What do you feel when you hear about what’s going on around the world? The evil, pain, and unbelievable circumstances some people find themselves in are hard to comprehend. Sometimes you might feel numb to it, like it’s another sad event in our world and sometimes it will hit you deeper. Something about that specific story connects with you. You are drawn to every detail and every first person account, so you watch the news non stop and read every article at your disposal. We turn to social media to watch real time videos of what’s happening to innocent lives. The problem with our access to every news outlet, opinion, and first person account is we feel pressure to over educate ourselves. To have our stance on what’s going on in the world, and while there is wisdom to educate yourself over educating yourself can be harmful. That’s what we’re all facing as the war and violence is taking place in Israel and Gaza. We are pressed to take a side, have a strong opinion on what we’re thinking and feeling.
When I first heard of what was going on in Israel I felt sad. My spirit was heavy for God’s people, but it didn’t make me anxious until the idea of the end times came up. It caused me great anxiety because my first thought was, “I’m not ready to die. I have so much life I want to live. I’m bringing a little girl into the world and I want to be able to watch her grow up and live a full life.” I was anxious because I wasn’t educated enough in the right areas. Bits and pieces from friends, preachers, news outlets, and my own education that were incomplete made me feel unaware of the truth.
The first thing I did was pray about my anxiety. I prayed about how I was feeling, not because it’s more important than what’s going on in Israel, but because I know that God cares about me as His daughter. He cares that I am anxious because of what’s going on with his people. I confided in my husband about how I was feeling and let him in on my unfiltered thoughts and feelings. He helped me see that my anxiety had clouded my ability to see that my hope is in God, not what’s happening in the world.
Sometimes we have to ask ourselves the hard questions to get to a place of peace, we need to explore with trusted people what’s actually going on in the depths of our hearts. Sometimes we have to understand we need more education in the right areas to have peace. Sometimes we need to take a break from the searching, reading, and watching to allow ourselves to be regulated and present to where we are.
For most of you reading this; you’re not in Israel. You’re reading this from your couch, desk, bed, or kitchen table. You are most likely safe. You are not in immediate danger or worried about a terrorist group taking over your neighborhood. But your emotions might tell you otherwise. You might have deep anguish over what’s happening in Israel. Your heart might feel heavy, confused, shocked or anxious. Maybe you don’t feel any of those ways but you’re convinced you are supposed to because everyone else is. I don’t think there is one right way to feel or process what’s happening in Israel, but I do think there is a harmful way. Allowing it to overtake your peace, ability to be present, and create unnecessary stress and anxiety is not creating anything good within you.
You don’t need to convince yourself you are in danger to find empathy within yourself for what’s happening to the people of Israel. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It’s not absorbing someone else’s pain and suffering as your own. I think the enemy uses news, education, and first person accounts to create second hand trauma within us. Which is exactly as it sounds; “emotional duress that results when an individual hears about the firsthand experiences of another.” You don’t have to have second hand trauma to have empathy and have a broken heart over what is breaking God’s heart. Thats a lie from the enemy to create disruption within you.
So what do you do? How do you balance education and boundaries to not cause yourself second hand trauma or unnecessary anxiety?
Know your limits – If you are not accustomed to hearing trauma on a regular basis, hearing someone share their story of being kidnapped might cause you great distress and anxiety. If you’re currently facing something traumatic personally, reading into the trauma of the war in Israel could enhance your emotions in your own personal trauma. If you’ve been a refugee of war, reading about this war could trigger some painful memories which could cause potential re-traumatization. Know the level of sensitivity your spirit has when it comes to hearing traumatic stories. You don’t have to turn a blind eye to the reality of our world, but maybe you don’t need to read every detailed story the internet has to offer. Spark notes are enough for you. The hardest part about knowing your limit is having self-control to stop yourself. You might feel tempted to keep digging, but just because you want to doesn’t always mean you should!
Be mindful of what educating yourself is causing within you: Notice I said educating yourself. Being aware is a good thing, but if your desire to be aware turns into obsession, put up restrictions on yourself. We cannot be all-knowing, so burying yourself in every video, article, and news report is probably not producing an empathic spirit, but maybe a controlling spirit. You can obtain enough knowledge to be up to date while limiting yourself to the amount of times you check the news in a day. Know the basics, and maybe for you that’s where you stop because the more you read the more anxious you feel. Now on the other hand; know why those feelings are coming up in you. Is there something specific causing those emotions? There is a high chance there’s a root in your feelings. Maybe you are digging deep into these stories because it distracts you from your own or because this feels like a way you can control what’s happening by knowing everything.
Read truth to know the truth.
As much as this is a physical war, it’s also a spiritual war. Educating yourself in what’s happening in both the physical and spiritual side of this is crucial to create peace and remove anxiety. When you educate yourself about what the Bible says about war, Israel, and the pain and suffering in this world, you won’t feel defeated and hopeless in the stories. You can see hope even when there is no hope, because our hope isn’t in the stories of the world. It’s in the redemptive and saving story of Jesus. When we can’t make sense of our reality, we need to hold onto something or someone. Take time to look into God’s perspective of the war so that you can have comfort in knowing He cares about what’s going on and He is in control, no matter how out of control it seems to be.
Everything going on around us in our world today can be overwhelming and lead to many emotions, which is why it’s important to know how to personally process it all. Let’s continue to pray for our brothers and sisters and remember that our hope is found in Jesus.