A horseman was riding along a mountain trail when he encountered a strange sight: in the road in front of him was a flock of sparrows all lying on their backs with their feet stretched skyward. Baffled by what he was seeing, the horseman called out: “Just what is it that you think you are doing?” One of the sparrows chirpily explained that they had heard that the sky was in danger of falling, and they were doing their part to keep it in place. The horseman was very amused by that reply and scoffed: “You silly little birds! See how immense the sky is and how far away! What possible good can you do with your tiny little legs?” The bird replied simply: “We do what we can do!”
Feelings of crisis are rampant in our world today. Though none of us is presumably worried about the sky literally falling, that doesn’t mean we don’t know the feeling of being overwhelmed by events out of our control. It’s not just the headline-grabbing threats of conflicts, crimes, and disasters, but even within our own homes we feel threatened by the ‘scams’ and potential dangers to which we are exposed by our technology. Whereas we once considered our schools, churches, and neighborhoods to be places of safety, our children today are taught that dangers lurk even there. And permeating everything is a corrosive atmosphere of rancor, incivility, and coarseness that not only infects the media, but can also make casual conversations with strangers a veritable minefield. Even within churches, disputes and accusations seem to poison our unity. Where do we look for security and peace within our world?
We may turn to scripture for reassurance that ‘things will get better’ – and be dismayed when we find that Jesus warned that security here on earth is an illusion – that deceit, violence, disaster, and persecution will if anything worsen before He returns to bring us home to the heavenly peace and security He has prepared for us (Matthew 24:4-14).
So, what are we to do? If Jesus Himself says that cataclysmic events are mankind’s future, what can we do about it?
The honest answer is that nothing we can do will ever remove human misery from this earth. Until our Lord returns in power and majesty as sovereign ruler of creation, Satan’s power will hold sway, and evil, death, and destruction will be the natural order of things (1 John 5:19, Ephesians 6:12).
So, with the knowledge of that grim reality, should we withdraw from the world in helpless despair and wait passively for the return of our Lord to set things right? Jesus does not give us that option – rather than surrendering to the darkness, He tells us that we are to be “the light of the world” (Mathew 5:14). Rather than bowing to the inevitability of evil, we are to expose and oppose it (Ephesians 5:11). Rather than accepting human misery, we are to do what we can to alleviate it (Matthew 25:34-40).
Just because we acknowledge our personal helplessness against the forces of evil in this world, this does not excuse us from “doing what we can do.” Inadequate though our personal efforts might be, we are not impotent, because it is not upon our own puny resources that we rely, but the mighty arm of Almighty God Himself! While He has been clear about the evil rule that Satan presently wields over His good creation, He has been equally clear that He will bless our prayerful efforts to combat it (1 John 5:14).
But truth be told, in a great many situations our biggest problem is that we are at a loss to perceive not only what we can do, but what we should do. (Should I slip that ‘homeless’ man some money, or does that just encourage him in a self-destructive lifestyle?) It is one thing to recognize evil and misery in the world, but quite another to know how best to address it. But there is always one humble way in which we can confidently ‘stretch our puny legs of faith’ to thwart Satan’s evil intent:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:5-7)