Natural Disasters (and lots of bad news)

From my 2005 Journal.

What does one do with all the stories of horror and sadness in the news? It it’s not war, it’s an Asian tsunami, a Florida hurricane, or tornadoes in Indiana on the heels of earthquakes in Pakistan. Murder, rape, and evil. The needs are overwhelming. And then there are the spiritual needs of a lost world. How do I balance getting information and processing it without emotional overload or feeling blasé? If it’s someone else’s problem, I shrug and say, “That’s interesting, but glad it doesn’t affect me.” But if it’s MY child that dies in the disaster, it’s suddenly too close to home.

I wonder what makes people rush to help. Some feel called and become trained to respond to disasters. Is there something wrong with me that I don’t feel the tug to “do something, anything” or is it merely an absence of triggers? I don’t want to be jerked around by emotionalism or false guilt that weighs on me like a shroud. My resources are limited. It’s impossible to give to every cause—and there are so many good ones!

I’m standing at the edge of a pit watching Stephen being stoned. I cannot prevent his demise. If I try to rush to his aid, I’ll perish as well—the mob is too large for one person to control. What I can do is search for the one or two people who are hesitant, who don’t really want to be there. Who can I persuade to walk away and listen to God? I cannot respond to all the disasters and needs in the world, but I can minister to the few on my path.

On a side note, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon: when people offer aid for a disaster, those who have not been treated in like kind are sometimes jealous. For example, after 9-11, victims from another terrorist bombing lamented that America didn’t send dollars to generously help THEM. When Hurricane Katrina struck Mississippi, and people in my city reached out to help the displaced citizens, locals who needed the same kind of care and concern felt ignored. What makes us respond to a disaster with an outpouring of generosity, but we don’t reach out to meet the routine needs of our community?

My mother had great compassion for sick people. It made her a good nurse. One day we witnessed a motorcycle accident in front of us. Watching my mother’s concern and compassion mixed itself in my heart with worry—like an emotional bow string triangulated between the boy, my mother, and me.

Am I willing for the music to stop? For the vibration in my soul to cease? Will I become emotionless, calloused, if I give up the strings?

“No, the song will only become sweeter,” says Jesus. And so, I unloose the worry string, tie a balloon on the end, and release it skyward. My focus now shifts to meeting others’ needs instead of mine.

A 2023 Update. I glanced at the news of the recent earthquake in Turkey, said a quick prayer for the victims and rescuers, and moved on to the ministry in front of me, focusing on what I could do, rather than on what I couldn’t.

Photo by Franklin Peu00f1a Gutierrez on

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