How many times have you heard the phrase, “I need to be strong for them”? Whether you are a single parent, or a person who is looked up to as the older or more mature person there are times when we have realized the necessity of being strong. We may be holding our emotions in check during a familial death. We could be called upon to think clearly in an emergency situation. It may even require putting our own fear aside to help counsel someone regarding his or her anxieties. Each of these contains an element of strength required in a time of need.
While there is a propensity at times to dig deep into our thespian talents to convey strength in a time of need, Scripture has a totally different take on this dilemma. As followers of Jesus we are to depend on the Lord for our strength. When we more fully understand God’s work in our lives begins with us getting out of the way and realizing that God is at work regardless of our skill set. Many times we need to realize that our ability is the least of God’s worries in accomplishing a task. What He is concerned with is faithfulness and obedience. Having nowhere else to turn makes it convenient to choosing God’s path. And using our discomfort to accomplish His will does not bother Him. In fact, He uses that discomfort for our good.
I am reminded of the Apostle Paul as he spoke regarding his own weakness. Yes, the Paul who was whipped to within a lash of his life, beaten several times, shipwrecked more than once, and even stoned and left for dead! This is the guy that was weak? Indeed he was. So weak in fact that he asked Jesus to take away the “harassing messenger of Satan” in his life. But it is Jesus’ response to Paul that I want to always remember. Beginning in II Corinthians 12:8,
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Say What? That does not make any sense! Paul is content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities? Is there anything on that list that brings you contentment? Come on Lord! I thought you were to give me your burden that is “easy and light?” The focus is not on how we are doing, which is so very common in our society. It is all wrapped up in me. Rather, what Paul is saying is he has learned it is about contemplating and grasping what God is doing in this situation and in us, because we realize that without God we would be worthless in this situation. There is a sense of Paul rejoicing that he is weak because now he is able to see true power that only comes through Christ. The only way that several passages of Scripture make sense is through understanding this perspective.
Philippians 4 talks about lifting our anxious requests to God. But that section starts out in verse 4 with, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say Rejoice.” I Peter 5 commands us to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God so that when the time is right He will exalt us. This humbling means that we cast all of our anxieties on Him, “Because He cares for you.” We also need to consider the plethora of Biblical passages that command God’s people to “fear not!” It really is difficult to operate in this world if we do not continually strive to view our lives, comfort or pain, plenty and needs through an eternal perspective. This world is temporal. Eternity awaits us all!
When we depend on God to reveal His plan through our pain and discomfort, then we really are getting out of His way and allowing Him to work. He doesn’t need us to accomplish His plan. As a matter of fact when we work so hard to avoid suffering we often are getting in His way. Only when we realize this are we able to echo Paul’s words, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”