Two days ago I was caught off guard by a post about ISIS putting men in a cage and lowering it into a pool to drown them. They made sure to have underwater cameras to film the agony and fear of their final moments of life. I am appalled and sickened – and if I’m totally honest, I am also afraid. There is no end to the horror and I sometimes wonder if the entire world has finally lost its collective mind.
As a social worker I know I need to be aware of what is happening in the world around me. After all, these are the things I am called to address. As a human being, however, I often find myself wishing for that one little corner of the world to which I can escape and never have to hear another news broadcast for the rest of my life. In my fantasy this is a little island in the South Pacific where the weather is always perfect and the sharks are well-fed and friendly. They bring breakfast to your little hut every morning in a canoe and there is nothing to do all day but swim and sun and fish and eat and sleep. Anyone want to book that vacation with me?
Do you ever look around you and think, “What is the point? I’ve spent ten (or twenty or thirty) years working to make the world a better place and it’s just getting worse every day.” Or, “What difference have I really made?” If we’re realistic, though, we know we’ll never change the whole world. I’m not sure we’re actually called to do that. We are called to the work for which God has equipped us. For some of us that is policy reform and change at a macro level. For others, it’s one-on-one work – the kind that transforms the world for one person. That may not seem like much, but when you consider the potential ripple effects of a transformed life, it is staggering.
God’s plan to redeem the world has been in place since before he created it. Nothing in history has been able to derail that plan. Nothing. No insane, sadistic leader. No war. No natural disaster. No falling away of God’s people. There has always been a remnant that holds fast to the hope they have in Christ. Hebrews 11 is testimony to all those who trusted and believed.
This is all stuff we know and have heard our entire Christian lives, so why write about it now? Because if you’re like me, sometimes even when we trust in the promise, we get tired and overwhelmed. Sometimes we need to be reminded that in the grand scheme of things our job is not to change the world in our own power. Our job is to stand in the gap and stay faithful even when things seem hopeless. Even on days when we view the horror that people inflict on one another.
I believe that God often lets us view the fruits of our labor so we don’t become discouraged. I also trust that while we work in this earthly realm, God and the forces of heaven are doing battle in the heavenlies to bring about his purpose.
We must keep working, yes. But we must keep our focus on the One we serve. When I focus on the news and the things meant to strike fear into our hearts, I become afraid. Those forces of evil can begin to seem unstoppable but God has not given us a spirit of fear. In fact, the most frequently given command in scripture is “Do NOT be afraid!” There are no extenuating circumstances where that command does not apply. None. Not poverty, not hunger, not homelessness, not cancer or AIDS or Ebola. Not even ISIS.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the scripture in Romans 12 that tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. If you are struggling with something right now, I urge you to camp there for a while and let God do His thing. For me, the transformation comes when I take my focus off those fear-inducing things for a while and instead of dwelling on defeat and despair, I let God draw me to worship and praise. God is busy in the world, never caught off guard, and He is the unstoppable One!
Thank you for your service, wherever you are. Thank you for standing in the gap even when you get tired and discouraged and afraid. God esteems that and will bless you for it. Let’s remember to pray for one another. That is the foundation of all we do. As for all that bad news…
“He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” Psalm 112:7
Sherri Stone is a hospice social worker in the panhandle of Florida. She blogs about hospice at hospiceheartbeats.com and about life at sherristone.net. She is also a writer with a book about hospice and grief in the works. Her debut fiction novel, Sacred Ashes was released in May and is available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Book two in the series, Secret Sins, is due out later this year.