Sometimes there is nothing I can do

I want to help. I want to solve problems. I want to help you take care of whatever is going wrong.

When someone calls with a question, with a concern, with a problem, I want to fix it. When someone is unhappy, I want to make them happy. When there is an earthquake, I want to help, I want to do something, I want to show care.

Sometimes there is nothing I can do.

I want to respond immediately. I want to be there on the ground, with answers and hands and presence. When I can’t, I want to watch, all the time. Wondering what is going on.  Imagining the worst and the best. I spend minutes of time and hours of heart watching for the smallest sign of opportunity or assembling more pieces of the immensity of the problem, so I can say “Isn’t it awful? Did you hear the latest?” As if, I suppose, passing on information to someone who doesn’t know counts as helping.

Sometimes there is nothing I can do.

Watching private traumas and public disasters recently, I’ve learned that I become consumed by trying to find the smallest piece of something to do.

But sometimes there is nothing I can do.

And the time I spend staring or fretting keeps me from turning to the woman that I share life with and saying, “I can do nothing for them for the moment. What can I do for you?” The time I spend worrying keeps me from turning to God and saying, “Would You do something? Or show me what to do? Or help me trust you because it’s hard at this moment? Please?”

Or I could sit and write this. And we can do nothing together. Because sometimes nothing done together IS something.

It’s community.

10 thoughts on “Sometimes there is nothing I can do

  1. Diane Brogan

    Thank you. This is exactly what I needed. I am heart broken over Japan and other earthquake areas. I too watch the news and wonder what can I do. Thank you for pointing out other options.


  2. Lisa Cree

    I realized this week that I must stop watching it all and start taking that time to pray and connect with the Father. He knows all and my worrying will not do anything. In fact I fall into sin when I worry. So I’m going to take this time when I am thinking of our friends in Japan to lift them up in prayer and believe that God is going to do incredible things through this disaster. He loves each of the Japanese people more than any human. Thanks John for confirming what I know I am suppose to do. Pray and have an open heart to hear God’s instructions for what to do next.


    1. Jon Swanson

      You have, like I have, awareness of friends in Japan. Not as many as many have, and not nearly as many as family members have, but enough to remove the earthquake from the abstract and bring it to the “I know them.” Which can refine the conversations with God. But also can refine the awareness we have of the people we love. Are we paying attention to who we have close to us?

      Thanks Lisa.


  3. Rich Dixon

    I recently said, “All I can do is pray.” I said it as though I dismissed prayer as really “doing anything.”

    As I reflected, I wondered who I really worship, who I really believe is in charge.


  4. Chris Cree

    Thanks for the reminder of where our focus should be, Jon. The news media coverage of the devastation in Japan, and more specifically the radiation obsession of the overwhelming majority of the stories, has opened my eyes to the fact that the news organizations really seem to be focused on stirring up fear in the population anymore. Since fear is the opposite of faith and perfect love casts out fear I am realizing that I should be watching far less news than I have been this last week.

    I’m not saying I’ll stick my head in the sand and ignore what is going on in the world. But I am completely fed up with the fear mongering of the major news agencies and, like you said, will focus on what I can do rather than things I can’t.


  5. Becky McCray

    I’m not the type to worry over disasters. But I am the type to try to fix every problem that is brought to me, and even ones that aren’t brought to me. I’m pushy, as you have observed more than once. I want to give solutions to everyone. I’m working on not doing that, or at least not so much and in such pushy ways. Sometimes, it’s not my role to give the answers.


  6. Mimi Meredith

    “I can do nothing for them for the moment. What can I do for you?”
    Thank you, Jon, for that beautiful gift of shifting perspective and remembering to be the channel I’m supposed to be in the moments God presents to me.


  7. Debbie Mathis

    I am the proverbial worrier…about everything! This is not something I feel good about! It truly makes me anxious much of the time. Very recently a close friend said that she had a new thought about worrying for me…an action plan if you will. As soon as you become aware of your worry over something, begin praying about the person or situation and consciously change the worry from worry to concern. How powerful that is…more prayer being directed and changing worry to a lesser stressor…concern .It is practical advice that is truly changing my life and the way I’ve viewed it for too long! Your words today hit me at my core! Thanks for your words at just the right time!


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