News programmes and social media postings are bombarding us with news that shocks, saddens and disorientates day after day. Our world is becoming more and more uncertain, and increasingly alarming. So, when it feels like the world is saturated by sadness and pain, how do we stand firm in the midst of it all? How can we be beacons of God's light even when we feel like we are being surrounded by darkness?
1. Recognise we won't always understand
There are moments in our current history, individually, as a nation and in the wider world, which we simply won't understand. I think it is important to recognise and acknowledge that. Part of being human is to question, doubt and wrestle, but sometimes there really isn't a satisfactory answer as to why some bad things have happened.
The book of Job is one that perhaps we might wish wasn't in the Bible. It talks of God pointing Job out to Satan and then allowing him to send calamity upon calamity on Job and his family. Why would God do that? Job gets to the point of cursing his own life, but when God speaks Job's response is telling: 'Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know' (Job 42:3).
2. Remind ourselves of who God is
When we are feeling overwhelmed by either the situations we are in individually, or our nation is facing, it is helpful to remind ourselves of who it is we serve. When we allow panic to overtake us, we can easily forget that our God is greater than all the evil we see surrounding us – and he is also full of compassion, mercy and love. When the darkness is so evident, let's remind ourselves of his character.
'The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love' (Psalm 145:8).
'Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom' (Isaiah 40:28).
'You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world' (1 John 4:4).
3. Immerse ourselves in Scripture
When we are feeling overwhelmed by anxiety, it can be easy to forget to intentionally turn our attention away from difficult news for a while in order to feed our minds with the truths contained within the Bible. And yet we are told in 2 Peter 1:3 that, 'His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.' The best place for us to get more knowledge of God is the Bible, which also instructs us on godly living. It also reminds us to turn to God for his love, comfort and care.
4. This world is temporary
Ultimately, we believe we will spend eternity with our loving heavenly Father. In the meantime, we experience what everyone living on the earth experiences and yet we can have a different perspective because we know where we are headed. This can give us the motivation to pray into difficult world events and to share the gospel with those around us. It can also give us faith and perseverance in the midst of dark days:
'Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal' (2 Corinthians 4:16–18).
5. Troubles change us
There are times when we have to admit that our own suffering and the difficulties we see all around us can shake our faith. We do question why and we can learn to wrestle more deeply with God as a result. Sometimes the despair we feel can seem all-consuming and just getting through another day is all we are able to do. And yet, while we may desperately wish for an end to suffering, it is worth remembering that it changes us. When communities are shaken to the core by events, it often brings them together. Heroes emerge, reaching out to those that need their help.
As individuals, the suffering we experience personally, and that which we see around us, impacts who we are. The Bible tells us that such difficulties shape us – and that hope is always present even in the midst of despair. While life is certainly not easy, the Holy Spirit reminds us of that hope.
'Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us' (Romans 5:3–5).