Reading the news these days is like watching a train wreck in slow motion—except it’s not a train, it’s the whole world. And like a train wreck, as horrifying as it is to watch, it’s also hard to look away. Every day I want an update on the war in Ukraine and the responses and effects on the rest of the world, and every day I know that the updates are going to make me sad when I see all the needless suffering of so many people who are made in the image of God. Of course, it’s hard to know exactly which updates are the truth and which are exaggerated for effect, or what is being left out, or what is going to happen next, but the general outlines of an unfolding tragedy are clear enough.
The stakes are high. Once again, the world is being shaken. We never even had a chance to catch our breath. The bad news just keeps rolling in every time I refresh the news feed, demanding my attention, shouting about fear and disaster, death and destruction and economic collapse. It’s shocking, worrying, tiring, and anger-inducing, all at the same time, and I don’t want to look away.
I don’t want to look away because I care—I may not know them personally, but there are real people suffering terrible things right now, and the shockwaves of these events are beginning to spread and cause more and more difficulties for more and more people, all around the world. How could I not care about that? But I have to be careful. The global news may be noisy and serious and demanding, but the global news is not the only news I need to pay attention to. There are quieter stories playing out all around me in my own community, in my own church, even in my own family, and the people in these stories are just as precious in God’s eyes, and he put me right here with them where I can be involved in their stories deeply, if I make the effort—but how can I make the effort if all of my attention is constantly focused on the headlines?
If I’m not careful, I could become an expert on the intricate details of global developments while simultaneously losing touch with the realities of what is going on in the lives of the people who live right in front of me. I could be praying about the needs of communities across the world (which is good), and at the same time forgetting or ignoring the needs of the community I physically live in. I could give towards the relief of strangers in real need (which I have) and never even notice the real (though less dramatic) needs of my own friends and neighbours. I could keep my head in the headlines and not even see the people beside me.
I do want to know what is going on in the world. I want to care about it more, not less. I want to pray about it all, and be as active as I can to help. I just don’t want to forget that there are people beside me, too. I don’t want to forget that I am more than just a citizen of the world—I am also a citizen of a real, tangible, local place. I want to remember to look up from the headlines and see the world that is just outside my front door. This is the world God put me in, and there are people and situations right here that I can help with, maybe in ways that no one else can. I don’t want to have my head so caught up in the headlines that I stop being able to hear the news of my neighbours, or comfort my friends, or support my community. God put me—and my head—right here, and he did it for a reason.