When Overwhelmed

Lately at work, I’ve been absorbing images of the Holocaust, the Killing Fields of Cambodia, the USSR; of starving babies and the slaughter of their fathers in Venezuela’s *peaceful* protests–of the endless atrocities haunting our past and present.  And then I see the potential for future atrocities in today’s rapidly advancing technology; in my more paralyzing moments, Black Mirror shifts from art to prophecy.  I am weighed down by this: If absolute power corrupts absolutely, and technology empowers its users exponentially, then just how devastating will corruption become?

What am I to do with these frantic thoughts? I’m afraid that for far too many of us, the answer is to smother them with distractions. To silence the nagging solemnity of reality, we bury our poor heads in social media, in reality TV, in mind numbing music, in flashy, empty materialism–in our newfound narcissism. We return to our base, animalistic nature as we surrender ourselves to the power of pornography–to the prolific objectification of one another.  It’s all gross. And unhealthy. I’m guilty of [some of] it.  You probably are too.

So what then, are we to do with this overwhelming, ever-growing knowledge of murderous governments, murderous people, and the surging technology that enables evil to accomplish more evil?

I’d love to save the world–I think most of us would.  But we have limits. We are finite beings with needs of our own.  May I dare even suggest we are weak? It’s counter-cultural, but I’d say we’re weak.  At least I am.

As a weakling, I need rest.  I’ve been finding in Jesus’s words:

“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

Sometimes those words get eye rolls from believers like me who suffer from clinical anxiety.  But actually, that verse gives us hope.  Because Jesus–the God of the universe–acknowledges that “each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Days have concerns, struggles, perhaps even–gasp–worries.  Jesus Himself was “a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53).  It’s okay to grieve the world’s suffering.  It’s ok to not be ok.

But Jesus knows that most of the time I put the *everything* on my shoulders, which is a problem, because I am a weakling.  He looks through my eyes and into the space where my soul is.  Kind yet firm, he reassures me: “Hey. I got this.”  And I trust what He says, because me and Him go way back.  He makes sense and He’s never ever let me down. He’s all the love and all the power at the same time.

Life is sort of bipolar, isn’t it? Like I’m writing these words from my favorite coffee shop.  The sun is shining outside, and the fresh, bird-chirpy air is flowing freely from the open storefront.  A colorful monster mural next to me reminds me of Grimace, who’s my favorite. And across me, there’s a table of ladies my age enjoying beers and conversation–the sharing of souls I hope.  I just finished a Modelo, cold with condensation, and there’s jubilant conversation streaming from the brewery across the street. There’s reggae in the air, swirling through my ears and into my mood, reminding me that life is beautiful too.

I think Jesus had moments like these too.  And because of these two extremities–devastation and celebration–I don’t find the suggestion of Good and Evil, and God and Satan, to be all that (or any) ridiculous.  There is pure innocent beauty, and there is pure paralyzing horror in the world. It’s staring at both that leads to confusing musings like these. And for the most part, that’s the view we all have.  We can close our eyes to one side or the other, and sing, “can’t nothing bring me down, because I’m happyyyy,” or we can sing the other side, but we know deep-down that reality is nuanced with both.

Focus on today.  Trust where and when God chose to put you in this crazy history of existence.  Seriously. I often stress about how I might or might not make it in someone else’s reality.  I try putting my face in the photographs of the hopeless in Venezuela, and fear I might not be strong enough to “make it” (whatever that’d mean).  I feel guilty that I’m here in this lively coffee shop in sunny San Diego, enjoying the freedom I take for granted. And I feel pathetic for my struggles.  And it all gets heavy again and my anxiety leaks its chemicals into my system.

But then Jesus, who takes such beautiful care of me,  says, “Hey, I got this. You just do today. I got all the tomorrows.”  And I trust Him and start thanking Him for the reggae and praying for the suffering, and talking to Him about what I can do.  ❤

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