The newspaper article talked about the Green River killer in Washington state who had murdered 48 women. Next I read about how a family was trying to move forward after the oldest son, a college student, was killed by a hitchhiker he had picked up. And then there was a story about the random shooting at a bus stop in Boston, where I live.
This wasn't the first time I'd felt overwhelmed with sadness by the news. In fact, I was in a rut of hearing the news and then feeling as if I had to crawl out of a dark pit. It was time to find a new approach to responding to the world's woes.
So I asked God to show me how I could be more useful. God's message to me said: "You can stop sorrowing for the world." That resonated with me. I could care about the world without getting so emotionally overwrought that I became ineffective and useless.
I remembered a Chinese proverb that says: "It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness." This encouraged me to actively follow the light rather than give in to darkness, no matter how persuasive it tried to be.
Lighting one candle can be done in many different ways. Sometimes I feel led to counter the darkness by doing a good deed for someone; other times I pray more deeply for those I hear about in the news. And then there are those times when I feel impelled to commit more to healing in my own life.
Jesus told his disciples: "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.... Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:14, 16).
Perhaps the form the candle-lighting takes is less important than the fact that the candle gets lit. Doing something - even if we think it's a very small something - in the right direction stops us from getting hypnotized by the darkness and also helps those who are seeking answers.
A Bible passage I love reassures us that no matter what we face, the love of God is always with us. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:35, 37-39).
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, wrote: "Infinitely greater than human pity, is divine Love, - that cannot be unmerciful" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," page 121). This encourages me to indulge less in pity and engage more in turning to and expressing divine Love, God. This love is compassionate, kind, caring, but it isn't dark and heavy.
When I refuse to get immersed in pity, I find I have more time to pray for those in need and to encourage and support friends who are having a hard time.
For example, the other day I talked with a close friend who had recently lost her husband. It has been difficult for both of us because we love and miss him so much. I shared my conviction that she would be able to let go of the grief because she is God's child and can be only the way He made her - full of life, love, and joy.
It wasn't so much my telling her that she should or could let go of the grief - it was simply that my vision of her didn't include sadness.
We talked about how letting go of grief would make her feel more connected to her husband because that's what divine Love does for us. It connects us with His children. I was grateful when she told me a few days later that the ideas were helpful to her.
Turning away from sorrow and drawing closer to God's compassionate love lifts our burdens and enables us to contribute to a world that needs our love.
Thou wilt light my candle:
the Lord my God
will enlighten my darkness.