When You Feel Helpless

The other day I stood in line at my local coffee house. I was in a curious mood and just watched the four or five people in front of me as we stood in this unusually slow line. Their body language and facial expressions said it all. There were hands on the hips expressing disgust at the current inconvenience, some were rolling their eyes as they glanced up momentarily from texting on their cell phone, and there was the predictable looking at the watch and then looking at the line and then looking back at the watch.

Most of us do not like waiting for anything. We live in a day of fast everything and waiting for anything seems like a major inconvenience. I must confess I don’t like waiting either. I don’t like standing in line for my favorite cup of coffee, flipping though magazines in the waiting room of the doctor’s office and I sure don’t like waiting in traffic. And if I can just be honest with you, I don’t like waiting on God either.

Lewis Smedes described waiting like this: “Waiting is our destiny. As creatures who cannot by themselves bring about what they hope for, we wait in the darkness for a flame we cannot light. We wait in fear for a happy ending that we cannot write. We wait for a ‘not yet’ that feels like a ‘not ever.’”

This is what we often see in the anatomy of hope and I talked a little bit about this in my last book, Let Hope In. There is an event that takes place that sucks the life out of you. Something goes horribly wrong:

A dream dies.

A relationship ends.

A job dissipates.

A desire is crushed.

You’re left there standing, waiting, paralyzed by hopelessness. You start to wonder…

Did God forget his promises?

Does God know?

Does God care?

Luke 23:44-49 44 It was about noon, and the whole land became dark until three o’clock in the afternoon, 45 because the sun did not shine. The curtain in the Temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, I give you my life.” After Jesus said this, he died.

47 When the army officer there saw what happened, he praised God, saying, “Surely this was a good man!”

48 When all the people who had gathered there to watch saw what happened, they returned home, beating their chests because they were so sad. 49 But those who were close friends of Jesus, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance and watched.

Notice how Jesus’ closest followers react. The gospel account says they “stood at a distance and watched.”

Have you ever been so hopeless you couldn’t do a thing? You couldn’t get mad or fight or even cry? Have you ever felt so hopeless you didn’t have the energy or passion to even get ticked off?

I believe this is the emotional state of Jesus’ followers. Nothing seems to be happening. They feel hopeless, as if they’re completely alone.

Now, we know the end of this story. We know that God was in fact doing his best work yet. But there would be a waiting period.

It was Friday, remember, when Jesus was crucified. But the paralyzing hopelessness the disciples experienced continued to intensify as they moved into Saturday.

I think it’s interesting that we don’t talk a lot about Saturday in the church. We spend a lot of time talking about Good Friday, which of course we should. This is the day redemption happened through the shedding of Christ’s blood. It’s a very important day.

Nobody would argue that Easter Sunday is a day of celebration. We celebrate that Jesus conquered death so that we can have life. It doesn’t get any better than Easter Sunday.

But we don’t hear a lot about Saturday do we? Saturday seems like a day when nothing is happening. In reality, it’s a day of a whole lot questioning, doubting, wondering, and definitely waiting— a day of helplessness and hopelessness. It’s a day when we begin to wonder if God is asleep at the wheel or simply powerless to do anything our about our current problems.

While we don’t spend a lot of time talking about Saturday, I think so much of our life here on this earth is lived out feeling somewhat trapped in “Saturday.”  I’m trying to get to a place in my life where I can embrace “Saturday.” I’m trying to get to a place where I can view it as a type of preparation for what I believe God might be doing in my life.

You may currently be in the midst of a horrible, out-of-control situation. You feel as if God is not there, that there’s nothing that can be done.

But here is the message of the gospel for you while you’re stuck in your helpless, hopeless Saturday life: God does his best work in hopeless situations.

We worship a God who specializes in resurrections. He specializes in hopeless situations. After all, at Easter, we celebrate the fact that he conquered death— the ultimate hopeless situation— so you could have life.

His followers were dejected and dismal and hopeless— and then Jesus rose from the dead. God did the impossible and in a matter of hours the disciples journeyed from hopeless to hope-filled; from powerless to powerful. They saw him risen and everything changed. The story of our salvation was born out of extraordinary uncertainty. But that’s the way hope works.

And no, that doesn’t take away your cancer.

That doesn’t erase the bankruptcy you’re in the midst of.

That doesn’t heal your broken relationship.

That doesn’t replace your shattered dream.

But it can remind you that while life is uncertain, God is not. While our power is limited, God is limitless. While our hope is fragile, God himself is hope.

Your world may feel chaotic, especially when you’re stuck in a Saturday struggling hopelessly and waiting desperately.

But no doubt about it, God is still in control. And one way or another, Sunday will dawn.