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Wednesday Word: Powerlessness

April 7, 2021 | Derry Long

A Road Out of Powerlessness

In 2020 it was easy to feel powerless. Politics, pandemic, social unrest, and economic uncertainty caused many to feel like they were out of our control and powerless. But Mother Teresa, who lived in a city and culture in India where no one person could hope to even scratch the surface of need, said that just because we couldn’t do everything, we could still do something.

The Power of Good

Permit me a personal witness to the power of good. During this season where many of us felt nearly immobilized, I became aware of a family of four living on another continent who were starving to death because of the lock down in their country, living in circumstances beyond their control. I couldn’t begin to help everyone, but I asked, “Why might God have brought these people into my life?” I concluded that I must act, even if I failed to address the need I had become aware of. Here were people I will probably never meet, but could it be that the Lord was building a bridge in answer to His own loving heart and the prayer of others whom, again, I will also probably never meet or even know.

I began to make calls and found a non-profit who, within their charter, could get money to this family. Then I found some donors. Eventually, I and others were able to send $2,000 to this family for food.

When I read the emails that the funds had arrived and that small children were gaining weight, it was not a euphoric but a humbling emotion I experienced. But there entered another emotion that I had not counted on, a sense of agency, of having the ability to do something good, to make a difference, even in a tough year.

Small Actions Add Up

John Wesley said, do all the good you can. This move from powerlessness to impact, of purposefulness rather than despair, was the result of doing the good I could in the sphere in which I live. Scripture says that good overcomes evil. So even if I can’t change the meta-narratives going on in this world, in MY world, I can still do good. The widow gave her mite, and Jesus said it would be remembered, and so it is still today. A widow help Elijah with the last of the food that she and her son had. The boy gave his five loaves of bread and two fish for the needs of the 5,000. Timothy, struggling with timidity, was sent to the difficult church in Corinth. Peter, feeling disqualified for his fear, anger, and cowardice, was called by Jesus to “feed my sheep.”

But it is up to each of us to choose how we want to respond and live in this time. For us, our son and his family who live and work in China could not come home for Christmas in 2020. The 50th anniversary cruise we were going to take with our family had to be canceled. My teaching opportunities in Japan and in South Korea were postponed. A family reunion in North Dakota was canceled. A student residency for Faith Bible College in Manila, Philippines that we supported, was closed. But our list is no different than yours.

Being the Body of Christ

It is up to each of us to choose to live in powerlessness or look for the good we can do in our sphere and in wisdom and with the Lord’s help, do it. And if we are looking for the good we can do, and have readied ourselves to do it, who knows, like the story of the good Samaritan, if by God’s grace, we might “happen upon” someone in need and we get to be “God with flesh on”—literally the body of Christ.

Derry Long

Professor of Christian Leadership

Dr. Derry Long has served in ministry for over 45 years in many roles – pastor, church planter, pastoral coach, regional overseer, and […]

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