Over the past few years I have gotten used to what I call the “storms of bad news.” Sometimes I see them coming over the horizon, other times they flash out without warning. Tragic acts of violence, public health crises, intense political conflicts, or ecological disasters ride in like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, portenting a troubling future. As someone accustomed to social stability, these waves of bad news are exhausting as I try to ride them out while waiting expectantly for “normalcy” to return. But lately, it’s become clear that not only are things a long way from returning to “normal,” but that the world is likely to become more unstable before it finds its equilibrium again.
As these “storms of bad news” arrive with increasing regularity, the question that I am confronted by is this: how do I live as a person of faith in a world in turmoil?
The good news is that our faith tradition was born in a world in turmoil and is perfectly suited to equip us for the times we are living in now. The story of Jesus Christ is about someone whose response to a troubled world was love. Not the kind of love that gushes with affection—far from it. Sometimes he challenged people, other times he reached out with a healing touch. When he was with the hungry, he fed them. When surrounded by aimless crowds, he spoke with authority. He responded with tenderness, humor, curiosity and even anger, depending on what the situation called for. Nevertheless, each of these responses, varied as they were, were of the same source: the conviction that God’s creation is good. Jesus’ interactions with people functioned to lift the dark cloud of sin* that served to conceal that reality. That sin could be shame (Mark 5:33-34), injustice (John 5:11), corruption (Matthew 21:13), clinging (Luke 18:23), or hypocrisy (John 8:7) to name a few. It was often a surprise to people how far they had traveled from the truth about themselves. The process of chipping away at layers of sin was painful at first (Luke 5:8), but it resulted in new life. Jesus’ oneness with God enabled him to see through the ugliness of the world to its beauty. He didn’t ignore the ugliness; he moved people beyond it.
So as a Christian then, my task in this world in turmoil is two-fold: 1) to pray that my own sin falls from me, shrinking the distance between myself and God, and 2) to pray for the vision to see beyond the sin of the world. I don’t wish to ignore the ugliness and pain or to do nothing in the face of it. Instead I would wish to have the faith to see God’s true creation and to bring that vision into everything I do and say. To do that is to live in the midst of hard times and to love anyway.
*I am using the word sin here more as reference to the collective condition of separation from God rather than as specific moral transgressions.