FOR THE DAY YOU FEEL POWERLESS TO CHANGE THE WORLD
“…then let justice surge like water, and goodness like an unfailing stream.”
- Amos 5: 24
Dear Sister, Dear Brother, Dear Friend,
As followers of Christ, we are called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, and set the captives free. We are called to care for the forests, fields, oceans, and wildlife of our precious earth. We are called to advocate for justice until human rights are universally respected and all people have what they need to survive and thrive. If we allow God to guide us, She will give us the vision and drive we need to nurture life, faith, hope, and love in every corner of the world. As Jesus says in Matthew 5: 6, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.”
As caring people, our hearts break whenever we encounter suffering and injustice. Through friends, neighbors, family members, news stories, coworkers, clients, and our own lives, we encounter pain, violence, and the consequences of sin and selfishness. Every day, people endure abuse, homelessness, human trafficking, addictions, hunger, war, torture, poverty, terrorism, imperialism, crime, disease without access to health care, and policies that perpetrate racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, ageism, xenophobia, religious persecution, and other forms of oppression.
The misery of our broken world is oftentimes overwhelming. Because we love goodness, we wish we could do more to stop the suffering caused by evil and sin. When we do not achieve the changes we set out to make, it is easy to feel like our efforts are useless. At such times, it is helpful to turn to the words of Micah 6: 8, “You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” But sometimes loving goodness and walking humbly with God does not feel like enough. We want to do more. We ask, How can we make a real impact when the world’s needs are so numerous and deep? How can we solve problems when the root causes are buried in complicated webs of history, politics, oppression, and sin? Doubt seeps in, and the greatest temptation becomes to do nothing.
This is how the forces of evil want us to feel. When we believe we are powerless, we reject the opportunities God gives us to build solidarity with others and make a positive impact. Dwelling on our own inadequacies numbs us to pain until we stop caring. If we give in to this, it becomes easy to abandon the humble works of love that God made us to do.
We must never give up hope because even amidst weakness and defeat we have God. As it says in 2 Corinthians 12: 10, “Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” True power comes when we acknowledge our weakness and surrender everything to God. As human beings, we are not able to solve the world’s problems on our own. Rather, we must give our lives, hopes, dreams, desires, and visions to God and ask Her to guide us in doing our part to reform the world. God alone has the wisdom, mercy, gentleness, power, and strength to heal this planet and its people. God will share all these things and more with us if we go to Her and dwell in the power of Her love.
When we give ourselves over to God, we become the Body of Christ alive in the world today. She is able to work through our reason, resources, efforts, virtues, passions, coalitions, institutions, communities, and everything we are to restore goodness, beauty, and truth. The work of redemption that began with the life, death, and resurrection of Christ continues in us today. Christians throughout the ages must carry on until the promised day when, in the words of Revelation 21: 4, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.”
The important thing is to never give up even if we feel overwhelmed by the immensity of human suffering, the imbedded nature of unjust social structures, or our own feelings failure. Revered spiritual leader, humanitarian, and activist Mother Teresa once said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one” (Costello, 2008, p. 13). As we struggle and strive for justice, we must find satisfaction in small victories. If we do not look for little moments of healing or growth, we may never see any results at all. Sometimes all we can do is plant seeds of reconciliation, peace, or hope, and then trust that God and others will take over the work from there. It is the love we bring to our work that matters, and it is the power of love that will unite our efforts in bringing forth the Kingdom of God.
As human beings, we are not saviors. God is the one true Savior. When people act as if they are responsible for solving everyone’s problems, this often opens the door to abuse of power, misunderstandings, exploitation, and violence. If we hope to establish peace and justice, we must follow God’s lead and form genuine partnerships with others, including those we hope to serve. Our God is everyone’s God. We all share equal dignity through being made in God’s image. We must allow God to transform our lives, change the aspects of our lifestyles that cause harm, and bring us together to work in solidarity for a better world. With God’s help, we can do a lot of good by simply minimizing the resources we use, choosing consumer goods that are not produced through slavery or sweatshop labor, and being kind and generous to the people we encounter in day to day life. If we start there, God will show us more and more ways to serve and work toward positive social change. Ultimately, we are called to love God, love our neighbors, and love ourselves. If everyone truly loved their neighbors starting today, the world would radically change in a moment. We would begin to see more clearly the vision of Amos 5: 24, “…then let justice surge like water, and goodness like an unfailing stream.”
