A couple of days ago a 7.1 earthquake hit Christchurch NZ and I have just been looking through some of the photos sent to me by my friends. Miraculously no one was hurt but there are a number of damaged buildings, roads and other infrastructure. I lived in Christchurch for five years and so was relieved to hear that all my friends are safe.
At the same time I was reminded of the continuing devastation in Haiti where the people are still trying to put their lives back together. I realized too how little I had prayed for these good people in the last few months. Out of sight out of mind particularly as so many disasters seem to have impacted our world in the last couple of years. We cannot cope with the recurring images and our brains start to shut down and shut out those things that are unpleasant. Compassion fatigue sets in and we appear indifferent to the heart ache around us.
How do we avoid this response? I think that fundamentally we need to view these disasters from a different perspective. It is easy for us to respond to need out of a gut wrenching compassionate urge. But that is not sustainable – in long run it exhausts and disillusions us. In order to maintain our compassionate responses and not be overwhelmed by the magnitude of recurring devastation we see around us we need to center our lives on God and the responses God desires of us.
I find that to accomplish this I need regular times of peace and quiet, far from the TV images and hurting voices. I need time to listen to God in a way that makes it possible for me to discern God’s voice and respond as God wants me to. As many of you know I love to write prayers and reflections during these times of prayer and discernment. I find that this helps me to move my response mode from my head to my heart. It grounds me in a way that watching TV images never does and it gives me fuel that makes possible a sustained response.
Today as I reflected on the devastation I see around me I wrote another prayer – not about the devastation but about the goodness of God, reminding myself that God is good and God does love us. That I know needs to be the centre of my response to any situation
Made known in creation
Food for the hungry, abundance for us all.
Revealed in Christ Jesus
Freedom from sin, salvation for us all
Made new through the Spirit
God’s image perfected, new life for us all