Guarding our hearts

Heart in hand

By a member of the Arab World Media team

Giving birth to your first child takes your breath away. Suddenly, there is this precious little life, unable to do anything for him or herself, and you are the one who has to make sure their needs are met. You are completely in love, but you are also completely overwhelmed by the responsibility you now have.

In those first few weeks of motherhood, I would sit in my living room, nursing my daughter for hours on end. There wasn’t much else I could do, so I would use my phone to keep in touch with the world. While on maternity leave, I wanted to keep informed of events in the Arab world, paying particular attention to the war in Syria. It was 2014 and Daesh (ISIL) was making the headlines.

I remember the shock of the first beheading; the disbelief that one man could use a knife to remove another man’s head, then proudly show it to the world. And I remember when the Yazidis were forced up Mount Sinjar – the scenes of desperation as people threw themselves at helicopters. They were so helpless and afraid.

In my case, the events in the Middle East contributed to post-natal depression. I couldn’t cope with the suffering and yet I couldn’t look away. I cared too much and I wanted to help. I felt guilty that I had such security.

Now, two years later, I am okay. I have learned that I cannot hold the weight of the world on my shoulders. I know when to watch or read an article that will pull at my heart, and when to step away. I have assurance that God knows every person’s story and will bring justice in his time. I still feel frustrated that I cannot do much for the people who continue to suffer, but I look for opportunities to give and I pray a lot.

As Christians, we cannot and should not turn our backs on the suffering of others, but we also need to guard our hearts. Proverbs 4:23 wisely says, Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. This doesn’t mean toughen up to the point of indifference. It means be healthy, know your limits, keep your heart soft without letting it break.

Here are some ways you can do this…

  • Remember that the burdens of the world are not yours to carry.
  • Pray continually that God would protect your heart while keeping it soft.
  • Consider that terrible things took place in biblical times. God was acting then and he is acting now.
  • Put a limit on the amount of time you spend watching and reading the news each day. Maybe only check it once or twice.
  • Turn off push notifications for news apps on your mobile device.
  • Know that it is okay to stop or pause a video if it is too hard to watch. You can always come back and watch it another time.
  • Balance bad news with good news. Know that God has been doing some wonderful things in the lives of refugees (take a look at this article). Each day brings news of someone coming to Christ in the Arab world. God is using tragic circumstances to build his kingdom and we are going to see more amazing things take place in years to come!
  • Finally, take heart in the Scriptures. Psalm 34:18 is a good verse:

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

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