posted on March 15, 2012 14:39
This blog was written by CUDS Associate Professor of Preaching and Worship, Dr. Dan Day.
I’ve been pondering the circumstance of helplessness lately. Put more bluntly, the reality of helplessness has been stalking me.
One of the best friends I have in this life is in the hospital today, fighting for his life—the victim of no less than three surgeries in as many months. To make it all the more grim, this week’s surgery was likely necessitated by a botched earlier one. Now, once again, he’s hooked up to more wires and tubes than are in my home. At the mercy of others’ decisions and skills. Helpless.
Then there’s the married couple I know of who are a bankers’ meeting away from losing their home. They didn’t buy three times more house than their incomes could afford or sign up for a mortgage of dubious quality. But they did get hammered by being employed by companies that croaked within weeks of each other. They scared the wolf away from the door for a while, but only for a while. Now they’re at the mercy of forces over which they have no control. Helpless.
I watch the evening news and wince at the videos of Syrians cowering in corners, or darting through bullet-filled streets, screaming at the top of their lungs to repel the terror in their soul. Did they ask for this hell? It really doesn’t matter, does it? The fact is they are helpless, at the mercy of power-people with agendas other than the welfare of the expendables.
What do you say to people like these? Pastor-types get pushed into these questions too often for comfort. So, what do you say? Do you put on your Mommy-voice and say, “There, there, it’s not so bad, really. Just wait till tomorrow and the sun will shine again.” Sounds more than a bit phony to me.
My pastoral counselor friends tell me I shouldn’t worry about what to say. Just be there and show them you care, I’m told. Of course, there’s truth in that admonition. But, eventually, someone has to say something—if only at the funeral!
So, maybe the place to begin is to ask myself, “What do I tell myself in those moments when I feel that my own prized independence and self-determination are being filched from me?” I wish I could say that my heart leaps up and echoes Job’s famous faith-line: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:21).
But such an amazing, trusting resignation is not within me. I can only admire it from a distance.
Far more fitting for me is the lower tier of faith that whispers, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee….In God I have put my trust: I will not be afraid of what man can do unto me” (Psalm 56:3, 11). There’s no doxology here, like the one Job sings, but there is a gutty resolve not to let go of the one Hand, the one Helper that is in control—of this whole, out-of-control world. For some reason, this kind of hunkering down feels righter than promises of sunshine tomorrow or doxologies I don’t yet feel.
This surely isn’t the last word. But maybe it’s a good enough first word in the face of helplessness. It owns up to my fears without whimpering in defeat. It puts the case in God’s hands, where, of course, it always is and has been—even when I arrogantly thought I was in charge. Yep, this sounds like a good enough first word. I may even use it when I visit the hospital tomorrow.