"When We Feel Overwhelmed by All the Needs"
I recently read a magazine article about a human trafficking bust and couldn’t get the story out of my mind. All the next day my life felt too small, too safe. Guilt and shame over what I could be doing overwhelmed me. Have you ever felt that way?
Whenever I hear about any injustice, natural disaster, new diagnosis, charity lacking funds, family in crisis, community in conflict . . . I slip into a bit of despair. Suddenly I feel like I’m letting God down because I’m not saving the world. (Yes, I recognize the irony in that statement).
So as I lay in bed last night I asked Him, “What do You want me to do?” And an unexpected passage of Scripture came to mind:
“Certainly there were many needy widows in Israel in Elijah’s time . . . Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them . . . And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.” (Luke 4:25-27)
These words are spoken by Jesus in a showdown with the Pharisees, but they make a point related to my struggle: Every need doesn’t automatically equal an assignment. In our individualistic culture we often forget we are part of the body of Christ.
That means we don’t have to do everything. We only need to do our part.
We’re to ask, “God, who do You want to send me to?” In other words, “Who are You asking me to serve?” Being “sent” doesn’t necessarily mean going across the world. It can mean crossing the yard to our neighbor’s house. Or the hallway between the kitchen and our teenager’s room. What matters is not distance but that we are taking obedient action.
Determining who God wants to send us to can be a process, but here are some questions to help us get started:
- What’s a need that makes me feel not just compassion but also passion? Many opportunities will touch our hearts, but few will energize, empower, and engage us in ways that make it clear God wants us to take specific action
- How can I meet that need with more than just money? We have been given strengths, skills, and spiritual gifts intended to serve the body of Christ and the world beyond. It’s important to look at what we can do with all of who we are rather than only contributing financially.
- How can I meet this need in “Jerusalem, Judea, and the ends of the earth?” That’s where Jesus told us to make disciples. I interpret that to mean ever-widening circles of influence starting with right where we are today.
My husband and I serve at Saving Grace, a transitional home for young women who have aged out of the foster system. That’s where we first met our amazing daughter. The family God has given us is our “Jerusalem.” Saving Grace is our “Judea.” And Compassion International’s Leadership Development Program is our “Ends of the Earth.” While there’s much more to those relationships, all three are part of how we’re called to fulfill this God-assigned need: growing leaders who will change the world for Jesus.
It can be easy to go wide and try to do everything for everyone. But we usually just become hopeless and paralyzed (like I did).
Then even with good intentions we often end up doing nothing. What can be powerful instead is going deep by discovering the needs God has specifically created us to meet and then doing so in different layers from local to global.
What God asks us to do won’t overwhelm us with guilt and shame. Yes, it will be hard at times. But it will also be a joy as He uses us to serve in ways only we can.
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10)
God already knows the good things He wants us to do, and He has equipped us do them.
Our role is to simply keep asking, “God, who do You want to send me to today?” Then listen and obey.