On 15 March 2019, our beautiful city of Ōtautahi, Christchurch, was rocked once more, but this time, by man-made terror. There’s more than enough news coverage to tell the story – I’m not repeating it. But what can we do with the aftermath of fear, confusion, grief and despair?
‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble. Therefore,
we will not fear…’
We aren’t powerless; and we aren’t without hope.
There are things we can do; and there’s everything that God can do.
Here are a few tips that might help you, or someone you know, bring light in the darkness.
Don’t focus on the violence or the terrorists.
It only adds weight to what they have done; fuel for the fire of evil. Focussing on the actions and the perpetrators only results in more fear, grief or hatred. These things produce nothing good, only more of the same. Don’t be fooled into playing terror’s sick game.
DO focus on being proactive in love. Spread good news, spread comfort, spread love, spread generosity, spread hospitality… Whether it’s a neighbour, a workmate, a family member, or a stranger, there’s plenty of good that we can do and focus on. This is what brings healing, displaces fear, and will turn things around in our nation.
‘Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.’ 1 John 3:18
Don’t focus on fear
Fear is an active, evil force, seeking to paralyse and undermine life. Fear targets our imagination with the future possibilities of evil – what might happen. Don’t allow your mind to drift into fear’s dark corners.
DO focus on hope. Guard your imagination; think forward about the good possibilities, the love and kindness of people’s response to Christchurch’s pain, your ability to do good for others, and the unfailing faithfulness of God. God has plans for you: "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
Focus on what God wants to do, not on what your enemy wants to do.
Remember: Fear is an option, but focus is a choice. Chose what you focus on.
Don’t retreat or isolate.
Over the coming weeks, you’re likely going to have occasions when you want to hide, retreat, or isolate. Don’t. We were designed for community, for connection. Alone, the fabric of our emotional and social health begins to undo.
DO keep to your routines of connection: the places where you meet people, talk with people, engage in community. Terrorism seeks to isolate people in fear and keep communities from living in freedom and living with peace. Don’t let terror have its way: keep living your life; keep connected; keep being you.
‘Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another.’ Hebrews 10:25
Together, we get stronger!
Don’t keep the bad news on repeat (especially around children and teenagers).
No one ever felt better after watching more bad news!
DO ‘change the channel’. Tune into some uplifting music, a fun movie, a good book, a good conversation, a good report. Our brain chemistry, our physiology, our emotions, thoughts, and spirit, all react to the input we allow into our lives. Choose to feed your life on good input, and your feelings will follow.
‘…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.’ Philippians 4:8
Don’t bottle or avoid emotions.
Sometimes we fear emotions – but we must face them. The more we avoid, the deeper we bury them…alive! And they will either resurface or undermine other areas of our lives and relationships.
DO process how you feel. Take time to feel and acknowledge your emotions, and share them. Speak them out with someone you trust, or write them out. And most importantly, take how you’re feeling, all your burdens and cares to God: 'Cast all your cares upon him; for he cares for you.' 1 Peter 5:7
I find when I walk at the beach and share these things with God, He carries my worries, and gives me His peace. A transforming substitution!
Don’t do nothing – do something!
Many of you will have times when you feel tired, lethargic, low, numb or powerless. You’ll possibly be tempted to do as little as possible. But now’s not the time for that, because that vacuum of pro-activity will likely get filled with negative things.
‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’ Romans 12:21
DO choose to make yourself do good things. Things that are good for you and others: meet with people, go for a walk, play an instrument, read something inspiring, play sport, do some writing, listen to uplifting music, pray, meditate on God’s word, show kindness to others.
Inactivity and reclusion allow space for evil to continue harming us. ‘Overcome evil with good’ – it’s a call to action, even when we don’t feel like it. But feelings follow action. Commit to doing good for others, and yourself, and you’ll find that you feel different and so will others.
We’re not powerless – and we need not be overcome.
The small decisions we each make each day, are what will determine the kind of society our children will experience tomorrow. Let’s not allow one person’s actions to set the course of our future.
Good overcomes evil, and love never fails.
A prayer for us to pray, and keep praying:
‘Men of every creed and race,
Gather here before Thy face,
Asking Thee to bless this place,
God defend our free land.
From dissension, envy, hate,
And corruption guard our State,
Make our country good and great,
God defend New Zealand.’
- NZ National Anthem (verse 2).
Arohanui to all.