The Power in Powerlessness

I was having a conversation with a colleague recently about the powerlessness I sometimes feel in the face of recent world events; widespread racism, genocide, civil wars, terrorism, the list goes on. If I’m not careful, I can easily become overwhelmed and dejected about the state of the world. What often happens is that in these moments we do nothing, and we feel badly.

Even more destructive is when this feeling happens in the course of our every day lives. When we feel that we can do nothing to impact the state of affairs in our lives it can leave us feeling depressed, hopeless, and dejected. Often when people are depressed, they feel that life happens “at” them, that they have no say in what occurs, and therefore shouldn’t put forth the effort to do things differently. First, I think it’s important to note that this is not always the case. Sometimes, there are changes you can make that can positively impact your life. If you feel as though you’ve lost touch with your social support system, reach out to a friend via email, text, or phone call. If you aren’t getting your needs met in a relationship, make sure you have made those needs known. If you are holding a grudge, work to forgive. If you find yourself feeling stuck, ask yourself:

Have I really tried everything I can to make this situation different?

Sometimes, the answer to that question is yes. Sometimes, you have made every move you can make, and things are still aren’t going your way. In this situation, I’d like to suggest that the “right amount”of powerless can actually be liberating. Confession time: I’m a control freak. It’s better than it was, but it’s still not where it could be (I’m sure my husband can attest to this!). In my perfect world, my 5 year plan in a color-coded spreadsheet would unfold in a perfectly synchronized manner. Over the course of my life, I have learned over and over again that this is just not the way the world works. We make plans, and then things change. Sometimes even our most carefully orchestrated plans fall to pieces before our eyes. Here’s where the liberating powerlessness comes in: our plans are limited by our human nature. I can only make plans about things that I can see, hear, experience, or imagine. God, on the other hand, sees everything and knows everything. So God’s plans for us have the capacity to be bigger and better, more complex, more fulfilling, than anything we can create for ourselves. Check out these promises:

 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11

“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no mind has conceived – the things God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.- Proverbs 19:21

The power in powerlessness is that we open ourselves up to the awesomeness that is a life orchestrated by the Creator. If we do this, we can have the audacity to believe that we can conquer life, even if we don’t understand every step in the process. This I know for sure: we can accomplish more with God than we can alone. A part of this walk is that as we relinquish our own power, God’s power can be fully shone. There’s a reason “I Surrender All” is one of the most popular hymns in the church. I looked up the lyrics to the song online, and found this last verse:

All to Jesus I surrender;
Now I feel the sacred flame.
Oh, the joy of full salvation!
Glory, glory, to His Name!

The “sacred fame” is the power in powerlessness. When we stop trying to control the whole world, we can actually enjoy it. There can be a comfort in knowing that we have done all we can do, and things are out of our control. It gives us a chance to acknowledge our vulnerability, our limitations, and our humanness. It also gives us a chance to seek comfort in the omnipotence of God and the perfectness of God’s plan for our lives. Surrender is a process. Once we admit we don’t know it all, we can give ourselves permission to need help. Once we admit we need help, we can get help! It’s not simple, but it is rewarding.

Thanks for reading, and make Well Choices!

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