Thoughts on Weakness

Is weakness bad? 

If we accept that God created us with particular strengths, then we must also accept that He created us with some particular weaknesses, if only by virtue of the fact that he didn't strengthen those areas. Note, I'm not talking sin, here, but weaknesses.

Paul said he actually boasted in His weakness.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9 he said, "He [God] has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."

Another way to say this might be that our weakness is like an empty glass and His power is what "adds what is yet wanting in order to render a thing full" (quote from the lexicon for the Greek word for "perfected," on blueletterbible.org).

Our weakness allows Gods power to be manifest and shows that He is active, by working through us despite our weakness. To ever imply that weakness is sin or demonstrates lack of faith would be ridiculous. In fact it's what opens the doorway to use our faith. 

I don't think it means that our weaknesses will necessarily become strengths, either. We will never all be good at everything in this life. Never. There are people who seem like they can do it all, but what that means is their weaknesses are more "under the surface." They have them, no doubt, because we all do. We can't see what goes on behind the scenes or on the inside of a person. So, let's not compare ourselves to one another. 

It's all okay, though, because God will work in us and through us to make things happen, even if we never overcome our weaknesses in a visible way. He isn't limited by us except when we refuse to follow Him. 

 I'm not afraid to admit I'm the weakest of the weak in many areas. And I, too, will choose to boast in my weaknesses if that's what makes room for Him in me.



The Artist

I am a piece of rock
Marble to be exact
Freshly drawn up
Out of the dirt

The Artist stands back and waits

When the time is right
He blows across the surface
Wipes away the dirt
And sets to work

He sees inside of me
What He intends to bring forth 

The Artist chips me away
Carefully chisels 
(I do not like the chisel)
He removes what does not belong

The Artist steps back and waits

Again He approaches
Blows across the surface
Wipes away the dust
And sets to work

More chiseling
(I still do not like the chisel)
But I begin to see a glimpse
Of something taking shape,
Of what He's trying to bring forth

The Artist steps back and looks
And smiles
And waits

On and on it goes -
The chiseling, the blowing,
The wiping away of dirt and dust

He removes the bits of me
That do not belong

I thought some of those bits were rather nice.
What was wrong with that one over there? 
I feel exposed

And, the waiting
Why the long waiting?
Will it ever end?
What is He trying to bring forth?

But, the smiling -
That I like. It reassures.
He must see a glimpse now
Of what it is He intends to bring forth

Finally He steps back and looks 
Only a few minor adjustments remain 

The Artist now has a twinkle in His eye
He steps back and waits

When the time is right 
Carefully and lovingly
He sands away the final remains 
Of what does not belong

The artist steps back
And smiles
(I think I see a tear)

He calls for His friends
To come and see what has been wrought
From this piece of rock
Once rough and covered with dirt

It now stands in completion
In perfection

It's what He always intended to bring forth
It's what He saw inside all along:

I'm pure white marble, made in the image of His Son.

I am perfect.

I am clean.

I am amazed.

And it was worth the pain.

This is not my normal flow, y'all and I really can't even believe I'm putting this out there. I started writing this, mentally, yesterday morning. Interestingly, last night someone shared Isaiah 51:1, which I don't recall seeing before. I'm sure I've read it and glossed over it before, but given what I was "writing," it caught my attention. Though it's written to Israel, the entire chapter encouraged my heart, specifically.

Isaiah 51:1 says, "Listen to me, you who pursue godliness, who seek the Lord! Look at the rock from which you were chiseled, at the quarry from which you were dug!" (Isaiah 51:1 NET)


Signs and Wonders of a Different Kind

There's a verse in Revelation that gets quoted a lot in certain Christian circles. It goes like this:

"They overcame him [the devil, who is called, "the accuser of the brethren" here] by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony..."

I've heard it quoted often and it's generally used as a victory/battle cry kind of a thing. That's great. It's even true.

What really struck me a few years ago, however, was the second half of that particular verse, that usually is omitted, which adds:

"...and they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death."

Upon further reading I realized that the "overcomers" were dead, y'all. Wait a minute. The ones who overcame were killed. So, how did they overcome then? It really caused me to stop and think about my definition of what it means to overcome difficulties.

Many times we say someone overcame a situation when they came out victorious, according to our definition of victory. A person is wrongly accused of something and found innocent. Another person gets a cancer diagnosis and is either miraculously healed or cured through medicine. Nadal comes back from a serious injury to win the US Open. That is a big deal. All these people did, indeed, overcome.

But there's an overcoming of a different kind, and it's the kind Scripture is teaching us about here, and the kind it teaches us about most often, I believe. Jesus guaranteed us that we would have trouble in this world, but He said, "Fear not, for I have overcome the world."

He has already overcome the world by living a sinless life, laying that life down sacrificially and then picking it back up, making a spectacle of the accuser of the brethren. That's why Revelation says they overcame by the blood of the lamb. That was His part of the equation.

He does His part, but we still have our part to do. There are things under our control and for those we are responsible. Our part is to maintain our testimony that God is good, that we trust Him, that we love Him, that we belong to Him, to the point of death if necessary. Our part is to never give up and never turn our backs on the One who didn't turn His back on us.

