And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23 ESV)
WE ALL LIKE to be in control. We teach our kids from an early age that they are in control of their own destiny and future. That, if they apply themselves, nothing can stand in their way.
We, as a people, have harnessed space travel, electrical current, pushed back the seas and suppressed disease.
We do not like being told that “we can’t do something.”
The words of Michael Phelps resonate with our heart and mind, “You can’t put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the farther you get.”
Nike’s slogan inspires us and drives us, “Accept no limits, just do it.”
This belief in self-determination and self-reliance that is woven into the fabric of our culture is one reason many are struggling with the continued unpredictability of the effects of the pandemic on our communities.
The questions swirl daily: “Are the schools going to open?” “How will the schools open?” “Will the governor take us back to Phase 1 and reinstate the stay-at-home order?” “How long will we be told to wear masks?” “Is life ever going to be reminiscent of what once was normal?” “How can I ensure that I won’t get sick?”
These are only some of the questions that fill our discussions daily. Not knowing and not being in control is an extremely uncomfortable feeling.
Not being in control of many aspects of our lives might be uncomfortable, but it is not a new reality.
Think of the Serenity Prayer, “O God and Heavenly Father, Grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed; courage to change that which can be changed and wisdom to know the one from the other, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”
This prayer, used by addiction ministries and services throughout the years, has forced us to recognize certain limitations that we possess. I, for one, embrace my limitations.
I cannot reach the top shelf. I am a horrible welder. I cannot keep plants alive. I will never be the mother of my children and I cannot see into the future.
More importantly, I can not make the sun rise, create life out of nothing and by myself believe in the one who can.
These limitless attributes are possessed by only one being — God Himself.
Every day He richly cares for His creation by providing for it. He constantly heals, restores and rescues the life we so cherish.
Through His Spirit, He personally calls out to each of us, enlightens our hearts and minds to His grace, and gives us the strength to believe in and rely on Him who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:9).
These last months have been filled with us confronting our limitations and how we often find ourselves helpless in certain situations as we are subject to the conditions of this world.
The condition of this world is captured in the words from Romans 8:22-23.
The world is groaning, constantly wrestling with the effects of the fall.
Being broken and shadow of its original design it exists as a constant reminder to us of the consequences of the fall (Genesis 3:17).
Our mortal nature and our weakness in this life along with our susceptibility to suffering, loss, disease and death are the greatest preachers of our need for deliverance we will ever encounter.
Our limitations and our helplessness scream into our souls our need for a savior.
Thanks be to God that the One who has no limitations bore ours in the flesh and took them to the grave to be left there as He rose from death to life victoriously!
Jesus Christ our Lord in every way has felt the pain of being human. He hungered, thirst, he experienced exhaustion and even death.
He put Himself in your position of being helpless on the cross so that you will never be helpless.
Once you had no God to pray to, but now you have been brought near by the blood of Jesus to cry out “Abba” Father (Ephesians 2:13; Romans 8:15).
The One, who is our Great Shepherd, will never leave you nor forsake you, and nothing will snatch you out of His hand (Hebrews 13:5; John 10).
We know that in Him we are more than conquerors and that we, no matter the changes and chances of this life, will never be separated from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8:37-39).
Yes, we may have uncertainties as we interact with the conditions of this world today even though God has given us the ability to achieve so many accomplishments throughout history.
However, as we confront our limitations, we focus our eyes into the horizons of time and hold fast to the hope that is ours in resurrection and restored creation inaugurated by victory of Christ over death itself.
His resurrection is the first fruit of a new era for all creation (1 Corinthians 15:20), that now lives in you as you, through the Spirit, hold on to the triumph He accomplished on your behalf.
The current conditions you are fighting in this life are not what define you.
What defines you and gives you identity is not your limitations, but the limitless love of God demonstrated on the cross.
I, for one, am happy that I am not in control of my eternal life, I disappoint myself too often to be in charge of something so precious.
Yes, not being in control of our lives, at times, can be frustrating.
But all praise and thanks be to our Lord who met us in our weakness, not leaving us to decay and accomplished what we could never do: life and salvation.
So, let us, together, lean on Him as we toss around so many questions in our minds.
We know that this, too, will pass but hope and the Word of Christ will never pass away (Matthew 24:35).
To God be all the Glory!
Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Dr. Patrick Lovejoy is pastor at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. He can be contacted at 360-457-4122 or [email protected]