Meditation 3: Finding Strength in Our Weakness

"Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?" (Judges 6:14).

The Lord spoke those inspiring and adrenalizing words to Gideon, when Israel was straining under the yoke of Midianite oppression. And thousands of years later, the Lord used those same words to encourage me to answer His call to enter full-time ministry. Throughout the last year or so, I often have returned to those words in moments of doubt, reminding myself that God only asks that I serve Him and follow Him with the "the strength [I] have."

Recently, however, I found myself on my knees in prayer, and wrestling with something other than doubt--weakness. As I had often done before, I recited to myself the Lord's words to Gideon: "Go in the strength you have[.]" This time, though, the words did not bring me the same comfort and encouragement they had in the past. Instead, they helped me to distill the burning questions that were on my heart: "Well, what if my strength is gone, Lord? What if I haven't the strength to "go" anymore? What if all I want to do is to follow Elijah into his desert cave, and wrap myself in an enervating cocoon of self-pity, discouragement, and despair?"

I wanted to continue obeying God's call to "go." But I felt as though I had reached the end of my strength, and could not "go" any further. I was in the seemingly impossible position of wanting to serve God, but lacking strength to do it. Have you ever reached that point in your walk with God? Maybe you are there right now! If so, I want to share with you a few Scriptures the Lord used to teach me how to keep 'going,' when my strength is gone.

The first Scripture is in 2 Corinthians 12. The Apostle Paul tells us how the Lord encouraged him when he felt sapped of his spiritual strength, and how he responded to that encouragement:

[God] 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Paul teaches us that when our strength is depleted, and our energy reserves are exhausted, we should rely on God's grace and power. His grace is more than sufficient to keep us going, and His power is perfected in our weakness and lack of strength. We are at our strongest in the Lord when we are at our weakest in ourselves!

The second Scripture I found instructive is in 2 Timothy 2:

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. . . . Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:1,3).

Once again, Paul reminds us that the grace of Jesus Christ has the power to strengthen and sustain us. And then he instructs us to "endure hardship like a good soldier." In other words, we are encouraged to persevere! The enemy may intensify his assaults against us, pommeling our shield of faith with his flaming arrows. But we can resist his onslaught, and continue our forceful advance, by: (i) relying on the grace and power of Jesus Christ for our strength; and (ii) persevering through the enemy's attacks, like good soldiers.

The third Scripture I found encouraging was given to me by a member of my congregation a couple of Sundays ago:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9).

Speaking to the Galatian church, Paul tells them not to grow "weary in doing good," and reminds them not to give up. But he also gives them some more great advice on how to maintain their strength and persevere. Specifically, he tells them to look forward to what their labors will accomplish: a plentiful harvest for the glory of God. When we are weary and our strength is gone, we need to remember the great cause for which we labor, and the life God will produce when we die to ourselves.

Finally, I was reminded of one of my favorite passages in Isaiah:

Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the LORD
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40:30-31).

It is natural for us to grow weary. But if we strengthen ourselves with the grace and power of Jesus Christ, if we arm ourselves with perseverance and endure hardship like good soldiers, and if we keep our eyes fixed on the promised fruit of our labor, then we will "gain new strength." We will "mount up with wings like eagles," we "will run and not get tired," and we "will walk and not become weary."

So, onward, Christian soldiers!


Jessica said...

Great post Niki, I think it ties in well with the sermon from Sunday, especially in regards to the Valley Gate mentioned in Nehemiah 3:13.

On Sunday, you associated the Valley Gate with 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, and referred to the meaning of the gate as symbolizing the hardship (humbling and suffering) that comes in the midst of rebuilding. You also reminded us of God's comfort during these times and how we are to comfort those who are suffering as well. Our best testimonies come from walking through a valley.

"God consoles us in our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God."

In verse 6, Paul writes, "If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; if we are being consoled it is for your consolation, which you experience when you patiently endure the same suffering that we are also suffering."

Perhaps Paul is indicating that not only can God bring deliverance from suffering, but more often God brings strength in the form of consolation or comfort so that we may endure. He brings a divine power that enables us to endure our times of weakness, our valley moments.

This really spoke to me this week, and I didn't mean for the post to be this long...


Anonymous said...

Your comment calls to mind Saint Ignatius of Loyola, himself a former soldier, who talked about the the feeling of desolation and the need to "soldier" through these times and, importantly, not to change your course while in a time of desolation. Here are a couple of links (not necessarily the best available) dealing with his thinking on this topic:

(1) http://books.google.com/books?id=VwtXwFTK6WAC&pg=PA95&lpg=PA95&dq=saint+ignatius+desolation&source=bl&ots=2mrjgcNSLM&sig=dJLywKfeiPtdx1BaQF0gS4RRWkM&hl=en&ei=ymjjScPzN93flQfo-azgDg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=9#PPA84,M1

(2) http://www.ccel.org/ccel/ignatius/exercises.xix.i.html