From news of the atrocities of ISIS… refugees fleeing Syria by the thousands… devastating storms and earthquakes… to the homeless person begging for spare change on a street corner, the need for a response to need confronts us constantly.
What, though, is the best response – the way that will honor God and the resources that he has put at our disposal?
Our first step of response to a crisis of any kind should be prayer.
By saying this I am referring to a different kind of prayer than we might say in the moment like, “Lord, help those poor people in that train wreck.” I want us to think about the Nehemiah kind of prayer where, after hearing about the trouble that the returned exiles were in, spent three months praying about his response to the need. That kind of focus in prayer will help direct God-honoring responses.
Our second step of response, which also relates to prayer, is to ask God how he would want us to respond.
I can’t tell you how this will work out because God apparently uses different strategies with different people, but I can say that what you need to look for is something that is undeniably God. Still not much help, huh? Here is an example: God has spoken to me with clear impressions or thoughts over the years. How did I know it was God? He asked me to do something that I knew I should do, but didn’t want to. My first inclination was to argue. One of the catch phases of the past was, “What would Jesus do?” Though most would consider this a trite question now, I believe it still holds help for us in considering a response to crisis. What would Jesus do if he were here with me right now?
Our third step of response is to obey the direct leading from our prayer times above.
Obedience may involve many different things, including more specific prayer, the giving of resources at our disposal, physically going to help, or mobilizing others to respond. Often, obedience will require multiple actions… all of the above and more. This step is usually the most difficult because it nearly always requires the sacrifice of something like time, money, or energy.
Let me make some general recommendations that may help you in considering how you should engage.
- Read Nehemiah – There are lots of good insights in this short story about Nehemiah’s response to crisis.
- Do some research – What is already being done? Who is doing it? Maybe you can join an effort that is already in progress rather than recreating something.
- Get past the presenting conditions to the deeper need – We were confronted by children begging on the streets of Guatemala City every day. We knew that most of them were working for someone who would get all of the money they collected. Those people were mainly interested in money… so we gave food which might actually make it into the stomachs of those children.
- If God asks you to actually go to a location to physically help, think through your options – How might you be used most effectively? Who should you partner with?
Finally, be careful not to set conditions on your response or obedience.
If God clearly directs you to give to that person on the street, then give and don’t be concerned about how that money is then used. That is between that person and God. Your responsibility is to obey by giving.
Pray deeply. Obey completely.