WAYPOINTS: Feeling helpless during serious times
Last Monday I took two of my young grandsons fishing in the Gulf. The day was beautiful but breezy, and the water reflected that with the production of three foot seas topped by whitecaps. Altogether, the day made for decent, but slightly uncomfortable, fishing. The boys, just returning from two years in Italy, had not been on open water for that time and spent part of the morning voicing their impressions of the chop. As I listened I found myself harkening back to the simple prayer whose roots rest in the fishermen of the Breton region of France.
“Dear God, be good to me;
Your sea is so wide,
and my boat is so small.”
I expect there are few who have ventured into open water who have not had a variation of this prayer escape from their lips. In fact, in light of the recent unfolding of events worldwide, one doesn’t even have to be on the water to feel very small and very helpless in the face of life’s serious issues.
West Africa is suffering from the worst outbreak of the deadly ebola virus in history. The Ukraine has become the seat of Russian expansionism turning that part of the globe into a conflict that could reignite the cold war. The terrorist group Hamas has used its position of authority in the Gaza strip to lob rockets and dig tunnels into Israel provoking that nation at last to respond with air strikes and a ground assault into the Palestinian territory. The Syrian civil war has attracted Islamic terrorists who have in turn exported their fanaticism to Iraq as ISIS.
Churches have been burned throughout the Middle east, in Africa, and elsewhere. Christians have been shot, beheaded and even crucified. ISIS has given followers of Jesus in Iraq three options — convert to Islam, pay the Jizya tax (protection money) and live subservient lives at the pleasure of the mullahs, or die. Here in the states tens of thousands of illegal immigrants make their way into the country causing a great humanitarian and financial crisis for our nation, and especially our border states. The United States and most of the world are still trying to climb out of the great recession and ... well, you get the idea. Most of us are overwhelmed with the sense that this world is big and bad — and we are too small and helpless to do anything about it.
We are right. Ever since the Fall of humankind in the garden, we have been reminded over and over again that the world, the flesh and the devil are all bigger than we are, meaner than we are, stronger than we are, and way more experienced than we are. And if we take any one of them on in our own strength, we will find ourselves quickly outmatched. Yet we are not without hope. Twenty-eight centuries ago the people of Israel were facing the same kind of world and feeling quite overwhelmed by their prospects. At the height of their anxiety the Lord spoke to them through a prophet named Isaiah.
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. (Isaiah 43:1-3)
This is a difficult and sometimes cruel world. Bad people do bad things to good people and seem to get away with it. Confused people still call evil good and good evil, and put darkness for light and light for darkness. But God is ultimately in control. He has his hand on this world. Every believer is precious in his eyes. He has promised that he will never leave or forsake us and that, in the end, all will be well. Alleluia! The sea is wide, our boat is small — but our God is great!
The Rev. Mike Hesse is senior pastor of Immanuel Anglican Church in Destin.