I woke up the other day feeling—well. Feeling needlessly angry. (It wasn’t the first time, lately.)
I drilled down a bit in my surly little soul. Anger, I recall, is secondary; it stems from something: disappointment, fear, hurt, sadness. For me, there were slices of sadness—but also a big hunk of fear. More specifically, I felt powerless.
As I was scrawling thoughts for this post, I felt rather sheepish for even labeling that. The reasons I feel powerless are nothing like some of you reading this, huddling (or scramming) when an abusive spouse comes home. Or perhaps you’ve got a boss who makes you feel about an inch high, or even threatened—but you’ve gotta pay the rent. Or maybe you’re a person of color, feeling terrified and estranged after the last election. Or you have a dark diagnosis and a couple of small kids.
Then I thought of some of the women we’ve been making baskets with in the slums. They would give everything they owned to possess the level of choice, justice, and love I’ve been surrounded by for the entirety of my life.
So there’s that.
Novelist Elizabeth Berg, though reminds me, The person with the bleeding finger doesn’t hurt less for the person next to him with the bleeding arm. There’s still value in honesty alongside perspective and gratitude. Powerlessness still may leave you feeling fearful. Disregarded. Dominated. Anxious. Without resources or an advocate.
Personally, I felt powerless because of a decision I felt I had to make; there’s a level of obedience involved to God, because it’s not the way I’d choose for myself.
I guess there’s a guy weeping in a garden a long time ago who can sympathize with that.
And He’s the one, really, who tipped me off that I wasn’t as powerless as I thought I was. After all, He chose (chose!) to shrink Himself small enough to don diapers and be held by a previously-unwed teenage mother while Herod the Great was on the prowl, wielding infanticide. I thought of that teenage mother, all grown up, watching her boy die in capital punishment, bloodied beyond recognition. That’d certainly feel powerless.
Those two joined a slumped line of people who felt powerless: John the Baptist in a stinking, infested cell. A pursued David, living in caves, like Elijah later would running from a king and his soldiers. Childless, disdained Hannah, or Sarah, or Rachel. A widow waiting to die with her son from famine. An abandoned Hagar in the desert.
Ultimately, all would witness the God Hagar did: The God seeking them. Or as she named Him, The God Who Sees.
All of them, I think, come to realize some version of this:
1. My destiny is not in the hands of a boss, a disease, a husband, a king (including Mr. Trump), someone else’s destructive cycles, or even poverty. It is not even in my own hands, though God gives me choices. I am never alone. I am never forgotten. God transforms me from a victim to a victor, and He has unspeakable promises for me.
I am never powerless in His hands.
2. What the world says is not completely true. Power is not necessarily found in control, independence, superiority, or even my internal resources and strength. Power is committing myself to God, and having the power source of the universe behind me.
3. God utterly redefines failure and weakness. His undeserved favor is enough for me; His power is made perfect in my weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I like how Dave Harvey puts it: Failure is ambition refused (one way or another) for a better plan. I may not get the life I want. But nothing can stop me from His intimate, my-name-carved-on-His-palms care and the mind-blowing purposes God has for me.
Some of the most remarkable women and men I know are simply people of quiet courage, conquering in small encounters every day of their lives. They are people who have discovered the reality of David’s words: He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
It’s Christmas, so my mind is chewing on the image of that young teenaged mother-to-be, and the faith that bested even her elder and uncle, Zechariah. Her quiet, pleasant life was about to go permanently off-roading. And these are the words I love: I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as You have said.
I am not passive; I am not powerless. I am hidden in the hands of God.
We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives!
…So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us.
There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.
2 Corinthians 4:8-11, 16-18, MSG
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