How to Respond to Stressful Times in 2020 (Now 2021)

Feel Like the World Changed Overnight?  Struggling With the Conflict Going On?

From a worldwide pandemic to social upheaval unseen since the 1960s, it feels like everything changed overnight. How did this happen?  And where do I fit in this unexpected drama?  Am I part of the problem? Can I be part of the solution? Where do I start? What’s the next right thing?

I find myself with more questions than answers and that’s o.k.

I don’t want to simply react. I don’t want to assume there are easy answers nor do I want to blindly adopt the answers I hear from others. There’s been a lot said, a lot written, and a lot reported already.

If I’ve learned anything, it is that I want to be willing to put aside preconceived ideas. I want to really listen - to learn what others think and how they feel. I want to ask the right questions, both of others and myself. So where to start…

The Most Important Question to Ask Myself

How about we start here:  I am flawed.  Some flaws are evident, some are blind spots I have yet to discover.

Second, because I am a Christian I am commanded to lead with love.  If my faith turns you off, please hang with me here.  I am trying to surrender my misconceptions of many things. I humbly ask you to surrender yours as well.  Maybe you have been hurt by the church in the past, or perhaps a person claiming Christianity has caused you pain, but please don’t let that stop you from reading this. The standard is not the follower, but the founder – Jesus – and Jesus stood for justice, love, equality, freedom, peace, and unity. That’s what I want to stand for too.  So, when I say I am commanded to lead with love, it is because I know Jesus loves me and he loves my neighbor, and so must I.

So, the first and foremost question for me is to ask myself is, how does Jesus want me to respond?

Beginning with love

I don’t assume that it’s easy, to begin with love, but if I start with an open heart, I am starting in the right place. Jesus said that the most important thing any of us can EVER do is to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Matt 22:37)

What does it look like to love my neighbor as myself? What does it look like to really experience how someone else is feeling as if I were feeling it myself…To truly weep with someone? Am I willing to hurt with those that are hurting?

What does the Bible say about leading with love? A lot!  It says–

Love is patient. It says love is kind. It says love does not envy and is not proud.  It says love is slow to anger, hates evil, rejoices in truth, protects others and offers hope.

When I look at every word above and apply it to my OWN heart, it sobers me. I must caution myself from using this list to judge how “others” are measuring up. The fact is I have no control over others, only myself. So, I must be sure that my response is rooted in love.

This view of love causes me to ask myself…how can I live out this description of love in this current cultural climate? Am I patient with those expressing opinions or am I quick with my own? Am I slow to anger when someone does something I don’t like? Am I too proud to consider that my perspective may be wrong? Do I respond with kindness when someone offends me?

Open my eyes to really see people

Once I have chosen love, God calls me to open my eyes and really see people - to get to know them – to get to know their heart.

What makes them tick? What moves them? How do they hurt? Where do they find joy? How are they struggling?

It takes a concerted effort to really see someone as God sees them. God says, “For the Lord sees not as man sees man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) May God give me the discipline to see the PERSON, and not be distracted from seeing them by anything else.  Not by economics, not by race or religion, not by sexual orientation or education or looks, but may I see them as humans just like me, made in God’s image and deeply loved by Him.

Am I doing the work to really get to know and understand people different than me? Am I working to understand the challenges and struggles they face? Am I looking beyond their appearance and politics to discover their heart? Am I looking for what unites us more than divides us?

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” 1 Peter 3:8

Speak Up and Care for Others

Jesus was once asked the questions, “Who is my neighbor?”  In response he told this story about a man commonly known as the good Samaritan.  This man was traveling outside of his home country and culture. He came across a local man lying by the side of the road, beat up and robbed.  Prior to the Samaritan coming along, two local men had traveled by and ignored this injured man. 

Both were powerful and influential and chose to ignore the man suffering on the side of the road. But the good Samaritan decided to lead with love. Though a total stranger, he bandaged the man’s wounds, took him to a safe place to heal and paid for his care.

At the end of the story Jesus’ asks his listener – “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” Luke 10:36-37

There are many calls for mercy and justice in the Bible.

“And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8 NIV)
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice” (Proverbs 31:8-9 NLT)

If I see unequal treatment, am I speaking out? Am I working toward justice on behalf of others? Is my first response to show mercy?

Racial Harmony is a Picture of Heaven on Earth

Ethnic diversity and ethnic harmony exist in heaven. The book of Revelation in the Bible records a vision of heaven, and it says, “After this I looked, and there was an enormous crowd—no one could count all the people! They were from every race, tribe, nation, and language, and they stood in front of the throne and of the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9

Ethnic harmony is also what Jesus wanted on earth. In what is known as the Lord’s Prayer, he teaches his followers to pray, “Our Father in Heaven, may your name be kept holy.  May your kingdom come soon.  May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9 NLT)

Knowing God’s desire for all people to live in harmony I am asking myself…

What am I doing to bring racial harmony on earth as it is in heaven? Am I willing to hold my response for a moment and choose humility? Am I willing to drop a defensive attitude? Am I willing to be uncomfortable and have uncomfortable conversations? Am I willing to work at diversifying my circle of people? Am I willing to link arms with those different than me?

Cause for Hope

While I have a lot of questions, I have become confident that Jesus has the answers – that Jesus is, in fact, the answer. Thus, I have chosen to keep following Him and looking to His example.

To be clear, I am not suggesting you need to be a Christian to lead with love or to do justice, or to show mercy.  But if you find yourself searching for peace, seeking clarity, or wanting to be loved unconditionally, a relationship with Jesus offers all that and so much more. I invite you to continue to learn more HERE.

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