Feeling helpless as the United States of America seems to be going crazier every day? Feeling helpless as Black Lives Matter and Antifa, supported by Main Sleaze Media, by our civil authorities, by our university intelligentsia, and by seemingly countless Woke people incapable of rational thought, conspire to bring violence, burning, and looting to our cities?
Well, join the crowd! Lots of us are feeling helpless and that includes me. But I think we can remember two things, the remembering of which may encourage us. One is very painful to remember at first, and one is very good. The first thing to remember is that all this going on in our country did not suddenly pop out of nowhere, with no visible source. We Christians earned this, by our behavior.
Remember 1973? That was the year abortion became legal, after Roe v. Wade. The deafening silence from the Christian church about abortion from then on–for the most part–spoke volumes about our brand of Christianity. It was and is pietist (applying only to a few churchy type things and with a little bit of family type things mixed in if you are very fortunate [but not a lot of family stuff, even at that]}, and it is antinomian (anti-God’s law). We didn’t want a brand of Christianity which was responsible and adult. We wanted to slide around pretending that there could be separation between a nation’s god and a nation’s laws and behavior. We lied to ourselves. We wanted our TV, our Medicare, our Social Security, our public education.
All this is painful to remember. But pain can be good. (I dislike pain as much as the next person, I assure you.) Pain can alert us that something is wrong. So let’s feel the pain, and change what needs to be changed. If that involves no longer hitting ourselves over the head with our pietist and antinomian hammer, well, good–we learned something!
The second thing we can remember is that one person can make a vast difference for good, because God is in control and the way He has organized reality is that one person really can accomplish a lot of good.
I realize that saying “God is in control” is often an excuse for us to shrug about things that are happening, and then because God is in control we need not take action ourselves. But I am not supporting such shrugging. I am celebrating that God is in control and has given us a hopeful reality in which one person can accomplish a lot of good.
That is not a painful fact. That is a wonderful fact. We tend to forget how much one person can accomplish. We feel helpless, but we are not as helpless as we think we are.
Here are a few individuals who accomplished a lot, despite being only one person: the apostle Paul, Jeremiah, the little slave girl (2 Kings 5:1-19; she accomplished what she accomplished while being a slave!), Ron Paul, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I’ve used all these example before. But one could add countless more examples, from the Bible and from world history.
Here’s an example in which nameless teachers in a slum in England had an effect far beyond what might have been expected. Theodore Dalrymple’s father was born into an English slum. But his teachers respected his intelligence, and he was taught a great deal. Theodore Dalrymple reports:
“When he died, I found his school textbooks still among his possessions, and they were of a rigor and difficulty that would terrify a modern teacher, let alone child. But he, who was never generous in his praise of others and often imputed the worst of motives to his fellow beings, remembered his teachers with the deepest respect and affection: for they had not only taught him his lessons, but had devoted much of their spare time to taking their intelligent slum children, himself included, to museums and concerts, to demonstrate to them that the life of the slums was not the only life there was. In this way my father was awakened to the very possibility of possibility.” (Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass, pp. 155-156)
Dr. Dalrymple’s father turned out in some ways to be a very unsatisfactory man, as is hinted above! He became a communist. He was not a great husband or father. But his two sons were raised in an environment in which life included the possibility of possibility, the possibility that learning and the arts were of value. And how has that turned out for us? Well, Dr. Dalrymple became a psychiatrist and doctor, and–here’s the important part for the rest of us–is one of our generation’s leading writers, and leading defenders of civilization.
Those few teachers in the slums could not have imagined that the son of one of their students would rise to such a position of greatness. They just did what their consciences told them to do, and if they found out later that their young Dalrymple had become a communist, they may have been dismayed. But their investment in young Dalrymple paid off in the long run. Doing what was the right thing to do paid off for all of us in the long run. God was in control, and because of the way He created reality, the actions of those forgotten slum teachers brought forth good eventually.
Here I simply want to encourage all of us, including myself, that one person doing the right thing can have consequences for good far beyond what we expect. We feel helpless, but we are not really as helpless as we think. Here are a few things we can do. The benefits may not show up in a way that we can see, but the benefits may be there anyway.
1/Pray. “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (James 5:16) I feel helpless to do anything of value for the millions of black people who are wallowing in the wickedness sponsored by groups like Black Lives Matter, by vicious black race hustlers, by our Woke idiocracy. But I can pray that God will send 10,000 black people, young and old, male and female, who will love and live the truth, and will be examples to their people. Who knows; perhaps God will hear my prayer and act on it. I also pray for one black person I know who I already believe to be on a wise path, that he will be strengthened and encouraged and used by God in a powerful way.
2/Obey. God has told us plainly that the way to theological astuteness starts with our willingness to obey Him. Jesus Christ said, ‘”If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself.”‘ (John 7:17)
3/Tithe. Even if you are relatively poor, and your tithe does not amount to much in terms of dollars, still your tithe is important. If you tithe you are setting an example. Your children will see that Christianity is not just words. The church as a whole gives about 2.5%–one quarter of a tithe–so your example is valuable to all of us.
4/Educate your family at your own expense. If we get off the welfare of public education, and accept responsibility for educating ourselves at our own expense, we are making an excellent start at becoming adults.
5/Use the gifts God has given you to do what you can. Every Christian has one or more gifts. We tend not to understand that, or to assume that because our gift or gifts may be modest, we can’t do much. But God asks only that we do what we can, not what we can’t. God can use what we do, in His own way.
Here’s an example on the latter point, from my own life. I have published 16 books. What I can do, what is natural for me, is to write books. However, the books don’t get read a lot. I feel helpless. But what if one person finds something of value in one of them, which helps him think things through more clearly? My books might have an effect for good in the long run, because that one good idea was taken up by somebody who was able to improve on it.
Or here is an even a darker thought. What if someone who knows me hears that I have written 16 books. He reads one of them, and says, “This is drivel.” Maybe he’s right–maybe it’s drivel. But instead of being discouraged by reading my drivel, he says, “I know Carl Wells, and I’ve always thought he was an idiot. Having read one of his books, my theory is confirmed. But if an idiot like that can write and publish 16 books, then surely I can write and publish at least one decent book. I can’t do worse than C. Wells.” And, inspired by his negative view of my character and books, he does indeed write his own book–which is a very good book. God can use even our foolishness to advance goodness. I did what I could do, and God found a way to use it for the advancement of His kingdom.
God can and does use one person to accomplish a lot, sometimes in ways we cannot anticipate. So do what you can in obedience to God, and He will find a way to use it for good.
Our nation is in a dark spot. We Christians have been most at fault to allow us to get where we are, but we need not despair. We can change, we can pray, obey, give, and act in our daily lives in a way which we know to be godly. God will use our intention to do good, in a way He knows is fitting.
I feel helpless, often, and so may you. We are not helpless, though, if we are on God’s side and show it by the way we live.