"What can I do?"
This is the classic question that arises when we face seasons and situations of great need. The recent effects of the hurricane on the east coast of the United States, have raised this question again for many of us. What can we do that will make a difference in the face of great devastation and suffering?
It is not just hurricanes that cause us to wonder about what we have to offer. It can be the plight of children in the world, the scope of human starvation and lack of clean drinking water. The question arises when we consider those suffering with sickness and pain, with brokenness and grief, and with wounded pasts and frightening futures. What can one person, or a group of people do in the face of such things?
I often hear the question asked in two very different ways. The first, puts the emphasis on "I." What do I have to offer? How can I possibly make a difference? The question is forged in a belief that the problem is too big and our resources too small. Sometimes, the distance of the problem makes it seem even more removed from our lives. We say, "what can I do," silently answer, "nothing," and go on with our lives.
The other form this question takes comes with an emphasis on "do." In this response, we believe that may actually have something to offer, some way to make a difference. We are not looking at our lack, but at the possibility to use even the little we have to make a difference. Add to this pebble of faith, the trust that God can multiply our little, and a passionate belief that even "little-ol-me" can change the world begins to surface.
You may remember the story of Jesus when he stopped to feed the 5000. Jesus was teaching and a huge crowd gathered to hear his wisdom. Recognizing it was getting late, he instructed the disciples to feed the crowd, which was huge in their eyes. The Scripture says there were about 5000, plus women and children. Yet, in the face of this multitude, Jesus looked at twelve men and said, "feed them."
The disciples were dumbfounded. What could they do? They didn't have the resources. The task was just too great. But then, Jesus steps in to guide them. He asks what food they have and they bring forward the bread and fish one boy brought to eat. Jesus prays a blessing over the gifts and sends them out to distribute the meal. In the end, everyone is fed and there are twelve baskets full left over.
The disciples learned a simple, yet profound principle that day. Jesus can take our little and make it much. Sometimes, that happens from the accumulation of many people's "little" and sometimes it is the result of the miraculous power of God. Either way, with Christ, we can all make a difference. We can share our resources, our talents and our insight. We can support others who are doing hands on work. We can do many things, the greatest of which may begin with our willingness to pray.
We can ask God to help others, to heal brokenness and to solve enormous problems. We can then ask what part we are to play in that process, how can we be partners with God in making a difference. We may be the one who gives up the bread and fish, or one of those who helps to bless them, or even one who takes the gifts to those who need it. Through prayer and our willingness to respond to God's call upon our lives, we can make a difference.
There is a quote from R.A. Torey written in the front of my Bible. I often turn to it when faced with an enormous need. It reads:
"Pray for great things,
Expect great things,
Work for great things,
but, above all, Pray!"
Below those words is this simple prayer that I pray for all of us today, "Lord, help me make a difference today that is utterly disproportionate to who I am." May it be so.