Last week, one of my students reached out to me for help. As I listened to her speak, it became increasingly clear that she had very little control over her life circumstance. And the more I listened, the more I realized I had very little to offer by way of advice. And that made me sad. As a parent, mentor, or friend, we want to be able to rescue: to find the answer–the cure. But some things, at moments and seasons in our lives, are truly out of our control. So, I did what I always do when I’m powerless: I prayed. And God gave me a few things to share with my student. But these things can help us all when we find ourselves facing situations we cannot control.
1. Acknowledge Your Powerlessness
I know it may not seem like it, but acknowledging your powerlessness can be surprisingly liberating. Psychologist Samantha Smithstein writes, “Acknowledging that we are powerless is not about acknowledging that we are weak. Instead it acknowledges what is true, and allows us to focus on the things that we can control and the person who we can help: ourselves.” You and I are human, which means we are susceptible to pain, heartbreak, tragedy, and unfortunate circumstances. Someone we love will betray us. A relationship may end in indifference. And it hurts—badly. But the moment we admit and accept that painful truth is the moment we begin to move forward with our lives.
2. Acknowledge Your Greatness
Sometimes powerlessness can make us feel like a failure. When one thing goes wrong, the negative thoughts rush in: I just screw everything up. I’m not a good mother, I’m not a good husband, I’m not a good friend, this one is better, that one is smarter, he is more successful, she is more talented. I should have never taken this position; why did I think I could handle this?
One of the greatest weapons to counter self-destructive thoughts is the truth. And here is the truth: you were brave to take that risk, and you are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). The truth is that you’re doing a good job. The truth is you get up every day and face hard things, which means you are courageous and strong. The truth is that for every moment you do not give up, you become closer and closer to fulfilling your purpose on the earth.
Some powerless situations involve other people. It may be a spat with a co-worker, an unresolved conflict with a family member, or a misunderstanding between friends. Communication is a great way to attempt to solve the problem. On the other hand, some situations may not involve an external conflict. You may be grieving the loss of a loved one or facing a serious illness. In this case, communication can still bring healing. Communicate with someone you trust. Let them know that you’re not okay and you’d like to share your heart. Yes, it will feel uncomfortable. Yes, you will be vulnerable. But you will also feel so much better.
4. Do What Brings You Joy
If we are not careful, powerlessness will bring his friends, anxiety and depression, to the party. And they’re whack. Once these forces take root, it becomes difficult to find any hope in our everyday lives. But no matter what situation we face, joy is still available. Each day, even if for just ten minutes, you must engage in an activity that brings you joy. It could be watching a movie, shopping online, getting a cup of coffee, exercising, or lying still in complete silence. Whatever brings you joy, make the time to do it.
Church and state are separated. So, I follow the law of the land and keep them separate. Unfortunately, I can’t lawfully encourage my student to pray. But I can encourage you! When I face giants in life–things that are impossible, immovable, unsolvable–I lay them at the feet of the One who is in control. “The earth and everything on it belong to the Lord. The world and all its people belong to him” (Psalm 24:1). God allows us to go through things we can’t control so that we can learn to be fully dependent on Him. Money, possessions, people–they all will pass away eventually. But God is eternal. He knows what was, what is, and what will come. When we are powerless, we can trust in a powerful God.
A Special Prayer for You
Are you in a powerless situation right now? Pray this prayer with me:
Thank you for being my Father. I thank you for loving me and being concerned about me. Thank you for everything You have blessed me with. Forgive me, Lord, for the things I’ve said and done that I know are not right. Lord, I feel weak. I need your help. I need you to rescue me. Everything I’ve done is no longer working. So, I turn to you. I put all my trust and my hope in you. I believe you are good, you hear me, and you will show up in my situation. Every good thing you have planned for my life will manifest in the name of Jesus.
Lord, I praise you with my whole heart.
In Jesus’ name,
I declare that the Lord has heard the words of your prayer. May the Lord bless you, may He grant you peace & rest, and may he move the mountain you’re facing by the power of His Spirit.