Doing the Impossible
How many times in life do we hesitate to do something difficult. Often we become paralyzed by our fears when faced with a difficult task. Certainly, the purpose and the mission of a Christian, when it is truly understood, can be daunting. It would not be possible without God’s grace, but it also requires our humble effort.
St. Francis of Assisi believed that when life becomes difficult, we should 1) start by doing what is necessary; 2) then do what is possible; and before you know it you 3) are doing the impossible.
There is the proper equation for life then. If we allow ourselves to become paralyzed by the unknowns of the future, we will never accomplish anything. And, unfortunately, we often do this. The future is not here yet. It does not exist yet. It is shaped by the decisions we make in the here and now. If we choose not to act the future will come to us anyway but, generally, not on our terms. If, on the other hand, we choose to act, just doing what is basic and necessary to the particular effort before us, we will have some effect on how the future is shaped.
Just doing what is possible is all that is asked of us. God does not require us to do what we can not do. He will take care of that. He does, though, require us to do what we can to develop our own lives, physically, intellectually, and spiritually. He also expects us to do what is necessary and possible for the good of others. He knows that this takes courage, that it takes faith, but he also promises that he will give us the inner strength and the faith to do what he asks of us.
When we believe, and when we take up the necessary and the possible in whatever effort lies before us, things will begin to happen. The partnership works. We do, we act and God gives us the grace to be successful along the way.
This is what God has modeled to us in Jesus and in the apostles. The efforts before them were great, but they did what was needed in the moment. They did what was possible and in doing so they found that they were doing what they had thought was impossible.
The impossible only looks that way from the perspective of the present. But the present, along with the lessons of the past is all that we have. We are free, of course, not to act, but the consequences most likely will not be those that we wish most for in our lives. If we act, if we do simply what is necessary, what is possible, we will, more often than not, find that what we thought was impossible has actually come true.
What is the impossible? There is so much suffering in the world. It seems impossible for us to do anything about it. Of course, it is true that we will never be powerful enough to end all of the suffering. That truly is impossible, but we can do whatever is necessary in the immediate moment, in our families, in our neighborhoods, in our cities. We can not solve every problem, but with our personal skills and abilities we can do something, get involved with something that we can see is necessary and possible. If we do, we might just get surprised and discover that what appeared to be impossible in the imagination has come about in reality.
With God on our side, who can be against? Well, we can. If we give in to our fears, or our laziness. But if we choose to work with God, he will make all things possible. With God on our side, even if we fail, we can pick ourselves up again, learn from our mistakes, and try, try again.
We were given bodies and intellects. With these incredible gifts we have been commissioned by God to act on behalf of ourselves and others. With these God-given gifts, and with God’s grace, we can do great things, even when we often think we can’t. It’s often just a matter of getting started. Do not be afraid. Do what is necessary and possible and the impossible will get done. Amen!
Dan Doyle is a retired professor of English and Humanities. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology. To read more of Dan’s work, click here.