Scripture Reading: 2 Thessalonians 3:1-18, 2 Corinthians 11:7-9, 1 Peter 5:8-11
I try not to follow ambulances, rubber neck at traffic accidents, or stare when someone drops a whole bag of marbles on the ground. But when something goes terribly wrong, somehow we all want to turn our heads to watch. I think it comes from twin desires to help, but also to gawk.
A few years ago, my then eight-year-old daughter and I walked into the food court of our local mall. There we found ourselves pushed to the front of a crowd that must have been nearing 100 people. They were encircling a lifeless boy on the floor, who looked to be no more than two years old. Together, we stood helpless, looking on while EMTs performed CPR on his little body.
I don’t know a lot about medicine, but I do know you only implement CPR if there is no pulse or breathing. It’s our way of manually keeping a body going. Since that was already being done, there was really nothing left for the other 100 of us to do.
And so we all stood still and watched. His mother didn’t cry; she paced, she moaned, she shouted. We felt powerless to help the child or his mother. It was shocking to see so many people standing there, hands at their sides, while the battle between life and death was fought right in front of us.
It’s awful to face our own powerlessness. I like to really lean my shoulder into a job and then promptly see a result for my effort. But when it comes down to it, when things are really important, I’m like that crowd of people, rendered helpless, left watching and waiting.
In 2 Thessalonians 3:5, Paul prays, “may the Lord direct your hearts to God’s love and Christ’s endurance.” The whole Christian walk is one of dependance. The air we breathe, the gravity that holds us to the earth, and the ability to wonder at it—it all comes from God’s common grace. We have no endurance apart from the endurance of Christ.
Moments of calamity and tragedy unveil our deep neediness and utter helplessness. They direct us to our only strength and recourse, which is Christ. And it is only by His strength that we will not grow weary in in our faith and in doing good in the name of the gospel (2 Thessalonians 3:13).
When we saw the baby and his mother in crisis, I took my little girl by the hand and led her around the corner where we found a quiet spot to pray. But even our prayers are a recognition of our enormous need. Prayer is not about what we do, but about running to the God who can do all things. It is an avenue for God to impart His love and endurance to us.
What a tremendous grace this is, to know the God who loves perfectly and to be in relationship with the God who endures endlessly. In the face of our overwhelming sorrows, He directs our hearts back to Him. His is the real strength in our ever-present weakness.
The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while. To him be dominion forever. Amen.
—1 Peter 5:10-11