Things that are too hard

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.


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9 Responses to Things that are too hard

  1. LC says:

    You have dealt thoughtfully with the dilemma about the bad things that are so prevalent and that are served to us via technology in excruciating detail. And in “getting it off your chest” you are helping me and probably other readers, too, with their own dilemmas about issues facing us in these times.

  2. We do suffer from information overload. We live in an age when we know too much. Remember the warning about the tree of knowledge? Sometimes I think the price we pay for our curiosity is to be overwhelmed at times. Take care Freda and take a walk, it helps. Dianne

  3. PS and the other thing is to recognize we are not in charge of the world. Although compared to the world, we are dots, we can love and think and the world can not.

  4. Ray Barnes says:

    In my youth I went on marches and demonstrations and took active part in protests, but as we age we tend to see things with shades of colour rather than just stark black or white. I don’t think this is anything to do with being less passionate about causes, injustices etc, but more a recognition that there are events over which no amount of agonising over can effect a cure.
    Whether the bad news reaches us by phone, word of mouth, in print or via TV the only way to preserve sanity at times is to push the off button.
    With the best will in the world we can not make everything better, and recognising that is half way to dealing with it.
    These days I sign the odd petition but that is all.
    Watch/listen to the news headlines and if what is on offer is yet another instance of human suffering switch off and save the nightmares caused by too much detail.

  5. Tabor says:

    I agree that you must find your one or two challenges and champion those and move away from the billions of problems on this earth. Are we all in a petri dish, as a religious friend of mine said, and God is watching like a scientist to see how we grow and spread? Because you have taken the path of religion your empathy is always there on the surface. You cannot save all, but you can live a life that is a light to all. AND prayer. As a person who is not religious, I always ask others to pray for me and everyone else that struggles. We can never have too much prayer!

  6. Mina says:

    I also try not to clutter my mind with images beamed at us from far and wide. I like to think that somewhere in amongst these awful happenings there is someone in place who is doing good quietly in the background. I realise my limitations and even if I had masses of money, throwing this at situations without careful thought and planning does little good as the money always seems to end up diverted into some despot’s coffers. My philosophy is also, like others of your readers, do what you can for those you can reach, whether this be friends, neighbours or local charity. My wider contribution is through knitting for the Blytheswood Charity which distributes garments where and when needed in the world’s disasters and tragedy areas.

    This may seem like an ‘ostrich’ attitude but in reality for me it is a means of surviving knowing the horrors humans can perpetrate on fellow creatures of the world.

  7. Chris says:

    I’m glad writing that helped you, because the question you ask – “is this what happens to God?” – helps me. It’s a bit like God in Graham Greene’s Heart of the Matter – I always felt close to that picture of God that is at the heart of all suffering. For myself, I’m discovering tears, but I still have anger, boiling up sometimes, about the injustices in our society – and still get the rush of blood to the head that has me on my feet at a podium before I’m sure what I’m going to say. Hmm. Thanks for the post.

  8. freda says:

    Thanks for making this a thread about the way to cope with the hard things. Between us all there is a lot of good advice, yet I sense there is activism waiting to erupt..

  9. Jimmy says:

    What if – Human suffering was a gift from God and we are being honoured by God
    by being permitted to share in the suffering of Christ.

    In our lives in this world not everything that happens has an order or a purpose

    within the lost gaps inexplicable tragedies befall us

    and we cannot even begin to ask why because there is no why

    we need order we need purpose we expect it we depend upon it

    when the structures fail we seek answers but there is no answer

    in our lives in this world there is a palpable forfeiture of order and of purpose

    within the lost gaps there is no will there is no why there is no reason.

    “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:10

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