Helpfully Helpless*

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I once visited a residential facility for mentally disabled children. They were going through weight lifting exercises at the time. It was difficult for many of them to manage their movements. They had enough strength, but no skill to use that strength. They made all sorts of awkward movements. Now and then, just by chance, they’d move in harmony with the music and the teacher’s directions, but for the most part they were out of sync.

I noticed one little girl, however, whose movements were perfect. She never missed a beat. She had no more strength than the others. In fact, she had no strength at all. She couldn’t even close her hands over the weights, let alone lift her arms. But a teacher was standing behind her, doing all the moving for her. The young girl simply yielded her arms as instruments to the one in control. He knew how to go through those exercises perfectly, because he had planned them himself.

The child did nothing but place herself into the teacher’s hands, and he did it all. His skill, not hers, was all that was needed to make the movements right. Her utter weakness, in fact, was the very reason for her success.

This is a striking picture of our Christian life. No wonder Paul was able to say, “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Who wouldn’t gladly be weak and helpless so that the Lord Jesus could find no hindrance to the perfect working of his mighty power in and through us?

The most effective workers I know are those who don’t feel any care or anxiety about their work. Instead, they commit it all to their Lord, asking him to guide them moment by moment with regard to their task. They trust him implicitly for each moment’s needed supplies of wisdom and strength. To look at them, you’d almost think they were too free from care. But when you’ve seen the beauty and the power of a life yielded up to the Lord’s working, you begin to wonder how any of his workers ever dares to carry burdens or assume responsibilities which our Lord alone is able to bear.

Headed off to serve today? May you be helpfully helpless!

*(Based on a story by Hannah Whitall Smith)

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