Bad bad news. What is a loving person to do? What does God ask of those of us who say we are Christian?
Do you know what happens to your body when you get bad news? According to the Mayo Clinic, depending on how you react to bad news, you can get a boost of adrenaline and cortisol (the primary stress hormone) can send signals to your body that affect your immune system, your ability to sleep, your ability to think clearly, and triggers many other changes. Something scientists know well? Chronic stress is detrimental to our health.
I am convinced that our bodies are not engineered to carry all the tragedies of the world all the time. However, thanks to the global, 24 hour news cycle, we are aware and many of us feel a responsibility to respond to all of it. What can we do?
1. Know yourself. The only problem with the phrase, “What would Jesus do?” is that you aren’t Jesus (neither am I). A better question, “What would Jesus do if Jesus were you?” All of us are born with different abilities to handle and respond to bad news. We don’t ask kindergarteners to negotiate with terrorists. Why do we expect all adults to be able to handle horrible news of tragedy every day? Some of us can’t, and I don’t believe God asks more of us than he has equipped us for.
2. Set boundaries. If you are a person whose body or mental health is being compromised by the news cycle, it’s time to set some limits. Limit how many times you check the news and/or social media every day. Skip watching the news for a night or two. It’ll be ok. You’ll catch up when you are ready. Tell your friends or family that you need a break from talking about the current tragedies. You aren’t being irresponsible. You are actually just being strategic with your mind and your body so that you can be fully present to the most immediate responsibilities in your life.
3. Do something tangible to help and let the experts handle the rest. Figure out how to lobby for gun laws or make a donation to an aid organization that you trust. Get involved if you can, but not because you are stressed. Get involved if God is calling you to. (Some of this goes back to knowing yourself). Not ready to give to something new or get involved? That’s ok too. Everyone has different responsibilities and resources. Recognize the good that you are doing in your own community or through the church. A day may come when you can invest yourself more deeply in a cause that tugs on your heart.
4. Still unsettled? Try a focus activity. A focus activity is something that takes your attention away from the tragedy. Lots of people do yard work, bake, do an exercise class or cook. Some of us play with children. I picked up a new “learn to crochet stuffed animals” book at the local craft store. I’ve made a sloth, a whale, and a cat. It’s been fun and challenging. Focus activities give you a mental break from stress and allow your stress chemicals to calm down.
5. Pray. No actually, pray. Tell God your concern. “Wake up Jesus!” is a prayer I learned from Mama Esther. Remember, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18). Trust that the Lord is near. Trust that there is more to the story. Remember that Jesus promised that this world would be trouble, but that there will be a day when trouble will pass away. Pray that that day comes soon.
Brothers and sisters, tragedy is not going away. The enemy wants you to be overcome by it and to choose despair. But remember, despair is not an option. Choose hope. If you need to set boundaries to make that choice, do so.
If you are overwhelmed or need help choosing hope, or just want to pray, please reach out. Pastor Nick and I are here for you.
Be gentle with yourself.