What Do We Do When the Lights Go Out?
It’s probably safe to say that 2020 can be summed up in one word: chaos. The Coronavirus Pandemic turned the world upside down as people retreated to their homes, schools closed, businesses shut down, and travel was halted. New phrases like “social distancing” and “shelter in place” were added to everyone’s vernacular. The economic impact was felt almost immediately as jobs were lost and millions found themselves out of work.
As the upcoming presidential election pitted one side against another and debates raged about the opening of schools and mask mandates, much of the state of Iowa and the surrounding area were leveled by a Derecho storm one week ago. Crops were destroyed. Homes were toppled. Trees landed on roofs and vehicles. Power lines were ripped from poles. A wake of destruction miles wide was left behind.
Perhaps you have felt overwhelmed in the midst of this crisis. Perhaps your home is one of the hundreds of thousands without electricity. Perhaps your roof was torn off in the hurricane winds. Perhaps you have been surviving on peanut butter sandwiches or waited in lines hours long for gas for your chainsaw. Even if you weren’t directly in the path of the storm, you may have already been overwhelmed by financial stress due to job loss or grief over your child’s cancelled graduation.
One thing is for sure: 2020 has hurt all of us in one way or another. It hasn’t been an easy or encouraging year. So what do we do when things are really hard, when another punch knocks us off our feet, when the lights go out and we are left in total darkness?
It seems unintuitive, but it is times like this that we should be asking, “How can I help?” Even when you are suffering, one of the best things you can do is reach out a hand to another. Helping others brings meaning to the chaos. It reminds us that the love of God flows through us. It awakens our shared identity as Christians and mobilizes the Church to be the hands and feet of Jesus. It makes the love of God tangible.
Now, that is not to say that we should ignore our own needs, but that even in a crisis, we can take stock of what God has provided and ask ourselves, “How can I give to others out of the abundance that God has given me?” We can share our generator with our neighbor or help clear fallen trees or buy groceries for those out of work in this most desperate moment. And as we do, we shine lights into the darkness and lift up the hopeless. We find hands who can meet our own needs. We inspire others to action.
It is easy to focus on what we have lost and what causes us pain. It’s easy to sink into despair. But sometimes we help ourselves simply by asking, “How can I help others?” Jesus gave us this example. Just hours before he knew that he would be betrayed by Judas, despite his own feelings of hurt and betrayal and loss, Jesus gathers a bowl and towel and washes the feet of his disciples, even Judas. He gives selflessly, walking to death on the cross and dying for the sins of those who mocked and cursed him.
Jesus didn’t ignore his own need. He continually talked, prayed, and pleaded with his heavenly Father. He asked his disciples to pray with and for him. But even in his hour of need, he focused his heart on the people around him. And despite his great despair and his death, he never stopped loving those around him.
How can you help? How can you turn tragedy into moments of hope, lifting your spirits and the spirits of those around you? How can you point your neighborhood and community to Jesus, loving them and sharing with them the abundance God has given you? We’d love to hear your stories of hope, because we know that no matter how dark things get, we are not hopeless. We are loved.