was happening, God was more powerful than the enemy. While the servant might have wanted to hide, Elisha encouraged him to open his eyes and see that beyond the enemy siege, God was providing reinforcements. The Bible continues, “The Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.”
Like Elisha’s trusted servant, there are times when any of us can feel threatened or alarmed. That’s when what’s needed is to hear the story according to God. Listening to God provides constructive insights and inspiration that lead out of the darkest mental places and into new understanding.
An area of the world needing that kind of spiritual insight is Haiti, which has had a prominent role in the news since the earthquake there in January. At first glance, the reports offered one story of tragedy and heartache after another. Many of us felt overwhelmed by the reports of some 222,000 lives lost and 1.2 million people left homeless. My humble prayers and financial donations felt like a meager response.
But then as I continued to pray, I realized that even though I feel small as an individual, I can recognize just how big God is. God is loving and faithful, giving us the spiritual report that supersedes the human disaster. This helped me see how to face challenging situations with spiritual resolution and confidence that there is good going on – that there is an underlying spiritual reality.
So instead of tuning out the story of Haiti, I made a concerted effort to track reports, including those of progress and hope. My prayers felt more genuine as I realized the veracity of these words, quoted by many, including Mary Baker Eddy: “One on God’s side is a majority” (“Pulpit and Press,” p. 4). I didn’t feel like a single individual saving the world with human optimism; I was contributing by trusting in God. And God is always up to the task.
Here’s one example of kindness that came from a recent story, “A Hug For A Haitian Soccer Player Shows An American Girl’s Heart” (National Public Radio, March 18). After a 17-and-under girls’ soccer team from the United States defeated a Haitian girls’ team at a recent tournament in Costa Rica, the two teams met to shake hands. The earthquake had left everyone on the Haitian team homeless, and many without families. Despite the popularity of soccer in Haiti, it had been difficult to even get a team together for that tournament.
As they headed off the field, the US team captain noticed that the Haitian goalie lay on the ground crying, and she sensed that the tears resulted from something more than the 9-0 loss of the game. So the US player went over to comfort her with a hug. Soon, the rest of the US team joined in this long embrace – a small but powerful sign of God’s healing love at work in the world – that seemed to restore a sense of hope in the face of the struggle.
It’s easy to feel small and ineffective when faced with a host of global problems. But as Elisha’s story helps show, choosing to see the spiritual reality above the gloom brings new insight and security. Our prayers become more effective when we realize God’s presence and power in every circumstance.
Originally published in The Christian Science Monitor, April 29, 2010.