Resisting the possibility of letting our good intentions be overwhelmed by “all the trouble in the world”, many of us would like to do more to make a difference in the lives of the suffering. There are a number of attitudes and actions that can help us make positive responses to those in need.
Compassion: As we have seen, recognizing and empathizing with the pain of those who are hurting are first steps toward action. We need to grow and maintain our sensitivity to the suffering.
Today, people talk about “compassion fatigue”, the idea that we are so exposed to sorrow and tragedy that many of us become weary of the many causes that call for our emotional energy and financial support. Jesus was keenly aware of the evil and pain around Him; yet, He remained compassionate. So must we.
Education: Because many situations of injustice and poverty are complicated, listening and learning what we can about these situations is important. There have been many examples in which well-intentioned people have caused damage to other people’s lives by trying to help. While this is not an excuse for inaction, we should seek to get involved in ways that are informed and thoughtful.
Prayer: When we see a problem, our first thought is to take “practical” action. But the Bible reminds us that prayer is practical. We can make a difference in the lives of the poor and oppressed by our prayers for them and for those who have power over them (see 1 Tim. 2:1-2), as well as seeking God’s guidance for how we can best respond further in offering help (see Prov. 2:7-8).
Expectations: Another important element in working to alleviate suffering is to have proper expectations, given the complexity of social, political, and personal circumstances. Our hope should be to give people choices and opportunities that they might not have had otherwise. Sometimes what people do with these opportunities will disappoint us, but we must respect those choices. In whatever way we might try to work in behalf of the suffering, our guiding principle must be to “do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matt. 7:12, NIV).
|Read James 1:5-8. What role should prayer play in Christian action? What does James 2:15-16 suggest about how we can contribute to answering our prayers for others?|