And He [Jesus] was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him.
— Mark 1:13 (NASB)
Some years ago, I received some news that even now strikes fear into my heart and mind. I was away from home on a trip to speak at a Christian summer camp, when I called home to check in with my wife. I was expecting to hear the usual news that everything’s okay. Instead I heard the words that still echo through my memory, “I had a heart attack last night.”
Being away from home was enough to cause a sense of helplessness to flood over me. I was worried about my wife’s health and overwhelmed with the feeling that I could not do anything to help her. I was too far away, too isolated, and too startled to even offer some strength through conversation and prayer. This feeling of helplessness led to hopelessness, fear, and a strange kind of paralysis. I didn’t know what to do.
Helplessness is a feeling that every one of us has to deal with at especially tough times in our lives. This feeling itself isn’t bad, evil or destructive. It is a feeling— emotion—given to us as a gift from a creative and loving God. The issue with any feeling, especially helplessness, is what you do with it.
What really matters are the actions our feelings produce. Helplessness can lead to paralysis, rendering us unable to do anything. That’s why Jesus is such an inspiration! I cannot imagine what Jesus was going through as He battled the temptations in the wilderness. Being fully human, He experienced the full range of emotions that could have led Him to a complete shut down of His life’s purpose. Yet, in the midst of the temptations, He was ministered to, strengthened, and encouraged.
The next time you go through a feeling of helplessness, what will bring you hope? When those moments come, find someone you trust with whom you can talk; someone who can bring you perspective. In addition, never forget that God is our hope and strength. He is very present in times of trouble, waiting to renew us with His Spirit.
1. When was the last time in your life when you felt helpless?
2. What did you do about it? How did you find a sense of hope? How did you reach out to people or to God?
Psalm 121; Psalm 118; Hebrews 11