by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” - Mother Teresa

May, 2003

Once again, it’s time for my ninth annual column about the balloons that fill our church each Easter Sunday. This year, it’s about the balloons that almost didn’t fill our church. Sunday morning, as the usual crew was inflating balloons and tying ribbons to them, we ran out of helium after only about a third of the balloons had been inflated. Thanks to the Watkins family, we had another tank of helium in place relatively quickly, but that one wasn’t full either. As a result, we weren’t able to have as many balloons as usual. The church looked beautiful, of course, but to the “trained” eye, the balloons looked a bit sparse. For example, each person was only able to take one balloon instead of the two or three in previous years. In fact, in the process of decorating the church, we completely forgot to put any in the choir loft!

Perhaps you’ve never run out of gas but I have. It’s a frustrating, embarrassing experience. Usually, I think–or at least hope–that I have enough gas to get me where I’m going which, ironically, is usually to a gas station. But sometimes, I don’t quite have enough to make it, and I end up walking along with a gas can in my hand, hoping there’s a gas station not too far from wherever I am.

We can “run out of gas” in other ways too. We can reach the end of our resources, whether they are financial, physical, or emotional. We can have “more bills than money.” Most of us have probably been in situations like this. When we reach the end of our physical resources, our resistance can be lowered and we can become sick. We may no longer be able to bear the stress of our life's circumstances. We may run out of time or patience. We may become angry, withdrawn, or depressed. We may even collapse under the strain and have a “nervous breakdown.” Quite simply, our burdens–of whatever nature–have exceeded our ability to bear them. As a result, we look for ways to escape our situation, to find solace, no matter how temporarily.

But God is there for us when we “run out of gas.” He restores us to health. He renews our strength. He offers us comfort. He helps us to continue. This doesn’t mean we will never “reach the end of our rope,” or that we will never be overwhelmed by our troubles. There will be times when things will look bleak. God might not take away our afflictions no matter how much we pray (2 Cor. 12:7-10). Things can be rough for us, not simply in spite of our faith but because of it, as we are rejected for being Christians. But God will not forsake us to endure our trials alone (Deut. 31:6; Psa. 94:14). Paul was able to minister while in prison (Eph. 4:1; Col. 4:10), writing letters to early Christians, epistles that still speak to us today. He wrote to the Christians in Corinth, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor. 4:16 NIV). This lesson also applies to us.

No matter what our situation, we can count on God. Jesus told the people of his day, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt. 11:28-29 NIV). Jesus is there for us today. The risen Christ is God’s answer to our struggles. By raising Christ, God made it known that all the forces of darkness, including death, have been overcome for us (2 Cor. 1:7-11). We can rise to soar like the balloons that fill our church, buoyed up by God’s Spirit. This is the hope that we have. This is the hope we are called to share.

Someone, somewhere, has no strength left, no resources, no hope. Someone, somewhere, needs to hear a message of hope, a word of faith–words you can speak, from your own experiences. Will you reach out to a soul in despair? Someone once reached out to you and to me. We can do no less.

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isa. 40:29-31 NIV.)


Copyright © 2003 by David Phelps