If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:8 NIV

Do you find yourself on edge lately? Easily irritated? Do you find yourself getting offended over relatively minor things? Do you suffer from compassion fatigue? Bouts of depression and anxiety?

Me, too.

Writer and counselor John Eldredge believes we all have some form of PTSD from six months of living in what he calls the “toxic atmosphere of undefined disaster”– a disaster without boundaries or rules, with no safe places or defined end point. We’ve been shut off from normal social contact, the stress-relief of sports events, concerts, church services. We can’t even see the smiles on each others’ faces. No wonder people in hot, crowded cities are exploding into senseless violence.

What is a person of faith to do? How can I spread peace and sanity in in a mad world at war?

I can begin with the simple act of minding my own business. It’s not my job to control others; I have plenty to do keeping my mouth shut and my criticisms to myself.

Then I remember what a beloved pastor friend said years ago, “No one can give me offense if I don’t take it.” I watched him live that principle in the bumping and banging of church life; it made an unforgettable impression on me. Right now, when everyone’s nerves are stretched beyond the breaking point, refusing offense is more important than ever.

And most of all, I need to forgive, as Eldredge says, “…everyone, everything.” We are all suffering—to a greater or lesser degree. Some of us are staggering under loads that would be heavy under normal circumstances. Adding them to the weight of COVID restrictions and losses makes the job overwhelming. I must remember “hurt people hurt people”—now more than ever.

What to do? Forgive, forgive, forgive yet again.

Is it easy? No! Do I feel like it? Absolutely not. I’d far sooner take the offense, snarl right back and vent my own pain. I will need forgiveness myself when I break down and backslide.

But I know my Lord calls me to live higher.

“You’re kingdom subjects,” declares Jesus in Matthew 6, (The Message), “Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

I’ve learned I can’t do something this difficult by mashing harder on the “try” button. I must ask for God’s help…over and over.

For without Him, I can do nothing. (John 15:5)

FATHER GOD: Life is difficult here right now; You know that. Help me to refuse offense and forgive. Seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:22) Amen.

First published in “Bozeman Daily Chronicle,” September 6, 2020.