“Ping”. There it is. Another notification, another status update and late breaking news report. With the advent of social media and instant access to what’s happening all around the world, we are flooded daily with knowledge of more information than we are truly capable of processing. Major world-wide events, politics, and local tragedies stream in real time through a tiny hand-held screen. Sometimes for me it feels as though the never ending flood of information is inescapable.
During the week, I work as an on-air personality, reporting the daily news for a couple of local radio stations. Before I go to bed each night, I brush up on what’s happening out in the great, big world. Then when I wake up in the morning, I check in again to catch any of the late breaking stuff I may have missed while we were sleeping. I’ve rejoiced at seeing God at work in some of the stories I read, of neighbors helping neighbors and churches serving in their communities. The sad reality is that the majority of stories I read in the news are bad. That’s how the news machine works. I have to try to compartmentalize things and stay objective, keeping the negativity and suffering at an arm’s length and focus on the positive when I can. Some days though, a certain headline, or detail of a story will literally bring me to my knees.
One morning, as I was sitting at my computer, scrolling through the headlines, my eyes fell upon a story of a driveby shooting that injured several local teenagers. The article included an eyewitness account of a local mom who ran to the scene to help. I read her words and how she cared for these wounded kids, praying over them and speaking love and comfort to them in their moment of terror, and I found myself weeping uncontrollably. It was all just too much. I turned off my mic and held my head in my hands and sobbed.
As the tears rolled down my face, I worried that I might not be able to pull myself together in time for the next broadcast just minutes away. I knew that my shoulders were not broad enough, or strong enough to carry the weight of all the feelings flooding in that morning, and I began to pray. I prayed for the families that lost children that day, I prayed for the mom who stopped to minister to the wounded, for the group of young people who did the shooting, and for my fragile heart that only my Heavenly Father could restore from this overwhelming ache. When I whispered a weak ‘amen’, I breathed deeply and felt at peace. Even though I could not reach directly into these difficult situations in the world, I knew my prayers could. I let God carry the heavy for me, turned my mic back on, and finished the morning news.
You see, we are not meant to carry this much. Because of technology, we are privy to every tragedy that unfolds in almost every corner of the world. Our news feeds are full of them, stirring in us a sense of helplessness, hopelessness and profound anxiety. As fellow humans, we feel compelled to act, to speak out to do something. But what can we do? We can’t be everywhere at once and even if we could, we have limited resources, strength and wisdom to fix all the things.
But God can.
Isaiah 40:12-14 says “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counselor? Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding”
God is truly Omniscient, knowing every detail of every situation before it even happens. He can see the past, present and future all in one view and knows exactly what to do. He is Omnipresent, able to be everywhere at once, reaching into situations that I cannot. He sees each and every person in their need and is closer to them than the air they breathe. He is Omnipotent, strong enough to carry the heavy. He commands the wind and the waves and will bring justice like a river. He lifts up the weary and gives us His strength, and brings down the oppressors, and one day He will set all things right again.
I think I sometimes buy into the lie that to be effective in the world, I must be all these things too. All-knowing, all-powerful and everywhere at once. When I find myself overwhelmed by the concerns and weight of the world, and I turn to God in prayer, the pressure fades and I am reminded of the truth. God did not create me to carry the world, He is already doing that.
God created me with a different task in mind. The truth is, while my influence and power are limited, God’s is not. I saw this best explained by a friend of mine, who shared the idea of 3 concentric circles. It gave me a great visual reminder of what I am called to carry and what must be given to God.
The center circle represents my circle of influence. Our circle of concern will always be bigger than our circle of influence. But when facing a problem or crisis in the world, it can be helpful to discern where we actually have direct influence.
For example, I cannot solve the evil that is racism. But I can have influence over my children and in my household. I can teach them that all are created in the image of God, and to see the belovedness and beauty in everyone. I cannot solve hunger around the world by myself, but I can feed my neighbor or volunteer at my local food bank. I can’t stop depression and anxiety for every person that suffers, but I can be intentional about caring for my own mental health, or call and check in on a friend and care for theirs.
God is glorified in all of these things. He has placed you exactly where you are, in this season, for a reason. He has good works prepared for you (Eph. 2:10)and has given you influence to make a difference.
Sometimes the big things happening aren’t so far removed. They are happening right under our own roof. Loss and grief, financial stress or difficult relationships. They all have the potential at any moment to feel too heavy to bear. It might seem easy to compartmentalize things we see out in the world, but how do we handle it when it’s right in our own family?
In Matthew 10:29-31 we find reassurance that no detail, need or concern is beneath God’s notice and care. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
Dear one, the very same God that can carry the weight of the world, sees you and can carry you too. It may even be that someone else’s circle of influence will overlap into your situation, and they will be bearers of blessing, comfort and relief.
We can go to God with every concern (1 Peter 5:7). It is in prayer that God meets us where we are, shoulders our burdens and equips us for good work in every season. He is faithful and kind and big enough to handle anything life throws our way. God is the One that gave us hearts that care deeply in the first place. And then He placed us in positions of influence where He can guide us and shape our lives and the lives of others. Sometimes we can’t see it in the moment, but God is working through you right where you are.
If the world feels like a bit too much to bear right now, take stock of your circles. It’s ok for your heart to break over what breaks the Lord’s heart too. There are real and heavy things happening in the world. But God has already overcome the world! Ask Him to show you what you can and can’t influence, write it down, and then wrap all of it up in prayer. God is all knowing, all powerful and working in every detail. He’s got this, and He’s got you too.