When you’re young, there’s no problem that can’t be solved, no mountain that can’t be climbed, and no challenge that is too big to accept. But as you get older (and some folks get older sooner), you begin to realize that some problems exist that just don’t have solutions.
Do you remember what Matthew said about Jesus’ visit to Nazareth? “He did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith” (Matthew 13:58). Even Jesus hit some stonewalls now and then.
I sometimes feel helpless.
I worry about the economy and want to help out, but I don’t even understand what the GNP is, much less what to do to make it better. I worry about what those turkeys are doing in Washington, about mass starvation in parts of the world, and about the homeless. But I feel so helpless.
Do you remember the incident in Matthew 14:13-21? It records the time when Jesus fed the five thousand in spite of the helplessness of the disciples. Jesus was in a desert place with over five thousand people, and those folks were hungry. Then Jesus told his disciples to feed them. In the entire crowd they found only five loaves of bread and two fish. Talk about helpless! There wasn’t a Burger King down the street and no bakery where they could hustle up a couple thousand loaves of bread to make sandwiches or something. The text doesn’t say it, but the disciples are friends of mine, and I know what they said: “You’ve got to be kidding! We can’t possibly feed five thousand people with this little food.”
Then, in the face of their helplessness, Jesus did what they couldn’t do: he fed the crowd, every last hungry person. “They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children” (verses 20-21).
A friend once told me about a large wood-frame hotel here in Florida (he said that it was the largest in the world). The hotel was made out of Florida pine, and just one match in the wrong place would create the largest pile of Florida pine ashes in the world. So the engineers designed and installed a very expensive and elaborate sprinkler system to protect the place. Much later they added to the hotel and found out that the sprinkler system had never been hooked up. So as great as it was, it would never have helped avert a disaster because it had never been connected to a water source.
Connecting the system to the source. That’s how the Christian deals with helplessness.
Where do you feel helpless? Remember those places in which you felt helpless in the past and God intervened just as Jesus had in feeding the five thousand. We really can trust God who is never helpless or without resource.
The American folk religion says that God helps those who help themselves. I suppose there is some truth to that. But what do you do when you can’t do anything? How do you help yourself when you have no strength left? Where do you turn when you simply don’t have the resources to meet the needs you have? The Bible says that God helps those who can’t help themselves and know it.
We all feel helpless at times, and for good reason—we are helpless. (Did you hear about the psychiatrist who was counseling the man who had an inferiority complex? He said to the man, “Sir, the reason you have an inferiority complex is because you are inferior.”) There are so many problems and needs in our lives for which we have no remedy, so many mountains that are too big to climb, so many challenges that we can’t meet. A feeling of helplessness is the rational response to reality.
But we aren’t totally helpless, are we? There really is a God. He is sovereign over every circumstance. He gave us his Son as a propitiation for our sin. He has forgiven us and accepted us. He loves us. He wants what is best for us. We can trust him. All we have to do is make sure that the sprinkler system is connected.
One time Spurgeon was worried about his ministry in London and the resources he needed to maintain it. He was depressed and filled with anxiety. Then God brought to his mind a rather silly image. It was the image of a mouse in the granaries of Egypt under Joseph. The mouse was worried about having enough to eat. Then Spurgeon thought about a fish in the Thames River and how worried the fish could get about having enough water to breathe.
Then Spurgeon began to laugh: “Eat away little mouse,” he said, “there is plenty. Swim away, little fish, there is more than enough water.” And then, addressing himself, he said, “Stop worrying, little man. God has enough and more!”
Time to Draw Away
Feeling helpless about anything? Check your connection to the source of Living Water, God himself. Let him provide the resources. He can truly be trusted and has more than enough to meet you at the point of your need.