helplessness and hope

With a mug of coffee ready to indulge my senses, sun beaming on my cushioned corner of the local coffee shop, I sat to read and reflect; and mainly, to clear my head of a stressful situation swimming in the corners of my consciousness. Ahh...finally, an escape from suffering.

Not so fast.

Have you ever tried reading a book when you’re distracted by something? Reading has to be one of the least productive activities one can participate in when stressed or distracted. It feels more like tedious work than a relaxing indulgence of story and ideas. In my case, no matter how warm and bright the rays of sunshine were, it felt more like a dark, rainy day - the persistence of stress washing away any sense of peace.

It’s a helpless feeling, really.

Life’s stresses and complications often bring a clear sense of futility, a deep-rooted feeling of helplessness and an inability to overcome whatever obstacles we face. It’s paralyzing. We lose hope. At least we’re in good company. The psalmist cried out, “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?” (Ps. 13). Thankfully, it’s not wrong to feel helpless.

But it’s difficult.

And often hopeless. Hopeless, that is, until something breaks through our distraction - a glimpse of hope in despair. For me it wasn’t any sort of deep illumination or practical solution to my stressful circumstance. Nor was it a mental escape or numbing of the emotional exhaustion. I couldn’t fabricate hope. Hope came from outside of myself.

Piercing my reading stupor, there echoed a raw lyric of reality and hope from the coffee house airwaves:

there ain't no reason things are this way

its how they've always been and they intend to stay
i don't know why i say the things i say,
but i say them anyway.
but love will come set me free
love will come set me free
i do believe
love will come set me free
i know it will
love will come set me free
yes (Brett Dennen, “Ain't No Reason”)

I’ll admit, I don’t like stress. I don’t like feeling out of control. I don’t like that at times God can seem absent. I don’t like that I can’t explain my problems - “no reasons...I don’t know why.” In these words I heard my blight. These feelings of futility inform so much of human suffering.

But love will come set me free

At the core of our helplessness is this longing to be released, to have hope overcome the futility in making sense of our suffering. My hopeful escape lasted only three minutes in a coffee shop corner, problem unsolved. Suffering remained. Yet I was left with an unexplained hope captured in a moment through the honest words of a musician:

But love will come set me free

The backdrop to Easter is suffering. But a suffering infused with hope. The Suffering Servant (Is. 53), as we know, rises to new life to bring healing and restoration to all things (Col 1:20). In our attempts to manage and overcome our own suffering, it may very well be true, “There ain’t no reasons things are this way.” In Easter, however, the futility of suffering is overcome with the assurance of God’s love.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4).


Kim said...

I too have felt that I am furthest from God when my life is rough. I am grateful He never gives up.

David Warkentin said...

Yes, God's persistent love, despite our inability to recognize it, offers much peace and comfort in difficulty. Thanks Kim!

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