Of course, we can tell ourselves all day that we need to entrust everything to God, but there will still be moments when the pain of others overwhelms us. In my work as a social worker, there are days when I feel like everything I do is useless. As a child and family therapist, I worked with young clients who faced depression. Some of them were suicidal and could not even get out of bed. I had other clients who had survived abuse and were acting out in school through tantrums, fighting, and defiance of teachers. I worked with my clients week after week, empathized with their feelings, offered new ways of looking at things, affirmed their strengths, discussed parenting strategies with caregivers, and asked questions to help clients think about what they wanted and needed in life. I did everything I was taught to do, but there were many times when it seemed like nothing made an impact. My clients were still too depressed to get out of bed, thinking about killing themselves, and fighting with teachers and families. I could not take their pain away, and I could not change the circumstances that hurt them. They faced poverty, racism, sexism, heterosexism, past trauma, and demons of self-loathing and anger. What was I supposed to do? Through conversations with supervisors, professors, mentors, colleagues, family, and friends, God helped me see that all I could do was show up faithfully to meetings, support my clients the best I could, and pray for them. They did not need me to save them. They needed God, and they needed to find Her in their own way and in their own time. I hope I was a small piece of their journey through healing and growth, but for their good, I still wish I could have done more. And I think that is okay. As compassionate human beings who care about people and the world, there will be times when we suffer. It is better to hurt with others than to ignore their pain. God suffers with us when we suffer, and so we are never alone.
As gay Christians, we have keen insight into some particularly painful issues that impact our world. We see preachers and youth ministers teach hateful ideas about gay people. We see young people being used for sex by adults twice their age or older. We see youth bullied or rejected by peers. We see people trapped in abusive relationships who believe they do not deserve to be treated with kindness or respect. We see homeless people, young and old, who have been run out of their homes because of their sexual orientations or gender identities. Drug and alcohol use is an epidemic in some gay scenes as people seek escape from shame, trauma, or rejection, or rather seek community and happiness without realizing that substances ultimately lead to pain. Promiscuous sex becomes a quick and insufficient substitute for deep yearnings of connection, love, and belonging, which often results in broken hearts and painful infections. So many of us and our gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning brothers, sisters, and friends struggle with severe economic, social, medical, and mental health needs. We often lack access to basic resources, supportive environments, medical care, and healthy, loving communities that nurture us in being ourselves and growing into the people God made us to be.
All this pain and injustice needs to stop. We need leaders to rise up, preach the gospel of love, and live it out in everyday life. We must envision a future where all people are protected, cared for, and cherished. When you feel overwhelmed by the trauma of your own life or the forces of evil, step back from the world as it is and dream of the world as it could be. Picture young people growing up in homes and churches that celebrate who they are. Think about soul mates finding each other and being good to each other. Envision good people opening their homes to youth who need families. Draw strength from your dreams and open your eyes to moments where seeds of redemption are being planted in your life. Do not despair, for in all things, Jesus Christ is our reason for hope. He has already defeated sin, death, and evil through his crucifixion and resurrection. We have the opportunity to work beside him today as we build up his kingdom, brick by brick, one mended heart at a time. We cannot always see it, but we must believe it and place trust not in ourselves, but in God. Romans 8: 24-25 says, “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.”
Please, do not give in to despair. Proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ by word and deed. God became human so that we might all be saved. Through our suffering we die with him, but with him we also rise. Remember the words of Romans 12: 21: “Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.” Keep going. Keep fighting. Keep living. Keep loving. There will come a day when all will be made new, and we will see God and Her goodness face to face.
Costello, G. (2008). Spiritual Gems from mother teresa. New London, CT: Twenty-Third Publications. Used with permission granted by Twenty-Third Publications, New London, Connecticut.