The TV won’t stop talking. I hear so many words – terrible news stories, shallow comedy shows, meaningless reality programs, this celebrity this, that sports game that – following me wherever I go. It’s on all day at work, my phone tells me what Fox News has to say, I get email updates, and ESPN is on at home most nights. Even if I choose to remove myself from a lot of those lists and situations, getting away from it entirely is nearly impossible. Facing the world and its realities is unavoidable.
When I hear news stories about terrorists, world leaders, natural disasters and celebrities, I get so frustrated by all the problems out there. I think how terrible the acts of the terrorists are, why did such-and-such leader do that, all the problems natural disasters cause and how to respond, and how sadly shallow celebrities can be. I think, “I don’t have it all together, but those people! Yeesh.” I get so frustrated that I just want to put it behind me.
Reading the prophets, I easily get frustrated with Israel. It’s story after story of their disobedience and immorality, refusing to follow God except on their own terms. They choose to do horrible things, including worshiping false gods and even sacrificing people. Many of the chapters are God, through a prophet, expressing his anger and sense of betrayal. Even though He has saved Israel many times, showed them miracles, given them prophets and kings, and provided for them abundantly, Israel always forgets and goes back to their own sinful ways.
I got so frustrated once that I literally wrote in my Bible “Come on Israel, get your act together!” Then I read passages like Jeremiah 3:22 that says, “My wayward children,” says the Lord, “come back to me, and I will heal your wayward hearts” and I realize that, although I live in a different time and culture, I am Israel. My sinfulness may present itself differently than the Israelites, but when God is talking about his anger, being betrayed, and punishing the Israelites, He is talking to me.
We are so lost in our wayward hearts. We desperately need the Lord to intervene in our lives. Our Father is so merciful that even after years of Israel’s unfaithfulness and after they are punished, He states, “Yet even in those days I will not blot you out completely” (Jeremiah 5: 18). We need Him to redeem us like no one else can. He continually seeks us, all of us, with our wayward hearts.
When I think this way, I see the world differently. The people on the TV screen are more like me than I ever thought before. Their sins and struggles might play out differently than mine, but they are still like me.
In Jeremiah 29, God calls His people to live well and invest in their new city of Babylon. They are exiles in the land, and they don’t belong there forever, but while they remain, they are to seek the welfare of the city and the people in it. In the same way, we are exiles in the land, but we are to work for the prosperity of the land. We are called to live deeply in the world with the people around us and to respond to the world’s calamities. Just as we need healing from our God, so does the world, and God has chosen to do much of that work through His people.
The world is crying out for healing from our radios, from our phones, and from the television. It is screaming for redemption in a socially acceptable way from our TV screens. We cannot ignore the pandemonium, and it is our duty to walk in the mess with our world, not as bystanders, but as integral parts of the redemption story. This is our world, and we had better embrace it because the TV won’t stop talking.
Cara Brown works to develop training events for organizations in the not-for-profit world. She is a member of the 2015-2016 Capital Fellows Program.