“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” wrote Henry David Thoreau. Though a 19th century man, he could already see the 21st century security guard who never smiles, even when happy little children pass by. He anticipated the wrung-out single mom juggling three kids, a job and an aging mother with Alzheimer’s. The factory worker, a family man who emigrated from the former Soviet Union, rises at 4am to commute to a boring, sweaty assembly line, and spends ten hours a day to earn minimum wage – he too was in Thoreau’s conclusion.
Quiet desperation indeed describes the lives of many people, especially in today’s computer-dominated world of expanding corporations, increasing debt and the ever-spreading divide between the haves and the have-nots. “How then shall we live?” asked the prophet Ezekiel (33:10). This is the ultimate existential question for any generation, but especially our end times’ generation. Is there a way out of quiet desperation, a way that forges meaning and purpose when we feel like pieces of drift wood swept along by the tidal wave of history?
A Silent Scream
The sincere, heart-piercing wail of a Native American singer crying out for his people, echoed inside me recently, awakening something from my past. His cry reminded me that my people are perishing, that “maintenance” is not enough and that I am still a revolutionary at heart. “Don’t fall asleep” the anguished voice seemed to say. Get passionate on behalf of your nation.
It is exactly this passion that we see in Hannah, the barren woman in 1 Samuel 1. Her sense of desperation was anything but quiet. The intensity of her desire to bear a son was so great that she silently screamed her prayer in the sanctuary. Those who have changed Israel’s history, have done so through passion for God and His purposes. This was Hannah.
Her situation parallels ours. We tend to feel barren, not bearing the fruit we wish we could bring to Yeshua; at least that’s how I feel at times. But the Scriptures say that the Lord had closed her womb. TIMING! The Lord wanted to draw her – and wants to draw us – closer before granting conception and birth. Hannah was provoked by Peninah, the “other” wife, whose ease of child bearing speaks of those who seemingly do not need to rely on God and who can be insensitive to our difficulties. Hannah did not eat, but went to the house of the Lord to weep before Him. She presented herself weak and empty, but passionate in pursuing the face of God. As Rachel before her, Hannah’s prayer was “give me children or I die.” When we care about something so much that it represents our very existence, it catches God’s attention. My guess is that too many of our prayers are casual one-timers, not uttered out of passionate, prolonged desire.
We Are Called to Give Birth
We are the womb through which revival is to be born in this land. An ancient people, drawn into eternal covenant by God, freed from Egyptian bondage, given the Holy Scriptures, exiled and finally brought back to the same land from which we were banished for our stubborn rebellion. That same people, Am Yisrael, is being raised from the dead. The process is not sudden, however. It is similar to giving birth. We are called to give birth to the life of Yeshua in our generation. What is birth like? I’ve never experienced it, but the basic facts are knowable. We have only to ask mothers. Is it EASY? Can you be DETACHED? Is it PAINLESS? Is the STRENGTH expended minimal? The answer I’ve heard is “No, no way! If it were not for the joy on the other side of the procedure who would choose it?”
Birth happens through full availability and radical surrender. In one of life’s absolutely holiest and most amazing phenomena, a woman’s body becomes the vehicle for new life. When Hannah passionately expressed her desperation to the Lord, He granted her request. She said “Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.” Then she conceived and bore a son. That son became Samuel, the prophetic leader who anointed David as king. What a sequence! One woman’s stubborn refusal to accept a fruitless life of frustration, anger and resentment ultimately brought the Messianic kingdom to earth. Think about it. Yeshua is the Son of David. David had to receive divine selection and commission. Samuel was chosen as the prophetic voice declaring David’s kingship: without Mama Hannah, no Prophet Samuel.
The Rescue of Chilean Miners
God wants to lead us out of quiet desperation. If Hannah had never gone to the tabernacle to pray – if she had prayed in half-hearted resignation – if she had risen up from prayer in spiteful pride instead of true humility – Samuel would not have been born in order to anoint the forerunner of the Savior of the world! There is a message here, beloved. We do not know, cannot know what will result from our persistent and passionate involvement. Hannah was in “bitterness of soul” and “wept in anguish.” Strong words. Your desperation, frustration and exhaustion are pictured in Hannah, whose name means grace! Her way out was going straight to God, pouring out her heart, letting Him know that her existence depended on giving birth.
Passionate involvement comes in many forms. Nearly twelve years ago, a potential tragedy turned to pure joy when 33 Chilean miners were rescued after being trapped for 70 days in the bowels of the earth, underneath 2000 feet of rock. We will never know the names of the workers, engineers and technicians who worked around the clock to save them. But clearly they became passionately involved and made history, because not one man was lost and they achieved the rescue in a fraction of the original estimate of at least four months to pull them out.
What does it take to redeem “the mass of men (who) lead lives of quiet desperation”? Or for that matter what will pull me out of my own periods of quiet desperation? It takes the same bold decision that changed Hannah’s destiny – a passionate appeal to the throne of Heaven. It takes the same commitment that pulled those brave Chilean miners out of their disaster – passionate involvement in a massive team effort. God is establishing a team of passionate disciples in this land that will not give in to quiet desperation but will cry out to the living God to fuse them into a holy rescue team.