Although negative news stories seem to be the norm these days, the news of the last week or two in particular has felt like a never ending series of horror after horror. The largest Ebola outbreak on record. The reemergence of conflict between Israel and Palestine. Rapidly increasing violence in Iraq. The ongoing civil wars in Syria and the Central African Republic. A plane shot down in Ukraine. Not to mention the day-to-day challenges and losses that take place in our own communities and our own lives. Last week, I found myself needing to take a step back from this constant flow of information and bad news. I longed to find?a place of quiet for a little while, even if it didn’t reflect the reality of what was happening in so much of the world. I tend to feel a real obligation to have an awareness of these global atrocities, and have rarely felt that sense of overwhelming devastation like I did last week. At a certain point it simply felt like more sadness, violence, and hurt than I could possibly take in. So I did step back for a while, turning off the radio and the computer and searching for a bit of peace instead.
In the midst of a deeply hurting world, I believe stepping back is necessary for our own sanity and so that we don’t become hardened by the constant flow of bad news. We can’t help but feel deeply for people around the world who are experiencing incredible pain and fear, and it is all too easy to slip into a state of hardheartedness to protect ourselves form that pain. But I also don’t think that we should tune out completely. After we’ve taken the time we need to quiet our hearts and minds, to find some refreshment and joy, I can’t help but encourage us to press back in to this hurting world in whatever way that looks like for each person, whether it be by?volunteering in your local community, finding some extra time for prayer, giving financially to causes you believe in, continuing to learn about what is happening around the world, or showing a little extra love to someone right next to you. We don’t have to keep our eyes constantly on the world’s hurts, nor do we have to shut our eyes to it completely. There is a way that we can bear witness to these awful realities?while continuing to fully live our own lives, complete with our own joys and sadness, celebrations and losses. And so, as I figure out this balance in my own life, I encourage you to step back when you need to, but never forget to press back in. For the world needs more people who are willing to lean in to the pain, allowing it to form them into peace-makers and restoration-bringers both in their own lives and throughout the world.
Erin Beottcher, Director of Program Excellence & Strategic Partnerships