“From whence cometh my help…” (Psalm 121:2)
It takes no great measure of depth or intelligence to realize that the global community is living through an incredibly painful moment in history – deep divisions continue in the political landscape of our nation; conflict seems unceasing in places around our globe – Haiti, Nigeria, Central and South America; the war in the Ukraine is just maddening – and now – now, that land called Holy – is steeped in the most serious moment of conflict in the last 50 years.
In the face of this – and so much more – what I am hearing and experiencing from the believers I serve in the church I pastor, but also believers in other Christian communities as well as other faith traditions – Jewish and Muslim – can be summed up in one word… “helpless.”
Many have told me they feel helpless – anxiety, fear, worry. “What to do when you can’t do anything?” is what I am hearing. Maybe you feel that. I certainly have from time to time in the last year or so, and yet I am in the “hope” business! That said, so, well is there anything you can – really do? I think the answer is a resounding “yes.” What to do?
Pray. The world that lives beyond the parameters of a belief in the Almighty is a world without hope, without a future, without that Greater Power available to humankind since we humans first were brought out of the primordial dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7).
With all of the things “swirling” beyond our control in the world – one thing to really take hold of is that most of them – if not all of them, are beyond your control… but they are not beyond the reach of your prayers to the One Who does, finally, hold all the cards, (forgive the crass wording there, but it’s true).
When King David – revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims – had his own sense of helplessness, he sat down and wrote these prophetic, therapeutic if you will, words;
“I will lift up my mine eyes to the hills:
From whence cometh my help?
My help cometh even from the Lord,
Who hath made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)
There is so much wrapped up in those few words, that there is neither time nor space to unpack them here… but suffice it to say… when you feel helpless you can pray.
Take God’s Side. We know – or we should – that when God Almighty looks down on planet earth, which He created, He sees no borders, no nations, no dividing lines – He sees His children. I was fortunate to befriend, and officiate at the funeral, of history’s “Last Man on the Moon,” Capt. Gene Cernan.
Capt. Cernan and I had many great conversations, but when I asked him about his experiences on the moon, he would smile and say, “I got to sit on God’s front porch.” But then his eyes would soften, as would his words, and he would say, “And I saw earth as God sees it…”
There is a lot of pressure on you (this is a personal note to my reader) – on you, this day – to “take sides.” And my hunch is, it has already happened today – if not in conversation, certainly in whatever news program you have turned on today.
Surely there are just “sides” to be taken – but please be careful about the cultural lines you draw – make certain they are in sand, and not in concrete. Because what you may find through your prayers (see last suggestion) is that a line in the sand, should be brushed aside for the greater good.
For that reason – perhaps commit to memory (and practice) this beautiful prayer from The Book of Common Prayer,
“Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all people may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen.”
When you feel helpless, take God’s side.
Do Good. My hunch is, with few exceptions, that there is little you can do about those things playing out on the national or world stage that are, at present, vexing the soul – but there is something you can do in response to them – do good.
Every single day, you are given the opportunity to give into the collapse of hope in the world about us, to be part of the problem – or part of the solution by being a messenger of hope. We do that in the way we treat others – full stop. Our words, our ways, our motives; the look on our face, the tone of our voice – all of these can be used to curse, or to bless, the lives of others.
May our lives incarnate the beautiful prayer of St. Francis, “Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union… where there is darkness, light…” Amen to that.
When you feel helpless, you can do good.
We are days away from a new year – and perhaps you are considering a number of “New Year’s Resolutions.” As you do, may I invite you to consider at least three that will surely, if not absolutely, help you deal with the helpless feelings that may have become traveling companions in 2023 – pray, take God’s side and… do good.
You will be blessed if you do these three simple things – and, perhaps more importantly, you will be a blessing. And our world needs all the blessings it can get in this moment in history.
A Happy New Year to you.