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Staying Hopeful in a Troubled World

Introduction: Rev Ted Curnow shares some practical Christian insight relevant for this time in the context of the Uniting Church and its liberal theological decisions; providing a helpful reflection as during this critical time people may be considering their future even more. 

With social media, the speed of change and constant media news describing the landscape of our turbulent world it is easy to lapse into feeling anxious. With so many global, ideological and faith issues playing out and impacting our lives, it is increasingly difficult to remain stress free, particularly if you feel you need to stay tuned to current issues.

Professor Graham Davey explains that , “In the past decade or so news has become so much more visual and shocking often including user-generated images from people directly involved.—Stories are projected to you wherever you are and as it is happening, which is likely to make you feel like you are personally involved.”

In terms of cultural change doctors are increasingly torn between loyalty to patients and conscientious objection when it comes to euthanasia. Others are prescribed hormones and are encouraged to undertake irreversible gender assignment surgery.

Others are anxious about the future with real concerns about climate change.

Then there are some who regard Christianity as either irrelevant or even dangerous. Little wonder then that we are becoming more stressed and mentally exhausted. While we need to be informed, how do we shield ourselves from the ever present 24 hour bad-news cycle?

If the way forward is not just protest and disruption, but dialogue, standing firm and learning to apply Christian values and wisdom, then how should we respond and overcome the normal/natural reactions of feeling somewhat anxious, or depressed. We can find ourselves feeling anxious because negative news affects our thought lives and moods. Perhaps you feel that even the Church in which you have served has changed in a radical way and you are left feeling misunderstood, marginalised, or rejected.

Jesus called us to think about how we react to news around us. He called to see the big-picture, to recognise the Sovereign Hand of God rather than give ourselves to worrying about immediate things like food and drink. Matt. 6:31. In other words there are some issues that will not be immediately resolved.

Elijah illustrates this type of reaction. After his great triumph over 450 prophets of Baal at Mt Carmel he sank so low he wanted to die. He was emotionally and spiritually exhausted. God’s advice to him was “Rise and eat” (1 Kings19). One of the common causes of depression is repression of emotions and anger. We need a mood-lifting activity. Professor Graham Davey suggests setting aside 10 minutes each day to specifically work through all the things we are worried or angry about. “If fear or worry comes up another time, don’t fret over it then, rather jot it down and think more deeply about it during your ‘worrying time’.” This is a matter of learning that thoughts are just thoughts. Paul writes,” Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern the will of God.” (Rom 12:2)

Rosie Mullender in looking at how to stay hopeful through troubled times says, “If you can step away from your thoughts and realise you don’t have to react emotionally, then you automatically feel calmer. It’s a great technique for gaining more mental balance.”

When it comes to feeling the anxieties of the complex world we live in, these insights may be helpful but what about the bad news that affects us directly.  What about that inner witness of the Holy Spirit that leaves you uncomfortable when it comes to the Uniting Church accepting homosexual practise as an acceptable Christian practise? What about feeling let down by the church that has provided a faith environment for you and your family over the years?

It is suggested that the first step is to honour your feelings with self-compassion. This is not just a matter of feeling sorry for yourself, it is a matter of stepping back and realistically recognising your sense of disappointment, helplessness, perhaps anger or shame. For the next step recognise your grief feelings by rethinking your own faith journey, the association and enduring future you thought you had with a stable church. The last step may involve turning pain into action. This may mean asking yourself, “How can I remain true to the Word of God and my convictions”?

If you are still finding it hard to feel hopeful, here are three positive steps you may like to personally work through.

(1) Pray for an infilling of God’s love. Read the Pastoral Epistles and galvanise your heart and mind in the inspired Word of God.  

(2) Rather than feeling sorry for yourself it may mean taking steps to re-align yourself with a regular source of Christian fellowship and sound Biblical teaching beyond the church you belong to now.

(3) It may not mean deciding to leave the church you attend but writing to your Church Council to express how you feel. Taking specific action and declaring yourself will empower you to stand firm among your peers. You could express your love for all people, uphold the Biblical view of marriage and object to the Uniting Church adopting the compromise teaching of “two integrities.”

(4) This would also mean resolving to take steps towards being more supportive of the Assembly of Confessing Congregations and others who share similar Biblical faith convictions.

E. A. Curnow