Feeling Helpless

I have a great story for you to read. Now remember, this is a true tale of Paul’s experience as he traveled to Rome:

So Paul warned them, and said, “Men, I can see that this voyage is likely to result in damage and considerable loss—not only to ship and cargo—but even of our lives as well.”

But Julius paid more attention to the helmsman and the captain than to Paul’s words of warning. Moreover, since the harbour is unsuitable for a ship to winter in, the majority were in favour of setting sail again in the hope of reaching Phoenix and wintering there. Phoenix is a harbour in Crete, facing south-west and north-west. So, when a moderate breeze sprang up, thinking they had obtained just what they wanted, they weighed anchor, and coasted along, hugging the shores of Crete. But before long a terrific gale, which they called a north-easter, swept down upon us from the land. The ship was caught by it and since she could not be brought up into the wind we had to let her fall off and run before it. Then, running under the lee of a small island called Clauda, we managed with some difficulty to secure the ship’s boat. After hoisting it aboard they used cables to brace the ship. To add to the difficulties they were afraid all the time of drifting on to the Syrtis banks, so they shortened sail and lay to, drifting. The next day, as we were still at the mercy of the violent storm, they began to throw cargo overboard. On the third day with their own hands they threw the ship’s tackle over the side. Then, when for many days there was no glimpse of sun or stars and we were still in the grip of the gale, all hope of our being saved was given up.

Nobody had eaten for some time, when Paul came forward among the men and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not set sail from Crete and suffered this damage and loss. However, now I beg you to keep up your spirits for no one’s life is going to be lost, though we shall lose the ship. I know this because last night, the angel of the God to whom I belong, and whom I serve, stood by me and said, ‘Have no fear, Paul! You must stand before Caesar. And God, as a mark of his favour towards you, has granted you the lives of those who are sailing with you.’ Take courage then, men, for I believe God, and I am certain that everything will happen exactly as I have been told. But we shall have to run the ship ashore on some island.” —Acts 27:10-26

Wow! What a story, huh? A friend of mine receives messages from “In Touch Ministries,” and she recently sent me one of their messages that began with that section of Scripture. Oh sure, just like you I’ve read it many times, but when I read it this time it sparked something in me. Have you ever been in a situation where you felt totally helpless? I mean you looked at some BIG problem and you thought to yourself, “Oh dear God, what am I going to do?”

Well we just read an amazing story about a time of crisis, a situation where the people felt just that way: “Dear God, what are we going to do?” But our Father, through one of his people, was able to rescue everyone.

It just happens that Jesus told His disciples that we would have tribulation and struggles; times when we would feel vulnerable and lost; that we would be in all kinds of conflicts with other people and situations where we had no hope (John 16:33). Now whether the disciples understood what he meant, we don’t know. But each of us have had people disappoint us, circumstances that caused pain, and our own limitations that lead to frustration.

There are all  kinds of Bible stories that prove this:

  • Hannah was unable to conceive. The longer her yearning for a child went unfulfilled, the more hope dwindled. Sorrow and bitterness took hold of her. (1 Samuel 1:6-10).
  • Paul was caught in a violent storm. Against his advice, the ship had set sail, endangering him and everyone else on board. After they tried everything to save the ship, everybody had to swim to shore to survive (Acts 27:11, 20).
  • Saul pursued David all over the place, trying to kill him. In Psalm 13:1, David wondered if the Lord had forgotten him.

I could list hundreds more. But tell me, in the examples I just gave you, how did these people find their way through all this “stuff“? In each of the stories above, they spent time in prayer. Hannah cried out to God, confessed her misery, and asked Him to provide her with a son. When she left the temple, at least in her heart, the situation was resolved. Her hope returned because she trusted her God with her future. After prayer, Paul witnessed to the hopeless sailors. He told them to have courage because the Lord had promised to deliver them. What an honor that was for Paul to be able to comfort and encourage everyone on board. David turned his attention away from his circumstances and focused on God’s unfailing love (read Psalm 13:5-6). That’s what we need to do in our “circumstances” in life.

All those examples, and others in the Bible, were given to us as examples of what we need to do during our “tribulations.” I’ve walked with the Lord since 1979 and learned that communion with our Father can combat every feeling of helplessness and despair. Prayer moves our attention to the Father’s deep love for us, the Son’s sacrifice on our behalf, and the Spirit’s reassuring presence. If we confess faith-filled thoughts and are willing to surrender our personal desires, forgiveness and peace will be ours. Oh what a delightful thought . . .

Oh thank you Father, I admit that sometimes I’ve wondered whether you had forgotten me, that maybe you had hidden your face from me. Please forgive me for my ignorance. But this morning I declare to the world that I trust in your unfailing love. My whole day I will rejoice because you have always rescued me. I will tell everyone I see: “I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me” (Psalm 13). Lord, I thank You that no matter how things look in the world, “You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip with abundance” (Psalm 65:11).

Doulos Studies

(I send out messages like this each morning in emails, and if you are interested in receiving them, send me your email address and I will add you to the list: Mail List)

I do thank you for your gifts. It is your faithful and continued support that makes these messages possible.

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3 Responses to Feeling Helpless

  1. Thank you for these wonderful reminders! I followed you here because I have “Hannah’s Hope” flagged as a google alert, but as I’m currently writing a book about Paul, your thoughts were an extra special blessing. 🙂


  2. TN\ says:

    I am going through several challenges right now, I know I have to be patient and waiton the lord. SOMETIMES IT IS SOOOO HARD, your flesh wants instant blessing.But it is not on our time.After all god is always right on time. Amen.


    • nhiemstra says:

      I am sorry I haven’t gotten back to you before now, but I understand completely. Patience is not one of my strong points, either. But sometimes, as Paul wrote, “Having done all to a standstill . . . stand therefore in faith . . .” So, sometimes we just stand on the promises our Father has given us. Besides, I haven’t found anyone who is more trustworthy that He is.


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