I'm telling you it is a sign and a wonder when a follower of Christ stands firm under tribulation and trouble. When Chinese believers risk death to meet together because they have fallen so in love with God. When a former Muslim is tortured and burned and will not disown Jesus. That is overcoming.

Those are the more obvious examples, but I'd take it even further. I think that any time we continue to choose to persevere we overcome. Again, Jesus has done His part, but we must do ours.

Miraculous healings and divine interventions are signs and wonders. But I believe there are signs and wonders (so to speak) of a different kind, as well.

It is a sign and a wonder when a wife stays with a husband who has been unfaithful. Or when a couple keeps plowing through a difficult* marriage, because both sets of people believe God is trustworthy to meet all their needs. They are overcoming.

It is a sign and a wonder when a parent loses a child and still worships the Lord. It doesn't mean they don't ask questions and grieve, but the one that keeps saying, "nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day," is overcoming.

It is a sign and a wonder when you find yourself in confusing circumstances -when you've obeyed God and things are genuinely hard - and you keep following, obeying and trusting.

It is a sign and a wonder when a woman gets a cancer diagnosis that's not optimistic, and she never loses her faith. When she lifts her weak, feeble, hands in worship in a hospital bed, with tubes coming out from everywhere, she is holding fast to her testimony that God is good. And she makes a spectacle of the enemy of her soul who tries to bring discouragement and feelings of abandonment. She is overcoming cancer.

When we choose to press on, to never give up, to never turn our backs on God, who didn't turn His back on us, we are overcomers. Whatever that looks like. We all have things to overcome and situations along the way that challenge our faith and endurance.

But we must endure, we must never give up. The day will come that it will all seem like light and momentary suffering, as Paul said, though now it may seem like endless misery. Just know that He sees and He honors those who continue to trust Him and who accept that His ways are good.

Believer in Christ, it is in you to be an overcomer. You win.

*Notice I didn't say abusive, but, rather, difficult. Just to clarify.


I'm Coming For You, Wherever You Go

There are two main "faces" of God, that when I think on them or sing about them, bring me instantly to tears - two parts of His character that really stir my emotion.

One is His majesty - the imagery of the throne room in heaven with the sea of glass and the colors and the lightning and thunder and the promise that one day all things will be set to right. That moves me.

The other one is God as a good Father - His parenting of His people. For example, this from chapter 4 of the book of Hosea:

“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more they were called, the more they went away from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images. It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them. My people are determined to turn from me. Even though they call me God Most High, I will by no means exalt them. “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboyim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I devastate Ephraim again. For I am God, and not a man— the Holy One among you. I will not come against their cities. They will follow the Lord; he will roar like a lion. When he roars, his children will come trembling from the west. They will come from Egypt, trembling like sparrows, from Assyria, fluttering like doves. I will settle them in their homes,” declares the Lord. (Hosea 11:1-4, 7-11 NIV)

Do you see that? I think it's because I have children and I have held their arms while they learned to walk. I'm a very visual person and I can see huge, strong hands holding the chubby arms of a toddler, just trying to take the next step without falling flat. I have felt compassion on my children, even when they rebel against me. I don't enjoy discipline. And neither does the Lord. Sometimes it's necessary but His heart is always for us to turn back toward Him.

In the same way any good parent will pursue a child who is going astray, in the way that a loving mom or dad refuses to give up on a child that seems hopeless - in that same way God loves us. And more. If you get lost, overwhelmed, feel hopeless, confused, depressed, angry, make a huge mistake, etc, He will come for you. Of course our part is to turn (aka repent).

This song (below) has so ministered to my heart recently. If I've listened to it once I've listened a hundred times. Take a few minutes to really listen. My favorite line is this:

"Wrestling angels till dawn breaks through,
There's a blessing in the wound,
and you're running, you're running from it."

When we wrestle through our problems with the Lord, it can be painful, but there's a blessing in it if we don't run away. I love the way she repeats, "I'm coming for you. I'm coming for you, wherever you go." That's the determination of a parent, and it's but a reflection of the heart of God.

These are the lyrics in full (well, mostly):

There's a train leaving your heart tonight,
There's a silence inside your head 
and you're running, you're running from it. 
Down the tracks on a midnight line, 
There's a red moon in the sky 
and you're running, you're running from it. 
But I'm coming for you wherever you go. 
I'm coming for you, I'm coming for you,
Wherever you go.
Wrestling angels till dawn breaks through 
There's a blessing in the wound 
and you're running, you're running from it. 
When all your demons are at your door 
It's a soldier they're looking 
and you're running, you're running from it. 
But I'm coming for you wherever you go. 
I'm coming for you, I'm coming for you wherever you go.
Across the sea, 
the space between everything you think you know 
 the things you keep and bury deep 
underneath the melting snow 
 I'll follow.  
Fathers & mothers don't always come through 
But I'm never gonna stop following you 
Prophets and lovers don't always hold true 
But I'm never gonna stop falling for you 
So when your wine's all gone and your well runs dry, 
Open your hands and look into my eyes; all that you see here, 
You'll soon leave behind, so open your hands and look into my eyes.
I'm coming for you, I'm coming for you,
Wherever you go.