There’s an ongoing argument in my marriage. My husband complains about something, and then I complain about his complaining. This is no small conflict. What it comes down to is that he gets very irritated when the world doesn’t work as it should, and I get very irritated when he tells me about things I can’t fix anyway.
It’s tempting to stay out of situations that are so messed up my efforts to help would hardly register on the grand scale. How does one person save an entire country of hungry children? How do I approach issues of war and poverty, corruption and dislocation? Why even try?
I do believe that biblical justice and mercy call for Christians getting involved in making large systems work better. We need to speak up for the poor caught in the crossfire of warring armies. We need to protest the injustice of dangerous working conditions and insufficient resources for food and medical care—here at home and all over the world. God is all about helping the “alien, orphan, and widow.”
But God also wants me—individual, limited me—to do what I can in this situation today. God wants me to walk out into the day and speak as best I can and help this person or listen to that person. Maybe I help someone get lunch, even though I know that this will not feed her long-term or change the fact that a violent boyfriend has rendered her homeless. But it matters, this one thing I do.
I figured out some time ago that I tend to avoid people in need because I know that, 90 percent of the time, I can’t change their situations. Sort of like my wanting to cut off my husband’s comments about a bad day because I am powerless to make the phone company more service-friendly and efficient.
Love does what it can. When God adds grace to that, good things happen. Sometimes the good is only for now, for the time being. Other times, our little acts build up like stones in a river that eventually alter its course.
Be inspired about doing what you can by reading the excerpt in the sample found on the right from Gary Smith’s They Come Back Singing: “Cause of Death: Life” and “Yayo” (pages 47-49, 90-93). If you’re reading this via e-mail please visit Deepening Friendship to view the excerpt.
Here’s an exercise:
Identify an area in which the immensity or intensity of the problem makes you hesitate to get involved. How can you break that pattern of thinking and simply do what you can?
I invite you to post your comments and questions and I will respond throughout the week. If you want to read more from Radical Compassion and They Come Back Singing please take advantage of the special discount for readers of this blog during the month of June (details at right).