I recently read an article about a Syrian mother and her two young sons who drowned trying to make it safely to Greece. I instantly burst into tears, because I hate living in a world where there is so much senseless tragedy. In recent weeks, there have been even more heartbreaking headlines, from bombings in Beirut and Paris to shootings in Mali.
With a never-ending barrage of hurt and heartache in our world, it’s difficult not to feel overwhelmed and helpless.Here are four steps we can take when the world breaks our hearts:
Refuse to be guided by hate.
After learning about recent terrorist attacks around the globe, I spent a lot of time praying for the victims—but I found it much harder to pray for the terrorists. It’s easy to feel justified in hating bad people, because we think their actions warrant hatred. But when we respond to hatred with hatred, we allow evil to win.
In Matthew 5:43-45, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” We should grieve the brokenness of our world and the effects of sin, but we should never allow ourselves to hate people made in the image of God.
We cannot simultaneously love God and be against people.
A man who lost his wife (and the mother of his 17-month-old son) during the Paris attacks posted this message on Facebook,
I will not grant you the gift of my hatred. You’re asking for it, but responding to hatred with anger is falling victim to the same ignorance that has made you what you are. We are just two, my son and me, but we are stronger than all the armies in the world. He will eat his meals as usual, and then we are going to play as usual, and for his whole life this little boy will threaten you by being happy and free. Because no, you will not have his hatred either.
When the world breaks our hearts, we should grieve, but we should not allow that sorrow to turn into hatred.
Refuse to be guided by fear.
It’s easy to fear the future when we hear about all of the terrible things happening in our world. It’s tempting to want to bolt our doors and never leave our homes. But we have to remember that terrorists and evil people don’t have ultimate control over life and death. God does.
When we allow fear to dictate our decisions, we wrongly place power in circumstances or people instead of realizing God is in ultimate control. We cannot allow fear to become the guiding forces in our lives. Fear will always prevent us from fully trusting God, which will in turn prevent us from fully obeying Him.
In his 1948 essay “On Living in an Atomic Age,” C.S. Lewis wrote,
If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things–praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”
Witnessing the tragedies in our world can be cause for concern, but we should not allow ourselves to live in fear. God is in control, and we belong to Him both in life and death (Romans 14:8).
Find rest in Jesus.
When tragedy strikes, we should grieve the brokenness in our world and mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). However, we cannot possibly bear the entire weight of the world on our shoulders; it would cripple us.
The weight of the world was never meant to be carried by us. When the world breaks our hearts, we should turn to the One who loves the world even more than we do and who can give us peace and rest in the midst of life’s storms (Matthew 11:28; 1 Peter 5:7.) We should not allow the brokenness in our world to cause us to lose hope, but rather to point us to the God who can heal that brokenness.
Take action to fight injustice.
After reading several articles about the plight of refugees around the globe, I called an organization in my area to find out how I could be involved with local relief efforts.
Instead of looking away when the world breaks our hearts, we should look for ways to help, whether through volunteering or donating money or raising awareness. We should pay attention to the causes that stir our hearts the most and use these passions to help heal a hurting world.
As I witness more and more brokenness and injustice in our world, I become more and more convinced that Jesus is the only solution to it. Countries can fight terrorism and governments can make laws, but only Jesus can change hearts.
We serve a God whose radical power transformed one of the most murderous men of his day into an apostle who wrote several books of the New Testament. No one is beyond the grip of His grace. Even in the very darkest of nights, we must remember that love is stronger than hate and that good is stronger than evil.
It’s my prayer that we will never stand by or look away while injustice happens. May we stand up to injustice and say, “This cannot happen in our world.” May we fight against the powers of darkness and refuse to live in fear, and may the world be better because of the way we loved.