Friday, June 04, 2010

God helps those without hope

A lot of people say things like "The Lord helps those who help themselves" or "I know God won't give me more than I can handle, I just wish he didn't trust me so much."

They're great little bits of pop spirituality, but they're sadly deficient in actual value. What's the message that we take away from these things? That we have to earn God's help, and that he expects us to be self-sufficient. Not for me, thanks; I'll pass.

I like instead the message that comes from a christocentric faith, to wit: "The Lord helps those who can't help themselves." Jesus never came for the well-off and the respectable. He came instead to people whom life had pushed to the very brink, and who had reached moments of desperation so deep that they were willing to risk everything on these wild stories about an itinerant preacher who people said could do impossible things.

When did he say to the blind man, "You're not trying hard enough to see; come back later when you really have faith"; or to the leper, "Well, have you tried to stop having your fingers fall off?" And when on earth did he ever say to the prostitute, "Sorry, sister, but you have to clean your act up and stop sinning before I'll ever hang out with you"?

As to the other, I think it's clear that God regularly gives us more than we can handle. That's why people are so willing and eager to check out for a few hours on a drug or other addiction, or once and for all at the tip of a gun, the end of a rope, or the bottom of a bottle of pills.

Do people wreck their careers, destroy their reputations, and smash their lives to bits with a prostitute or male escort because their lives are all under control? When's the last time someone said "Looks like I've got it all under control, I think I'll go do something really dangerous so I can feel alive again?"

God's whole point in letting us be overwhelmed is to remind us that we're not self-sufficient. When the river overflows its banks, we're supposed to climb up onto a higher Rock; when we're sinking deep in the miry depths, we're supposed to shout out for a lifeline.

It's not that God trusts us not to screw it up; it's that he knows we already have, and whether we're overwhelmed with pain, or with a miracle, chances are good that what's overwhelming us is God on his megaphone shouting, "Hel-lo! I got your help right here!"

Of course, it'd be so lovely if God were the cowboy in the movies who rides in at the end of the movie and rescues the Indians from the savagery of the settlers, but he's usually more subtle than that. His message, as always, is pretty straightforward: "Yes, you are your brother's keeper. If you see someone is being overwhelmed, then you're the one I've appointed for this hour, for this purpose. Now go!"

And in doing that, we rediscover the wonder of God as we reconnect with the broad scope of humanity: the Indians who have been terrorized and driven from their homes, the settlers who acted out of fear and ignorance, the single mother trying to make it in a world that she's not meant to face alone, the bedridden divorcee who feels abandoned by church and friends alike, and the child alone in a world that has no time for her individuality. When we awaken to the world around us, we awaken to the wonders of God, and we invite others to awake with us.

And all it takes is a willingness to admit that we need someone else.

Copyright © 2010 by David Learn. Used with permission.

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