How do we, a family of believers in Singapore respond to news like this?
News of war, this time in Israel, filled our feeds this week. Thousands of rockets fired, together with thousands dead and many more injured on both sides, with astonishing human atrocity. It may be a while before this war is over, but judging from its recent and ancient history, that may not happen soon, if ever. This is on top of the ongoing war in Ukraine that has caused an estimated 500,000 deaths and injuries since 2022. Closer to home, the ongoing conflict in Myanmar has recorded up to 12,000 deaths since Feb 2021.
If we were paying attention, an earthquake in Afghanistan last Saturday has caused more than a thousand deaths, with many hundreds still missing. Surely that is an immense tragedy! Yet this is in the context of the recent Moroccan earthquake (500,000 displaced) and the Syrian-Turkey earthquake (50,000+ deaths) earlier this year.
How do we, a family of believers in Singapore respond to news like this? On one hand, we are certainly thankful for our safety and security, but here are 4 simple things that can help us respond just a little deeper.
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16:33)
1) Let us not be surprised
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
Whether it is in preparation for coming persecution, or news of war and disaster (Matt 24:6) in the world we live in, Jesus wants us as believers to have a peace that depends not on the absence of conflict or calamity, but peace that comes from having His presence in our lives. We are not only thanking God that we are spared, but we can read news with our eyes open and allow our hearts to experience the pain shared by humanity that is groaning for their Saviour and King to be revealed, and invite the peace that can only come from Jesus.
2) Let us not be desensitised
The pace and intensity of bad news coming to us seems to have increased over the years. Even with the shortlist mentioned above, how do we prevent empathy fatigue?
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Our own compassion is limited, and we can easily become numb. We may not know how to “feel” about the next great disaster. But if we see and love as God loves, His great and limitless love and compassion become available to us. Though we may not be able to understand the magnitude of human suffering, we know that God’s heart is big and good enough to care for and make provision for the cries (Ex 3:7 Ps 40:1) that every person makes.
3) Let us not be sleeping
In our safety, may we not think that we are better, “luckier” or somehow, more deserving to be blessed. If anything, suffering is a reminder to us that “…unless you repent, you will perish, too.” (Luke 13:5)
Our safety is not the reward of our own righteousness, nor is it an invitation to take it easy. Rather, we need to be doubly aware that our safety and security can be the very thing that insulates us from our true need for God, and the true purpose of life, which is to serve Him and glorify Him. Truly it would not be worth anything if we can hold on to the world, yet lose our soul (Mark 8:36).
4) Instead, let us pray
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
Prayer allows our hearts to be transformed. From apathy to godly compassion. From self-reliance to God-dependence. From casual seeking to persistent asking. From living by our senses, to living by faith. From living by what is convenient and comfortable, to contending for heaven to come on earth. From our limited version of fairness and justice, to His glorious eternal justice accomplished through Jesus Christ.
Prayer also agrees with God, that His will be done, and His Kingdom will come on earth as it is in Heaven. Prayer turns our attention heavenward. We can represent community, even all of humanity before the Lord to say “we are not the centre of the universe – You do not exist to please us.” But we desire God’s righteous reign and rule on the earth, and we are willing to obey Him, so that He can deploy us at His pleasure, to be His representatives where He wants us.
By Ps Ian Wong