The term “crisis fatigue” entered my vocabulary in 2020. Strictly speaking, it’s not an officially recognized psychological disorder. At least, not yet. But social scientists tell us that people are experiencing it. Lots of people.

Confronted by a relentless barrage of stress-inducing events, we respond with a draining mixture of exhaustion, rage, disgust, despair, anxiety, and grief. We want things to change, but the problems seem so huge that we don’t know where to start. We begin to wonder if we could make a real difference anyway. We’re overwhelmed.

Sound familiar? It does to me.

And no wonder we’re feeling overwhelmed: Covid-19, George Floyd, wildfires in the west, Breonna Taylor, hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, and concerns about the stability of our democratic institutions. All in less than one year.

These are big problems requiring sustained, vigorous action. And when we’re feeling overwhelmed, the sheer size and scope of the challenges we face can sap us of the energy we need to confront them effectively.

If we look at our challenges as whole—racism, the pandemic, the deep fractures in our country—we may feel too small and inadequate to do anything about them. We know that we should do something, but we may struggle to get started.

Here something the recovery community taught me about that. Don’t be frozen in your tracks by the illusion that only big things can make a difference. Instead, just do the next right thing.

Wear a mask in public. If you’re white like me, listen to people of color talk about what it’s like to be black or brown in our society and resist the urge to defend yourself. Sit with your Bible and read what Jesus says about the poor, the stranger, and loving your neighbor. Vote when the time comes.

Do something. Do the good that’s right in front of you. We know in our heart of hearts that doing nothing to make things better can have the same effect as doing something to make things worse.

Jesus makes this point in a parable that he aims at some of the religious leaders of his day. He said that there was once a father who told his two sons to go work in the family’s vineyard.

The first son flatly refused. But later, he changed his mind, grabbed up the clippers, and started trimming a few vines. By contrast, the second son said, “Sure thing, Dad!” and never lifted a finger. The second son’s inaction did the real damage. (Matthew 21:28-32)

Jesus was obviously not talking about being a reliable farmhand. He was addressing religious people about doing God’s work on this planet. That work is to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. (Micah 6:8)

Pursue a just and loving world in all that you do. Only, remember that bit about walking humbly. In other words, do the next right thing. Do the limited, perhaps the very small thing that’s right in front of you today.

Apparently, that’s how God has decided to change the world.

An Invitation

I hope you’ll join me for a series of in-person Zoom conversations called “A Love Shaped Life” Thursdays (6:00 p.m. CDT) in October. This coming Thursday (Oct. 1) we’ll be talking about letting go as a spiritual challenge.

No charge. No registration. All you need to do on Thursday is click this link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81224620632?pwd=V1V1dmJGQW12djZmb2hDVWp0a1lZZz09

6 Comments

  1. When I hear about the major mission work some friends perform, I get frustrated and feel badly because I’m not doing something big and important. Then, I remember that I let that other car go first, opened a door for someone, or smiled at a stranger. I can do the little stuff, the next right thing.
    I’m hoping to have internet so I can join your talks, but hurricane recovery is slow here.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Amazing opinion piece from Politico 25 Aug, by five female Black prosecutors who are working from within the system to institute positive transformative change. “Each level of the legal system reflects a level of inherent bias, and unless we stop trying to reform the system and instead work to transform it, we will never achieve the kind of change needed to upend a system rooted in slavery.” Link: https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/08/25/black-prosecutors-11-ideas-393577 They’re so brave – what they’re doing’s so important.. just felt I had to share!

    Liked by 1 person

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