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Helpless. That is probably the truest description of how it felt… and frantic, though I didn’t have words for it then. It was merely my existence, my reality in that paralyzing moment.

As we sat criss-cross-applesauce on the brown carpet, facing the television on the metal rolling rack, my classmates and I shifted uneasily, glancing back and forth from each other to our weeping teachers. 

What is happening? I thought as my spirit reached out to steady, to comfort, anything to stop the feeling of falling. The teachers were undone, and a nameless foundation of childhood felt like it was crumbling. If the adults didn’t know what to do, who could help?

The entire fourth grade had gathered together in classroom clumps to watch a historic event. For the first time in history a teacher, Christa McAuliffe, was joining the NASA team of astronauts in their ascent to the cosmos. The school had been abuzz for weeks, the faculty obviously proud and elated that one of their own would be blazing trails on a frontier they could scarcely dream of seeking. They were living vicariously through her. At nine I didn’t fully get it. I’m not sure I do now, but I knew they were excited. We were excited with them.

Then horror. We watched live as the shuttle Challenger suddenly combusted into two, arcing billows of smoke. At first it didn’t register. I only knew my soul was shaken as my teachers gasped and began to cry, the least emotional among them scrambling to redirect us and seek wisdom from administration on how to proceed. 

I had no context. I did not know how to help. Those who normally stabilized the cornerstones of education were suddenly human, lost, and broken. I had no recourse, no ideas, no words. I was helpless.


That memory was the farthest thing from my mind 15 years later on a crisp, fall morning as I entered my own classroom and began to get ready for my students. My principal, slipped through the door, “Have you been watching the news?”

“No?” It was a request for information more than an answer.

“An airplane hit one of the Twin Towers in New York.”

“What?” I snatched the remote from the table and conjured the classroom television to life.

Confusion. At that moment, no one knew for sure what was happening, and a million possible reasons for such a freak “accident” ran through my mind.

Students began to trickle in one and two at a time. Some were aware of the goings on. Some were clueless.

As we watched, another plane hit the second tower. Horror. That is not even a sufficient descriptor. A terrifying reality hit our hearts with as great a force. There was no way two pilots had had strokes or that two planes’ navigation systems had failed with identical results. Someone was doing this. This was an attack.

Class did not start. Everyone gathered in different rooms with the teacher, staff, or friends who felt safest.

We prayed, offered reassurances, waited for updates. I will never forget, and I still cry every time I think of the moment when the towers began to fall. 

“No-No-No!” I cried out, physically moving toward the television as though I could reach through the screen and do anything to stop it. Then emotion overcame me, and I sat and sobbed, considering the massive losses. I wonder now if my students were shaken by my fractured composure. I was altogether human, lost, and broken.

Helpless again.


In the years since, it seems global tragedies and our access to them have only increased. Pandemics, earthquakes, shootings, human trafficking, rumors of wars, and actual wars… the list goes on. 

With each new chaos we can feel crushed by the weight of helplessness. The age-old questions rise: God where are You? What are You doing? When will it end? What can I do?  What should I do?

Of course, if we who believe in Jesus are overcome and without answers, we know the rest of the world feels not only helpless but often hopeless.

What is the answer? What are we to do as we continue (and we will continue, beloved friends) to face trials of many kinds?

Scripture promises all the wisdom and guidance we need, and one such answer is found in the book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel was an Old Testament prophet during the 70-year captivity of Israel and Judah in Babylon. What is interesting about him, in addition to his amazing visions and the crazy things God asked him to do, is that he prophesied from captivity. He was among those carried away from home and comfort to be dominated by a foreign king in a foreign land. The feelings of helplessness and hopelessness were commonplace in Ezekiel’s reality, yet it was in this bleak place that God called him to minister to the Jews living in exile.

Though we have lived through much chaos in recent years, few of us in the west could comprehend the oppression Ezekiel had seen. The Jews had witnessed violence and overthrow, watching with growing dread as a world power took more and more soil from more and more nations until their own precious Jerusalem was besieged. They then experienced famine so severe it drove people to the insanity of cannibalism, even of their own children!

This is the dismal reality from which and to which Ezekiel prophesies.

