Mass evacuations in Afghanistan—and those left behind. Earthquake in Haiti. Hurricane in Louisiana. Fires and drought out west. Oil slicks in the Mediterranean. Delta overwhelming hospitals and exhausting healthcare workers. Flooding in Europe and Tennessee (and possibly my county, which is under a flood watch as the Ida remnant rains pour down today).
It all can become too much for our brains and emotions to handle day in and day out.
So here are the five actions I am implementing to combat the weight:
1. Be Kind
We’ve all seen quotes along the lines of “Be kind. For everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” And it’s true. You have your battles. I have mine. Everyone has something. The world is hurting, because we live in a broken, fallen world. And the world is made up of hurting people, people who may not wear their heartache on their sleeve, but it fills their life nonetheless.
People often annoy us. They don’t perform the way we think they should. They treat us badly. They fail us. It’s hard to not respond with frustration or anger or sarcasm (my favorite weapon of choice). But what we all need is gentleness and kindness.
Let’s recommit to choosing kindness with everyone we meet.
2. Give Generously
Nothing brings me greater joy than giving, so I’m going to do more of it. When it comes to global tragedies, money to reputable organizations that already have infrastructure in place is the best way to help. And money certainly can help a friend struggling with unforeseen bills. But giving of yourself—your time, your listening ear, your muscle, your phone call, card or text of encouragement—can also make a huge difference with the people we know. As Proverbs 11:24–25 says:
One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
and one who waters will himself be watered.
Why not commit to asking what we can give to help in each situation and then to do it joyously and generously?
3. Play More
Play—doing whatever makes you laugh, brings you joy, even when it has no “value” in economic standards—revitalizes our lives.
Dallas Willard, in the book Living in Christ’s Presence, says “It’s in the basic nature of persons to play, but it is very hard for adults to play because we are so serious about everything, about making everything happen and seeing to it that things come out right.”
If you have kids in the house, skip the housecleaning and engage in raucous, silly play at their direction. For those of us without kids, we’ll have to be more creative—watch a funny movie, go explore a park or a playground, put together a jigsaw puzzle (one of our favorites) or, if you’re crafty, make something less functional and more fun.
Commit to laughter, to fun, to letting go of the seriousness at least some time in each day.
4. Limit Media
As we approach the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, I’m reminded of the lesson I learned in the days after that event: Turn off the TV.
I was glued to the TV that first day as most of us were. But I found myself depressed and anxious and unable to focus on anything. I instituted a media fast on day two and found blessed relief. I still refuse to watch images or video from that day, and now that means taking care to limit my internet usage, including staying off social media channels on and around its anniversary. My mental health cannot handle the way the images of tragedy stay with me. So it’s up to me to limit what I see, hear and read with any catastrophe.
I’ve also needed to mute some Facebook friends, some for a short period and others forever, to avoid drama I can’t focus on or so I don’t get angry or say things I shouldn’t or think less of them. We have the controls available to make the best choices for our own mental health and lives.
How do you need to limit your media intake to improve your well-being?
5. Pray with Thanksgiving
Prayer (but not only prayers) matter when life is hard.
- Pray for those affected, for relief, for solutions.
- Pray especially for the poor who often suffer the most. (For instance, in Louisiana, while people were ordered to evacuate, how do you do so if you have no car, no credit cards, no wads of cash around to pay for transportation or shelter? Many had no choice but to stay and hope for the best.)
- Pray for world and local leaders, for the heads of relief organizations, for church leaders.
- Pray for storms to weaken, for fires to go out, for river banks, levees and dams to hold.
- Pray for God to impress on your heart how he wants you to give to make a difference. Then do what he tells you.
In the midst of those prayers for intervention, take the time to thank God for every blessing you have, especially those you often don’t think about.
- Today, as much of Louisiana goes without electricity and concerns for the water supply arise, I thank God for the gifts of electricity and water that I do have today.
- Thank God for the relief organizations or when leaders and countries work together for solutions.
- Thank him for the many brave volunteers and emergency civil servants who put themselves in harm’s way to save others.
- Thank God for giving you the job that provides income you can share with those in need.
- Thank God for your health and they ways he allows you to help others.
- Thank him for his care and his listening ear, even while you wonder why he doesn’t bring a miracle to prevent the suffering. (And no, I don’t know the answer to that.)
Prayer keeps you linked to the God of the universe so you can hear his voice and know how best to give and care for others and yourself. Turn to it often whenever worry or heartache enters, and again when the good things of life show up.
Life is hard. But our choices make a difference for us—and for our world.