How Helplessness is Good

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The Good Friday Cross, photo by Eugene C Scott

Spending time in a hospital is torture. People are always coming to visit and nurses and doctors are always bothering you with thermometers, needles, medicine, and bedpans. They think they are trying to help. Why can’t they leave a poor sick guy alone? When I get sick, I lock myself in my room alone until the fever, vomiting, or worse passes. This is mainly because I don’t like people to see me in that way, in my weakness.

In 1992 I had to have a laminectomy. After years of maltreatment, my back went out when I was at work in a church in Illinois. Unable to stand and unwilling to ask for help, I crawled down the back stairs from my second story office, out the back door, and down–more stairs–to my car (I am not exaggerating). I spent weeks lying on the floor of our house refusing to let anyone but my family see me in such a degrading, helpless state. Finally I had to admit my need for help. After the successful laminectomy (thank God), I was in varying stages of helplessness for months. I was being healed but getting there was humiliating.

What’s all that have to do with Easter? Just this. The whole Jesus story is about our human helplessness. And our unwillingness to ask for help. The cross is a constant reminder that I cannot save myself . Nor can you. No matter how many self-help books I read, goals I set, lists I make, verses I memorize, years I live I cannot–by myself–overcome my deepest faults or fiercest fears. I am weak and helpless.

As singer, songwriter Bruce Cockburn puts it in his song “Dweller By A Dark Stream,”

“It could have been me put the thorns in your crown
Rooted as I am in a violent ground
How many times have I turned your promise down . . .”

But I don’t want you or God to see me in my helplessness. No matter how much I need it, I don’t want help. So I deny it, hiding, pretending, obfuscating. Yet true transformation, true victory over faults and fears, comes only in looking up, reaching up, to those hands stretched out on the cross. Every year, like a lamb, Easter slips back into our lives showing us two things: our need for God’s help and God never tiring of offering it.

Cockburn continues,

“. . . Still you pour out your love
Pour out your love”

This Easter is no exception.

P.S. If you have no place to celebrate Easter, consider joining me at The Neighborhood Church. Click here for more info.

0 thoughts on “How Helplessness is Good”

  1. Georgie-ann

    It would be nice to be able to join you!,… God Bless!,… Wishing you a beautiful Easter Sunday and season!

      1. Georgie-ann

        the spiritual reality(ies) of Easter should pretty much “blow out” all our usual normally-wired human circuits,… the Don Francisco song, “He’s Alive!”, did it to me big-time way back when,… and still does, to this day!,… it’s on you tube,… & thank you, Don Francisco! ~~ great song, great revelation, great faith!,… a blessed Easter revelation!

  2. Georgie-ann

    after a long while, we begin to realize that apart from God we would have no power at all,… it only seems like we’re able to do things “in our own strength”,… I’m kind of private about my sufferings, and I think one reason I like to “lean on God” (if possible) rather than other people too much, is that I know that He can handle it without getting grossed out or bent out of shape,… and His steadfast love is unaffected and always there for me,… humans have much more limited tolerance levels and capacities to endure, and I think it’s kind of considerate and showing some respect to not want to overburden others too much (again, if possible),…

    but “care-giving” is also a beautiful part of ministering to others’ needs, that is absolutely necessary during some “seasons of life”,… and learning to give and receive care with balance and wisdom can create special pockets of sensitivity and tenderness, while we (of necessity) slow down from our usually “(over)driven” athletic-achiever’s perpetual-rush style of handling life,… I have very special memories of a few of these times in my life ~~ taking care of my very young children, of course, and during the years of my mother’s Alzheimer’s condition,… these were longer seasons involving family members, but there have been many other shorter ones, that may have been “sweet” and/or “bittersweet”, depending, but one feels the added strength and blessings of God’s helping presence as we reach out to connect with others in need,…

    I’ve been personally bed-ridden and semi-helpless at times too, and didn’t enjoy it, but I’ve had to notice and be thankful for the (in general) kind and conscientious care of people who didn’t really even know me at all,… and, meanwhile, it’s always a good time to pray,…

    1 Thessalonians 5:18 “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

  3. I remember a time when my husband had just left our family for an alternative life style. I was in the first month of learning to live life after a major crisis. That was when my back went out and I did the crawling thing. I told God, “I don’t need this now. I need to be strong.” To which He replied, “I need you to be weak so I can be strong.” That shook my life to its foundation and taught me a valuable lesson.

    1. Not knowing how long ago your loss was, I’m still sorry for that loss and grateful for God’s grace walking you though. Thanks for reading and commenting. I’ve been on a study leave and am about ready to post here again.

      1. I am glad you are about to be back. I took about three or four months off from writing not too long ago. To keep things in perspective I had to take time off. I look forward to reading your posts as they come through the email. Thanks for your comments and I must testify that God’s grace and hope continues to sustain me. There is a sure Anchor for the soul in the throne room of God. ________________________________

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