Let it go

When someone kills innocent children, or religion justifies beheadings, or fraudsters scam the life savings out of people, or the insanity of government policy makes things worse not better, or banks rake in huge profits, or bullies drive people to suicide, I can’t just let it go. I get angry, exasperated and condemning. I shout at the TV, I want to fire off a froth-filled letter to the editor, or get together with friends and moan for hours about the utter stupidity of people, because this world infuriates me.

I wonder why I watch or listen to the News at all, when all it does it put my blood pressure up. But I also feel guilty turning the TV off, or changing channels, or turning to a less depressing page in the newspaper when another tragedy happens somewhere in the world, or another all-too-young gang member has been shot, or another cyclist and parent of four has been killed by a careless driver. I worry that I’m getting compassion fatigue and a cold heart, and I’m turning inward rather than outward. I can’t, therefore, just let the world go its merry way, can I? And as a Christian shouldn’t I be concerned about what’s happening? Didn’t God so love the world, etc?

But why allow myself to get angry and depressed when there’s nothing I can do about the same old problems that persist and repeat year after year, and no one yet has been able to solve – like wars, mass shootings, terrorism, invasions by aggressors, cash grabs by business and government, incompetent leadership, and the seven deadly sins? And God doesn’t seem to be dealing with them either. Somehow he’s able to let people be people and repeat their stupidity. He’s able to let it go.

And according to Paul in Romans 8:20, “the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it.” So this infuriating, frustrating mess we live in today was actually intended by God. It has to happen this way. And Paul explains why in Romans 1:21; it’s because people can easily know God but intentionally reject him, and so “their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened,” and God “gave them over to a depraved mind.” He let them go their merry way, and he still does.

He doesn’t condemn, he just lets them carry on. So if he can do that, can I do it too? Can I do as he does and let things in this world unfold as they must, and trust in God’s wisdom? In other words, for now, just let it go.

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Our thoughts and prayers are with those….

Another year of disasters, of earthquakes, floods, fires, shootings, terrorist attacks, deaths in hit-and-runs, teenage suicides, and the endless list of tragedies on the News every night. And again and again the heart-rending public response to these horrible things is, “Our thoughts and prayers are with those” who suffered loss, injury and trauma.

And I understand the “thoughts” part, because I can’t help thinking how awful it must be to be injured for life, or lose someone you’ve loved, or have an entire family torn apart by a senseless killing or by sexual abuse. Some of those things affect me for days. They are deeply saddening.

But I wonder about the “prayers” part, and what’s said in those prayers, and why they’re said, and to whom. Are they prayers to a higher power, or prayers to oneself like, “I just pray that everything will be all right,” or because prayers are the expected communal response, a sort of mantra we repeat as a matter of course when tragedy happens? And are those prayers answered, in whatever form or reason they’re given? Is an answer even expected? And what answer is hoped for?

I find myself wanting to pray too, but I’m not quite sure what to pray for. I pray in sympathy for those suffering, I can’t help that, but what can I pray for that will get an answer, and how do I know it’s the right thing I’m praying for in that situation? Should I ask God to comfort the injured and their families, but comfort in what way? End their grief? Give them hope for the future? Enable them to forgive? Prevent them being overwhelmed with hatred and revenge? Provide a Christian who can counsel them? But can I ask God for any of those things for people who have no interest in him, and no hope of a life beyond this one? Should I actually be praying at all, except to share in the Father’s sorrow that all this has to happen to his children because humanity chose to reject him?

My prayer of late, therefore, veers towards, “I’m so sorry we humans had to go this route; it’s deeply saddening. If you can provide any comfort through me, please do, along with the wisdom and love to know what to say and do, because I don’t have a clue what’s best.” And it seems that most of us share that last part, in not having a clue what’s best, because again and again when tragedy strikes we don’t know what else to say other than the sad mantra of: “Our thoughts and prayers are with those…..”