A Note from Chris Adams: Every day seems to bring a new act of terrorism in the U.S. People going about life one minute and facing tragedy the next. Sadly, this has affected more and more people who need a touch from us and from Christ. Today Dr. Deb Douglas, First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA gives us ways we can minister in the midst of crisis due to a senseless attack.
Heartbroken. Afraid. These are the first responses to another act of terrorism in our world. Questions overwhelm our minds as we try to make sense out of an act of hatred.
- Where are our family members?
- Our friends? Are our people safe?
- How am I personally connected to this?
The shooting in Orlando, another in long list of acts of terror across our nation and world, impacts every citizen of the globe. Each act of terror becomes a little more real, a little closer to home, and jolts us into a place of fear. It creates within us a sense of timidity, a need to seek safety, and sends us to the edge of panic as it leaves us heartbroken.
How do acts of terror impact women?
- Acts of terror make us all more aware of our vulnerability.
- Acts of terror make death more real.
- Acts of terror increase the already epidemic number of women experiencing panic attacks and anxiety.
- Acts of terror create a wide chasm of opinions as to causes and solutions.
As leaders, there are three things we need to include in our response:
- Mourn the loss. Express sympathy.
- Pray for victims and victims’ families. Pray for first responders.
- Stay away from the debates that follow any act of violence such as politics or gun control/rights. These take the focus off praying for the hurting and showing God’s love to the victims.
As women’s leaders, our openness to discuss the terror in Orlando, other frightening world events, and anxiety will help women feel comfortable enough to talk to us about their fears. Women experiencing fear and anxiety often feel a sense of shame or guilt. This shame and guilt compounds the anxiety and increases the fear. There is a fear that by experiencing fear and anxiety, it is evidence of a lack of faith or spiritual maturity. However, throughout Scripture there are examples of spiritual giants who had moments of fear, anxiety, and panic (Abraham, David, Saul, Peter, Jonah).
How can we help women experiencing anxiety and fear? Here are some practical suggestions:
- David’s life was full of trauma. He understood panic, fear, and anxiety. Reading the book of Psalms in a systematic fashion brings understanding and calms our hearts. When feelings begin to overwhelm, read chapter 6, then chapter 16, 26, 36, 46, and on until peace fills the heart and calms the soul. If necessary, read to the end of the book. Or, read chapter 7, 17, 27, 37, 47, and so on until the end of the book. Keep reading until peace calms your heart.
- Be intentional about praying for calmness and peace within our own hearts and in our world. Pray for the end of acts of terrorism. Pray for our nation, our leaders, and our world. Pray for first responders. Enlist other prayer warriors.
- After the Orlando shooting, there was an immediate call for blood donations. Thousands responded. Why? Because it was a tangible, practical way anyone could help. When we feel like we are being a part of the solution, we feel better and more in control. If we are actively involved in helping others, our fears and anxiety decrease. Whether we do so by regularly donating blood, sending care packages to military personnel, organizing prayer groups, feeding the homeless, or finding ways to volunteer in our churches, serving others brings a sense of peace and contentment.
- Find others (a counselor, a friend, a mentor, or other trusted person) to partner with in conquering fear and anxiety. When the feeling of anxiety or fear comes creeping up, call the partner to pray and be encouraged.
- Relish the passionate love of Christ! Determine to live in a daily growing relationship with Christ by meditating on Scriptures, prayer, and worship.
When tragedy comes, if we bottle up our fears, hide our anxiety, and go on with our lives as if nothing has happened, we are compounding heartbreak upon heartbreak in our own lives. We also are modeling an uncaring, unfeeling lifestyle devoid of compassion—a lifestyle that is very different from Jesus. Jesus showed compassion and love to those who were fearful and hurting. He took seriously the ailments of those around him. Anxiety and fear are debilitating. As Christ followers, helping women who suffer from anxiety and fear is a loving, compassionate response.
Terror attacks, tragedies, and acts of hatred are part of our culture. Instead of judging women living in fear, suffering from panic attacks and anxiety, let’s show the compassion of Christ. By doing so, we’ll see our own fears begin to subside as we respond in healthy ways to the sometimes fearful world we live in. Let’s live with the hope and love of Christ!
For more help and resources on ministering in the messy, check out Women Reaching Women in Crisis and Steps: Gospel-Centered Recovery or refer to the other articles in the Hurting Women or Ministering in the Messy categories.
Dr. Deb Douglas has served in women’s ministry for over 37 years. Now she spends her time working with Purchased Ministry, a ministry to women in the sex trade industry. Deb is also the Director of Biblical Counseling at First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA. She was the first to graduate from New Orleans Baptist Theological seminary with a Masters degree focusing on women’s ministry and has earned a Doctor of Education in Ministry degree from NOBTS. She is “Pearl” to 3 sweet grand babies, “Mom” to Jared Douglas and Katie Chavis, and wife/sweetheart to Paul Douglas.