“Islam is a religion of success. Unlike Christianity, which has as its main image, in the west at least, a man dying in a devastating, disgraceful, helpless death.”– Karen Armstrong
Everyone hates feeling powerless. Nothing reveals what’s really going on inside of us like that feeling of utter helplessness. Hidden anger, opinions, fears, and pain all erupt when we feel completely incapable of changing our situation and impotent in the face of real pressure. Powerlessness robs us of sleep, plays with our emotions, creates real unrest in our soul, and leaves us tired and discouraged at the end of each day. Few things tempt us to quit like powerlessness.
The good news for the powerless today is that God intimately understands the emotional dynamics of powerlessness. God subjected Himself to powerlessness willingly when He became a man to save the human race. The human race subjected itself to powerlessness willingly when we rejected God’s love and care in a garden long ago. So much of our lives revolve around the subject of power. This is, in part, because one of the greatest longings of our heart is for power to change ourselves and our circumstances for the better.
Yet the human dilemma is that, apart from God, we are absolutely powerless to overcome sin, deficiencies of character, or the complexities of a fallen world and the societies that it builds. It is this raw powerlessness that confronts us every day. Our culture has romanticized the power of the human will to overcome obstacles and lay hold of greatness. However, that form of greatness is often revealed to be a shallow, superficial goal unworthy of the lofty heights God dreams about for His special creation. True greatness is found in the power to be loved by God and to love Him back. The details of life effectively work against defining true greatness in that way as well as working against prioritizing that goal.
The human dilemma is that, even with God, we are still absolutely powerless apart from communion with Him. (Jn. 15:5) We are often tempted to solve, press, fight, and force things to happen when we desire our change in our circumstances. These very moments expose our powerlessness. Our solutions aren’t that great. Our ideas aren’t that inspiring. Our plans and our ability to follow through on them are so surprisingly weak. The most frustrating form of powerlessness is our utter inability to compel other people to act, choose, and behave in a way contrary to their frame. Nothing exposes the depths of our powerlessness like other proud and willful comrades.
The answer to our helplessness is not the answer that immediately comforts us. The answer is found in connecting with the heart of Jesus, talking to the Holy Spirit, and waiting on the Father to help us. In other words, we connect with and lean on God in various ways, all of which work together to bolster our faith and help us in the waiting. It is excruciating at times when you feel as if control is slipping away. It feels as if the waiting and the weakness are making the problems worse. It feels like you’re about to be trapped and something worse will be your reward.
It is in those very moments that God often delays His answers to our restless reach. Our yearning for resolution is answered by a deeper yearning birthed in the fire of His desires. It is answered by His yearning for relationship. We want closure. He wants connection. We want finality. He delights in infinity. Having solved our greatest problem through the work of the cross, He is content to use pressure to draw us closer. He is patient and more than willing to use powerlessness to introduce us to true power: His love that frees us from fear.
It takes a transformation of our perspective on what power really is. Is power the ability to change things around us, to make our world better and more comfortable? Or is true power found in freedom – freedom to love, freedom to trust, and freedom to rest when human wisdom says that rest is another “missed opportunity”? The answer to our powerlessness is to connect again with real power: the love of Christ poured out on our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). There we find the power of confidence in God and His love for us. We find the most power in life in the eyes of the One who fights for us like no one else can. We find the most peace when we understand the depths of His commitment to our future.
He has a great future in mind for us, and we have a great life to enjoy with Him. The secret of human powerlessness is to find the narrow way life that few find: the way of true rest and joy in His transcendent love.