And when all my hopes in them and in all men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could tell what to do, then, oh, then, I heard a voice which said, “There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition” – George Fox, Journal
There are few things more horrible than watching someone you love suffer. I remember a time when I accompanied my wife, Faith, to the hospital. She was experiencing terrible pain, and despite my increasingly urgent requests that the nurses provide some kind of pain medication, they refused to offer any treatment until she had been seen by the doctor. The problem was that the doctor was busy with other patients; we waited for what seemed like an eternity before she was finally given something for the pain.
For me, the reality of Faith’s suffering was amplified many times over in my mind by the gut-wrenching realization that there was nothing I could do to comfort her. I couldn’t convince the nurses to help. I couldn’t speed up the arrival of the doctor. I felt absolutely helpless.
The signature discovery of the founder of the Quaker movement, George Fox, was that Jesus Christ is alive and present, able to speak to the condition of each and every one of us. He is active and available, healing the sick and shining light in the dark places. There is no situation he cannot speak to, no heart he cannot touch. There is one, even Christ Jesus, who can speak to our condition.
One implication of this amazing discovery is that, in the deepest sense, Jesus is the only one who can speak to our condition. Nothing and no one can save me apart from Christ, and I am incapable of saving others through my own efforts. The Holy Spirit can work through my life to speak to the lives of others, but I can’t control this. In my best moments, I am directed by Christ; I do not direct him.
I often forget this. My typically American optimism and can-do attitude creeps into my spirituality. Before long, I’m acting as if I were an agent capable of saving others. I even judge myself for failing to be as good a savior as Christ! In my hidden heart, I’m sure that I could save others – if only I could deliver the message of the gospel in a compelling enough way; or were a better writer; or were more available to others, were a better caregiver to those in need. There is something in me that wants to believe that I can rescue others from the darkness that they experience in their lives.
But this is an illusion. I’m not capable of saving others any more than I was able to relieve my wife’s agony that day in the hospital. For better or for worse, we had to wait for the doctor to arrive. As horrible as this waiting is, sometimes there is nothing to do but wait and be present with the helplessness. The doctor will come when she comes.
This terrible waiting is a reminder that I’m nobody’s savior. It’s a wake up call that there is one, even Christ Jesus, who is the Great Physician. I can wear myself out all I want trying to play doctor; but that’s just going to leave me tired and demoralized. In the face of all the needs, all the pain, all the brokenness I see, somehow I must learn to wait on the Resurrection and the Life.