How do you cope with things that are too hard? You see I have a problem. I am a Christian . . . . . . . . an ordained minister, so I am supposed to at least have some of the answers. Yet, as the years have gone on I have found the hard questions even harder. The stark truth is that bad things happen to good people and sometimes good things happen to bad people. So I have to establish right at the start of these musings, that religion is not about doing good and getting good. It is not so much about ethics and morality or rules and conditions – it is more about faith and trust and learning to live in the way that enables yourself and others to be in harmony with the universe and the Unknown Factor that we call God.
Then, hopefully, when bad things happen we can either reach out to help or receive help from others.
My problem is more subtle yet very simple. As the years have gone on I find that it is more difficult for me to deal with bad things that are beamed into my living room via TV, radio, computers or newspapers. This has come to the fore today because of the shocking news of atrocities in North Korea. I heard enough on the main news bulletins to realise that I do not dare allow such images to reside in my head. In a more general way I used to get all fired up and rant and rave at injustices, violence and war. . . . . . being involved was a direct result of the information age. Yet prayer and the odd donation to a good cause hardly seems enough.
What is wrong with me? Am I losing my bottle or my faith in a God who is ultimately just and good? I honestly don’t think it is a loss of faith. More an increase of empathy. When I look into the eyes of a child living with crippling disease it hurts. When I glimpse a half-starved dog abandoned somewhere, I fill up with tears. Some days I manage to look, breath a prayer and pass on. Other days I am too full up.
Is that what happens to God? That is where I hold onto faith and trust that the One who accepts and loves me, also accepts and loves all of creation. On a good day I can accept and know that love and it will help me to be grown up about loss and sorrow. On many a day I am too small and dis-enabled. A friend of mine confesses that much of the time coping means switching off the news, turning the paper over and keeping the image from invading the brain. Sometimes I have to do the same. I am not sure whether this is all about information overload or perhaps it is this empathy with the way that God cares.
If we learn anything in our search for Wisdom in our elder years, it is that sometimes we have to accept our limitations. The media are relentless in their pursuit of stories and images that will reach that number one slot. Perhaps we need to be like my friend – rather than cluttering our minds with too many horrific images, allow one or two to touch our hearts. Go with them, write letters, raise funds or donate, lobby those who have the power to change. It seems that change comes about as people gather round a cause which has a leader and a champion. If we are ever called to be a champion it can only happen in the context of the strength and resources available to us. So it is back to the God space, the justice space, the love that holds us together.
This isn’t meant to be a sermon. For a start it is not linked to a scripture. And there are no funny stories or jokes. It is meant to be a plea to ask how to deal with the issues of our day. One good thing is that it has helped me to get this off my chest, as it were. I suppose it is the need to express a belief in the capacity of ordinary people to make a difference.