Intent and Impotence

Written by  Linda Brumley, Seattle, Washington Saturday, 17 November 2012 07:03

Last week a Canadian earthquake threated a tsumani-effect on Maui. My son and family live on Maui. Hurricane Sandy devastated many on the east coast. I have lots of dear friends on the east coast. Two close friends are mourning the recent loss of their husbands. They live in distant cities. Other freinds are suffering fearful financial prospects in the current economy. I have nothing to offer. Two other friends are going through cancer treatment. I pray for all of these, but cannot be present or exert any power to assuage their suffering or avert disaster.

Jesus was right:

In this world you will have trouble. (John 16:33)

The human heart can be filled with great compassion and long to always be available to assist, to comfort, to encourage. There are promises I'd like to make and promises made that I'd like to keep, but.... It is often very painful to find that we are helpless to be what someone we love needs. Our intense longing and anxiety are many times inadequate to open the right doors. The apostle Paul was familiar with this inner struggle:

But, brothers and sisters we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you--certainly I, Paul, did, again and again--but Satan blocked our way.
(I Thessalonians 2:17-18)

Did you ever notice that many popular songs are written about pledges from loving hearts to be everything the object of their love could ever need--especially in the face of sorrow, trouble, saddness or loss? We would love to be the answer for each other's most profound needs. But the purity of that desire does not surmount human inadequacy or limiting circumstances. Our highest hopes and greatest efforts often fail to supply the needs of those we love. It's very humbling. It drives us to God, who alone is ever-present and all-powerful.

God is our refuge and our strengthm an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

Popular songs reveal the longing of human beings to be that ever-present help in times of trouble. I weep when I hear the Pretenders sing Gina Glocksen's moving lyrics to "I'll Stand By You". How I'd love to unfailingly go through a dear one's "darkest hour." I'd love to vow that I'd "let nobody hurt you" and this:

"When you're standing at the crossroads
And you don't know which path to choose
Let me come along, 'cause even if you're wrong
I'll stand by you....."

Or how about "I Won't Let Go" recorded by Rascal Flatts? Every word of the song is a heartfelt pledge to be available for someone with empathy, assistance and faithfulness no matter what!
Do you remember Carole King's recording of "Just Call Out My Name"? Who of us can guarantee this kind of a response to a friend? We can guarantee our desire to be the all in all for someone in trouble or sorrow, but how can we ever be sure that we can be sufficient?

"You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I'll come runnin' to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I'll be there
You've got a friend."

Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Jesus in Matthew 11:28)

There are a lot of promises that only God can keep; a lot of circumstances that only he can fix; a lot of sorrows that only he can comfort. There are a lot of songs that we need to hear as if they were sung to us by God because he alone can deliver on the promises of their lyrics.

Linda Brumley is the author of the book My Beggar's Purse and Other Spiritual Thoughts, and a blog of the same name. This article was originally published at

Linda Brumley, along with her husband, Ron, has served in the ministry in San Diego, Chicago, Denver and Seattle. She is currently a women’s ministry leader in the Seattle Church of Christ. Her greatest joy in life is friends and family (four children and ten grandchildren). Because she feels so blessed to have learned from older women in her life, she hopes to offer that same blessing to young women that God enables her to influence for him.

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