Helpless Not Hopeless

Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. —Romans 5:1-6 (CSB)

Two Wednesdays ago my wife, Emma, went out for a run with our two dogs, Barley and Hops. They hadn’t been gone long when I got a phone call from her. She was crying, and she was scared. The dogs had pulled in the opposite direction than where Emma was going, causing her to slip and fall, and hit her 30-week pregnant belly on the ground.

We panicked and prayed. For what seemed like an eternity, we could not feel our little baby kick. So, we rushed to the hospital. The nurses at Mercy did a tremendous job! And, not long after we got there, we felt baby Eleanor kick! But we weren’t quite in the clear.

There was something one of the nurses said that struck me. During the routine admitting procedure she asked Emma, “Do you have any Advance Directives?” She was asking about end of life issues—what to do if Emma’s condition reached the absolute worst case; who could make medical decisions, etc. Now, I’m sure she has to ask that question, and while Emma appeared to be perfectly fine at that point (though a little sore, of course), we would need to stay in the hospital for the next four hours for monitoring, ensuring no potential complications would emerge. And as I sat waiting, helpless but trying to remain calm and strong, the fragility of life struck me.

Long story short, Emma and the baby are both fine. The Lord’s design for a woman during pregnancy is marvelously strong, built to protect that child. Thanks be to God! Nevertheless, there have still been moments, these past two weeks, that I go back to that day, back to that helpless feeling and that sense of fragility—and I just about break down into tears once again, fearing that loss. Losing Eleanor. Losing Emma.

That was Ash Wednesday—February 14, 2018. And on that same day, there were others feeling helpless and fearing loss. There were those at the NSA Headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland fearing for their lives and the lives of others as an SUV plowed into the security barrier and gunmen opened fire. And, there were many, many more that afternoon fearing loss, as well, as another shooter terrorized a school in Parkland, Florida, killing 17.

St. Paul tells us in the passage from Romans 5, above, that no matter what we face in this life, “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” He tells us of our ability to “rejoice in our afflictions…” And, those are great words on a page; there is comfort in these words, for sure. But that doesn’t mean this life is or will be without that sense of fragility, that feeling of helplessness, or that fear of loss. We are human, life is hard, and we struggle.

Death was not part of the Creator’s design; and, the fear of loss is not something God intended for us to experience. Ever! But when it does happen—and when it happens on Ash Wednesday, of all days—the fragility of life comes to mind all the more. The reality of sin in the world comes to mind all the more. And, amid all the shouting and endless debate over the airwaves and social media, about all we can do is cry out, “Lord, have mercy!”

“Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return…” That Ash Wednesday, for me, and perhaps for you, too, those words really hit home. There, in the ashes, lies our fragility. There, in the ashes, lie the consequences of sin.

But there, in the ashes upon our forehead, was the mark of Him who died, who became fragile that we might put on immortality. There, in those cross-shaped ashes, is the seal of our redemption, the promise of salvation, the hope we have in Jesus who on the last day will raise up this dust and these ashes into a new and perfect body and life. Suddenly, those ashes become a reminder of the God who “feared the loss” of His relationship with His fragile creatures, and took action to save us.“For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.” 

We may occasionally feel fragile, fearing loss. But by faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ, we may feel helpless, but not hopeless. Thanks be to God!

Come soon, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Written By: Pastor Jonathan Meyer