Friday, October 27, 2017

The Right Response to Tragedy

Dealing with Fear and Anxiety

Tragedy. It's becoming too frequent lately. It seems every time I turn on the TV, the radio or scroll through Facebook another tragedy has taken place. And it's not just happening around the world or around the country, it has affected my state, my town and my workplace. 

This year has been marked by shootings, devastating storms, drug epidemics, people right here in my own world being diagnosed with cancer and losing loved ones too soon. Even some of my patients have had particularly heartbreaking circumstances. So much has happened I can't even recount it all. 

While none of this tragedy has happened to me personally, I'd be lying if I told you I haven't been affected. In fact, I'd be lying if I told you I have handled all of this bad news like a good Christian should, clinging to my faith, praying, shining my light and praising God for sparing my family. Instead, I've found myself infected with a spirit of fear and anxiety. 

I've laid in bed at night waiting for my husband to get home, wondering if he would come home. I've religiously checked the backseat of my car before getting in, just in case. I've driven more cautiously than ever before. I've double and triple checked that the doors of my house are locked. I've felt my heart sink when my phone would ring unexpectedly, thinking oh gosh, what if this is a hospital calling me?

When will it be my turn? What if something happens to someone I love? What if something happens to me? What if our house burns down? What if we lose everything? What if, what if, what if? 

My mind has been so distracted by these thoughts lately because when bad things are constantly happening eventually they'll make their way around to me, right? 

(I promise I'm getting to the good news!)

Maybe you can relate. After all I think it's a normal response to experience some degree of worry when the world is so uncertain and chaotic, even for Christians. But, as followers of Jesus, we can't let ourselves get stuck there. Instead God has been showing me that, in times of trouble, we must remind ourselves of three things. 

We must remind ourselves of who God is. When the heaviness of this world starts to weigh us down, I think the most important thing we can do is remind ourselves of the ONE who carries it all. 

"God is not a God of disorder, but of peace." 1 Corinthians 14:33  

"God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?" Numbers 23:19  

"God is our refuge and strength. An ever-present help in times of trouble." Psalm 46:1

"The Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not abandon or destroy you." Deuteronomy 4:24

"No one can snatch anyone out of my hand and no one can undo what I have done." Isaiah 43:13

"It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights."
2 Samuel 22:33-34

In the midst of tragedy, heartbreak and devastation, God remains the same (Hebrews 13:8). He is the safe place that we can run to and always know what to expect: protection, comfort, love, guidance. He is the one guaranteed constant in a world that is out of control. 

The state of our world does not change the character of our God and it doesn't diminish His promises to us.

We must remind ourselves where our hope comes fromOne night, after some horrible news, I was driving home from work when God showed me something amazing. As I drove over the bridge, on my right a storm was rolling in. Black clouds were covering the sky and threatening lightening was striking all around, but as I looked to my left, there was a rainbow. 

Seeing that rainbow and that storm in the same sky reminded me that God is always there. Even during dark times He never leaves us.

In order for there to be a rainbow, there has to be light. In fact, when a rainbow forms it forms in the section of the sky that is directly across from the sun. The rainbow doesn't form in the sunny part of the sky. That tells me that even though there appeared to be a storm on my right, the sun never left. 

Our lives are just like that. Even when we feel like all hope is lost, even when it seems like evil has taken over our world, the light of the world, the son, Jesus Christ, shines brighter still.  

"The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." John 1:5

God warns us that in this world we will have trouble, but He ensures us that He has already overcome it all (John 16:33). He promises us that all things work for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). He says His plans are to prosper us, not harm us (Jeremiah 29:11). He tells us that when we go through deep waters, He will be with us and when we walk through the fire we will not burned (Isaiah 43:2).

So when tragedy seems to be taking over, we have a choice, we can focus on the storm brewing all around us or on God's faithfulness that dwells inside of us. The state of our hearts and minds depends on where we choose to fix our gaze.

We must remind ourselves of our purpose. When you struggle with fear and anxiety sometimes the seemingly best way to deal with the state of our world is to ignore it. I know because that's what I've done. I don't watch the news, I don't read the paper (is that even a thing anymore?) and I typically check out when the conversation turns grim. I don't want to hear about it because then it becomes real. 

But if giving in to fear and anxiety is our response to tragedy, what are we saying to the world about our God? If we disconnect from the world how will the world ever change? 

Paul asks us in Romans 10:13-14, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?"

As believers our purpose here is to spread the love of God and make disciples. We can't do that if we cower down in fear and lock ourselves inside of our Christian bubbles. The world needs us to be the light now more than ever. 

So instead we share our hope. We point others to His word. We extend grace when it isn't fair. We lead by example and the result is a little bit of Heaven comes down to this broken world. 

Next time you find yourself overwhelmed by the constant influx of bad news and fear and anxiety start to take over remind yourself of who you belong to. Remind yourself of God's unchanging, unconditional promises to you and put your purpose to work. Find peace in knowing that "this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come." (Hebrews 13:14)