It’s human nature, I think, to look away from things that are difficult to see. To shield ourselves from images and thoughts and facts that are too hard to know. To push away that uncomfortable feeling of broken-heartedness because it’s too heavy to bear.
I will admit that in the past I have deliberately chosen not to see hard things. Human trafficking? Opioid crisis? Famine? War? Broken families? Disease? Kids in foster care? Turn off the news, scroll past the article, I just don’t want to know. I don’t want to see the faces affected or hear the stories because it’s too hard. Please leave me here in my little, happy world.
Then, a few years ago, I heard Danielle Strickland speak about her justice work and my world turned upside down with a single sentence:
The first step to participating in injustice is choosing not to see it.
I felt my heart pounding in my chest. I was actually participating in injustice, perpetuating the problem, by choosing not to see these hard things. By choosing my comfort and naivete over those in need. Ouch.
I decided then that I needed to see hard things and to stop looking away. But I wasn’t really sure how to do that. Making a list of global injustices was just too overwhelming. There’s no way I could possibly invest deeply in all the things; I’d be physically and emotionally drained in about two hours.
Instead, I’ve learned that God uniquely equips and calls each of us to lean into different areas of injustice. We are not all called to the same work, but we are all called to the work.
So how do we figure out which hard thing to see and lean into? And then what do we do about it?
1 – Ask yourself, “What is my passion? What breaks my heart?”
There is something that just gets to you. That you could talk about all day long to strangers in the street. Something that you’re drawn to, excited about, or even broken-hearted about. For me, that’s kids. I’ve always been the babysitter, the volunteer, the camp counselor, and then was an elementary teacher for six years. Now I’m the Director of Children’s Ministry at my church. Anything involving kids automatically has my passion and attention. What is that for you?
2 – Look around your circles.
I’m sure there are people in your life who are already doing hard things. Start there. How can you support them and how can they help you figure out where to get started? God puts us where we are for a reason and surrounds us with people intentionally. Connect that with what you have found that you’re passionate about. I looked around my circles and I found several friends who were fostering, people who were advocating for kids in foster care, and even several contacts working in foster care. Who is already around you?
3 – Ask questions. Listen to stories.
It’s hard to know how to get involved, or what to do, so become a learner. I had lunch and coffee with these people that I had found in my circles and said, “Tell me more.” I asked a lot of questions (probably too many, but everyone was so gracious to share!) Mostly, I just listened to stories and tried to step into the hard places with them. I read books, followed people on social media, and started to understand where needs were that I might be able to meet. People love to tell their stories, and just listening is a big step in choosing to see! Don’t feel intimidated about making those personal connections.
4 – Don’t believe the lie that there’s nothing you can do.
Hard things are hard for a reason. They are complicated and big and can feel unsolvable. But don’t believe the lie that you can’t make a difference. We’re not in a season where we’re ready to be foster parents yet. Because of that, I believed I had nothing to offer. But then I decided to just do what I could — a meal, a hand-me down high chair, a gift card, a phone call. It felt insignificant to me, but God uses what we bring. Everyone can do something.
5 – Pray
I know. Everyone says this. But I believe that God has a unique plan for your life and that He will use you to make a difference. I began praying this prayer each day, “Break my heart for what breaks yours.” (Careful, because He’ll answer!)
So friends, this is your challenge: Lean in. Choose to see those hard things. Be willing to have your heart broken. The world will be a better place if we do, and I promise–it’s worth it.