Natural disasters, like the twin earthquakes that struck central Turkey in early February, threaten to overwhelm us with the sheer volume of devastation and desperate need.
As a pastor of a congregation in Central Asia, my church is full of people eager to serve in practical ways, but are swamped with their own regular responsibilities. By looking at Christ’s example, we are reminded how God equips us to best serve those in need.
It is good to grieve, lament, and spend yourself helping others. But it can be easy for lament to give way to despair—an ungodly sense of defeat and hopelessness. We are called as Christians to grieve, but not like those without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We are called to work, but we know that we need God to establish the work of our hands.
Despair may look different in different people. Your despair might look like feeling constantly angry at everything, everyone, and nothing in particular. It may look like giving up, and mentally disengaging. Despair might even look like working so hard to fix what you see that you start giving up sleep or hygiene.
Beware of giving way to despair. Remember that God is God, and you are not. Remember what you know to be true about God. If that is hard to think about, that’s a sign you need to stop what you’re doing, at least for a moment, and remember who the Lord is.
It’s human nature to compare ourselves with others around us, especially what we are or are not doing. It’s easy to fall into a trap of comparing ourselves with how busy we are compared to others, making it seem like doing more than another makes us better.
Remember that the question in the parable of the talents was not whether the servant had done as much as the other servants—the question was whether the servant had been faithful (Matthew 25).
Your faithfulness is not found in what you’ve done compared to others, but if you’ve been faithful to what God has given you.
Beware of pride based on how busy and productive you think you have been. Your faithfulness is not found in what you’ve done compared to others, but if you’ve been faithful to what God has given you.
What opportunities, resources, and abilities has God given you for this season? Are you using them faithfully?
Jesus warned us in the Sermon on the Mount not to practice our righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them. He told us to not even let our right hand know what our left is doing so that our giving will be done in secret. Those who, like the scribes who liked to wear long robes and loved the seats of honor, give in order to be seen “have received their reward.” While we should desire and expect to receive a reward from our heavenly Father, we should not do good in order to impress others (Matthew 6:1–4).
Charles Spurgeon and his wife Susannah apparently had two hens that were impressive egg layers. The Spurgeons only ever sold these eggs, and even family members had to pay for them. The Spurgeons were criticized publicly for being grasping and greedy over something as simple as eggs.
It wasn’t until after Susannah’s death that the truth came out. As their affairs were being put in order, it was learned that the profits from those eggs had gone to support two widows. The Spurgeons preferred to be criticized publicly rather than lose the privilege of providing for these two widows in secret.
Pastors, thank your congregation for the hard work that they are doing, including what you know about and what is happening without you knowing.
Beware of Confusing Busyness with Productivity
For some, there can be an overwhelming need to do something. But doing something with the intent of helping is not the same as actually helping. In my country, unreliable people are using the recent earthquakes as a chance for their own profit. Our government is warning citizens not to give their bank information to people who claim to collect funds for earthquake victims. Even good-hearted help can go poorly—like when busloads of eager but untrained people arrive to dig people out of the rubble.
Just because you are doing something doesn’t mean it’s helpful. So ask questions and rely on trusted sources to help direct your energies well.
Believe the Gospel
Remember and reflect on the truth that God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
Remember that tragedy and death in this life are here because of sin. Jesus came not just to address the symptoms of our suffering but to cut out the very root itself. As John Piper has said, “Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering.”
Whether you have lost everything or not, the eternal life found through faith in Jesus Christ is the most important possession you can have.
Don’t lose sight of eternity, even in the midst of hardships. Whether you have lost everything or not, the eternal life found through faith in Jesus Christ is the most important possession you can have.
Of course, we should never make people feel that they need to believe before we are willing to help with their suffering. Woe to us if we turn the good news into a tool of cruelty. But it means, even in these early days, keeping our eyes open for opportunities to give testimony to the hope that lives within us (1 Peter 3:15). Each day may not provide the right time to share that hope, but remember that there is a day of disaster coming from which there is no escape, apart from Jesus.
So make time to read the Bible. Pray with fellow Christians about what lies heavy on your heart. Gather with the saints to redirect your thoughts and affections toward the Lord. Ask God to save people even now.