Ezekiel 47 is a promise of hope in a time of upheaval for the Hebrew heart. For several chapters, the prophet has been led through a vision by a “man” (likely an angel) who shows him the Temple of the future (the Jerusalem Temple had been destroyed in Ezekiel’s time) and gives him instructions surrounding it. He then takes Ezekiel outside and shows him water flowing from the Temple. This water trickles through the perimeters of the court and out into the land. I urge you to read the entirety of chapter 47 as it is so powerful, but I will share a few verses here:

Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep.   Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through.  And he said to me, “Son of man,  have you seen this?”                                                                                                    Ezekiel 47:3-6 ESV

Within these few verses is an eternal invitation. Do you perceive it? If you know the history of the Temple, its predecessor the Tabernacle, and the Genesis of the God-man relationship in Eden, you know these are places where the Presence of Almighty God came to be with humanity. However, most often, in Old Testament accounts, the Presence of God was experienced in smoke or fire. The river… this is different, yet the parallels are easy to see and so necessary for Ezekiel’s time. Rivers are refreshing, they nourish life, they are beautiful, and they produce change. 

The picture indicates that God will no longer harness himself, in large part, to the Temple, but His presence will flow out, bringing life to barren places and refreshing to what was once stagnant! What a rescue! Can you hear the hearts of a parched people in exile? “Thank You, God! Oh how we have needed You!” Does your own heart echo the cry?

The deepening river is a call. Can you imagine yourself standing with Ezekiel and his divine guide as they measure the distance and cross through each time? 

Now ankle deep…

Now knee deep…

Now waist deep…

Now so deep you would have to swim to cross… if you could even cross…

In places of helplessness, in places of hopelessness, God invites us into deeper realities in Him. He is all that we are longing for and the only true answer to our questions.

If each depth were a measure of your walk with the Lord, what would that show about your intimacy with Him right now?

*Are you ankle deep? Perhaps you believe God is there, but He is not necessarily affecting your day-to-day life. You feel the promise of refreshing between your toes, but as the heat of trials blaze, there is no renewal, no protection from the burn.

*Are you knee deep? Maybe you gather with the church occasionally, read your Bible every now and again, or try to think and act in ways that you deem godly. It is enough to keep you cool in most chaos, but much of your soul is still exposed to blistering.

*Are you waist deep? God may have a marked affect on who you are and how you function. Your faith is a part of how you order your activities, the thoughts you think, and the choices you make, but you know there is more. Some days you can endure the fire, other days you are singed to agony.

*Are you fully immersed? You could be neck-deep, swimming in your relationship with God. The Holy Spirit takes charge of every thought, reaction, response, and habit. You march when He says to move. His love compels the way you interact with others. It is His current, and not yours, that is carrying your life. When the chaos of life becomes too great, you can quickly dip your head under the surface and rest in the peace and fulness of God’s Presence.

What is your honest answer? What do you wish the answer was? In truth, we are called to this River, and He wants us to go as deep as we can. His patience allows us to be ankle deep, but His heart desires us to “be filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:19). As His Presence reaches out to us, He is inviting us to meet Him in unprescribed places that we might not have considered. He whispers, “There is more! I am measureless!”

This is the river we need if we are to continue to face and endure the helpless and hopeless moments of the world.

Today I pray you will take some time to consider the depths, and ask the Lord to help your heart to see truth. Which depth are you in? What would it take to go deeper? Ask the Spirit to help you.

If you aren’t sure how to pray, try repeating this prayer:

Dear God, I recognize that I am _______________ deep in my life with you. You are more, Lord. You are deeper, and I desire to walk into all You are. Please draw me deeper. Holy Spirit, lead me, like Ezekiel into greater depths of who You are. I will listen and follow. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

When I look back on earlier encounters with chaos in my life as well as those we have faced in recent years, the difference between those who navigate with victory and those who fall apart seems to be weighted in their fulness in and dependence on Jesus. The deeper people are with Christ, the more they are filled with the Holy Spirit, the more grace they have to navigate. 

There is a beauty in that. When we are able to walk in victory, Christ can use us to help guide others through trying times. We’ll discuss that more next time! 

Keep seeking, friend. You were created for more. You were created to live a life of calling.


**Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash