Coping with troubles, great and small

By Moira Billinge

The five minutes before the start of Mass are what I call my 'fidget time' – an opportunity for disposing of intrusive distractions. There is a mental checklist. Have I locked the car, closed the windows, put on the handbrake, switched off my phone ... ? Some shortcomings have simple solutions. Others, such as switching off the iron, tumble drier or oven, aren't quite so easily rectified at a distance. Most of the above niggles have proved to be unfounded, but I know that my checklist and I are not going to be easily parted.

Worries do have a knack of arising when they are least welcome and they are especially difficult to deal with in the middle of the night when they can appear so much worse than perhaps they actually are in the bright light of day. Often the person or people about whom we are fretting are most likely to be soundly asleep and oblivious to our concerns for their welfare.

There are occasions, however, when the situation causing our worry really is every bit as serious as it seems but there is not a lot that can be done about it at such an unearthly hour. There are usually solutions to be found for most problems but sometimes we can feel as though we are knitting with fog as we attempt to find even a hint of one.

On such occasions we have to draw on all our reserves of trust, faith and hope; to breathe in God, and breathe out our fear, and ask Him to take over and sort everything out for us. To 'let go and to let God', rather than allow our worries to drain and control, and make us ill.

Our worries, as difficult as they may be, are small in comparison with the concerns of the millions of people all over the world who are confronted with the turmoil caused by earthquakes, war, famine, dictatorship and religious oppression. Faced with their problems, our current anxieties would quickly become irrelevant. Our focus would instead switch to survival and our thoughts would centre entirely on finding safety, clean water, food, shelter and medical care.

The media bring the faces of the suffering right into our living rooms via our television screens. In times past, we did not see a migrant mother whose toddler had just drowned in the Mediterranean, an earthquake victim whose family home was reduced to a pile of rubble, the decimation of a suicide bombing in Kabul. Other people's troubles, unlike now, were truly invisible, at a distance. Word of mouth did not convey the sense of urgency in the same way as a news report showing the full horror of a malnutrition-bloated child.

The question is: how should we react? Is it just the latest tragedy, and yet another addition to such a very long list that numbed senses no longer see the full extent of the devastation unfolding before our eyes? Do we believe the hype and view all migrants with suspicion or do we instead give them the benefit of the doubt for the sake of those who have no option available other than to seek sanctuary on our shores? Do we share our resources grudgingly or with a spirit of generosity? After all, when God created this world, He made it ours to care for and not to covet.