Love Does What it Can

There’s an ongoing argument in my marriage. My husband complains about something, and then I complain about his complaining. This is no small conflict. What it comes down to is that he gets very irritated when the world doesn’t work as it should, and I get very irritated when he tells me about things I can’t fix anyway.

It’s tempting to stay out of situations that are so messed up my efforts to help would hardly register on the grand scale. How does one person save an entire country of hungry children? How do I approach issues of war and poverty, corruption and dislocation? Why even try?

I do believe that biblical justice and mercy call for Christians getting involved in making large systems work better. We need to speak up for the poor caught in the crossfire of warring armies. We need to protest the injustice of dangerous working conditions and insufficient resources for food and medical care—here at home and all over the world. God is all about helping the “alien, orphan, and widow.”

But God also wants me—individual, limited me—to do what I can in this situation today. God wants me to walk out into the day and speak as best I can and help this person or listen to that person. Maybe I help someone get lunch, even though I know that this will not feed her long-term or change the fact that a violent boyfriend has rendered her homeless. But it matters, this one thing I do.

I figured out some time ago that I tend to avoid people in need because I know that, 90 percent of the time, I can’t change their situations. Sort of like my wanting to cut off my husband’s comments about a bad day because I am powerless to make the phone company more service-friendly and efficient.

Love does what it can. When God adds grace to that, good things happen. Sometimes the good is only for now, for the time being. Other times, our little acts build up like stones in a river that eventually alter its course.

Here’s an exercise:Identify an area in which the immensity or intensity of the problem makes you hesitate to get involved. How can you break that pattern of thinking and simply do what you can?

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Vinita Hampton Wright
Vinita Hampton Wright edited books for 32 years, retiring in 2021. She has written various fiction and non-fiction books, including the novel Dwelling Places and spirituality books Days of Deepening Friendship, The Art of Spiritual Writing, Small Simple Ways: An Ignatian Daybook for Healthy Spiritual Living, and, most recently, Set the World on Fire: A 4-Week Personal Retreat with the Female Doctors of the Church. Vinita is a spiritual director and continues to facilitate retreats and write fiction and nonfiction. She lives with her husband, two dogs, and a cat in Springdale, Arkansas.

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