From My 2008 Journal. I recently watched Shenandoah—an old Civil War movie starring Jimmy Stewart who plays a widower Charlie Anderson, father of six sons and a daughter. Charlie’s attitude toward the War is non-involvement—“It’s not my war,” he declares—until it affects him directly. When his youngest son is captured by enemy soldiers, it suddenly becomes his issue and he goes out to find and rescue him. He and his sons never do join the fight, but the War affects Charlie profoundly as he loses three family members.
I’ve been pondering his statement, “It’s not my war,” and then “Now it’s my/our issue” when it touches him directly.
I can relate to that. I can hear about wars and floods and tornadoes and murders and causes for this or that, and I remain unmoved . . . until it touches me and my life personally. And then suddenly it’s important to me.
Sometimes I feel a twinge of guilt that I don’t respond to news with more feelings of compassion, with prayer, or with a desire to jump in and help. But I recognize that I’m not called to do everything—I’m only responsible for the things God tells me to do.
So am I saying it’s okay to be nonchalant, uncaring, or unfeeling about the sufferings of people around the world? Well . . . yes and no. I’d be an emotional wreck if I could feel everyone else’s pain all the time. Perhaps it’s a blessing and a gift that I’m not able to. I have to trust God to give me the passions that He wants me to have. I was not created to take on the cares of the world, but I know Someone Who can.
In his book A Journey into Victorious Praying, Bill Thrasher states: “We aren’t called to pray for every request with the same intensity. . . . God will not give any of us every prayer burden. [What a relief!] Ask the Lord to bring to your mind what He wants you to pray for. Sometimes when I ask, nothing comes to mind. Maybe He’s just calling me to silence.”
What kind of news touches your heart?
I’ve wondered the same thing sometimes — what’s wrong with me that I don’t care about other people’s issues? I’ve even asked the Lord about it. Yet, I remain unmoved. I think I understand that other people’s choices don’t have to affect me and that when I need to pray, I do. What bothers me most is when other people’s issues push them to push me in a direction that is not mine (now there’s a blog for you!). Do we sometimes have to do stuff even when it’s NOT our issue? Still working on this one. In the meantime, I love praying and handing (casting) all my burdens to the Lord.
Yes yes yes! It took me a long time to understand that your passion doesn’t have to be my passion. The pulpit is a great place to pass along shame-based messages of shoulds and oughts. For example, in one church we were served the message that you must feel compassion for (fill the in the blank) or there’s something wrong with you. But try as I might, I couldn’t drum up any of that compassion. I didn’t figure out till later that God had given me gifts and a calling in a different venue or arena. The other thing I could have expounded on is that we are often moved to emotion over somebody else’s pain when I have experienced that same pain. I was listening to an interview today with a head surgeon at a famous hospital. He has enormous compassion for the victims of gunshot wounds and their families–because he was a victim himself back in high school and it compelled him to become a trauma unit surgeon.