Divine Strength — Broken & Hopeful

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Honestly, I am not always excited when God brings the theme of the coming year for me as I pray on it in December. It is almost never something I expect (or frankly, want) and I sometimes get a bit nervous about how He’s going to bring it forth over the next year.

So, with the upcoming year when the word is “strength” I really wanted to ask for a different one! Ha! Why? Well, strength sounds nice, and in fact, it’s often what we work towards. We want to strengthen our physical bodies, our minds, our spirits, our hearts. We try self-help programs, workouts, a variety of methods to strengthen ourselves, thinking that one day we will be able to look at ourselves with admiration.

I find, though, that God’s view on strength is different. You see, divine strength is what God is going to give us, not necessarily an increase in fleshly strength. He doesn’t want the flesh to get stronger because He knows that’s bad for us. Instead, He wants us to grow more and more dependent on Him for supernatural strength that only comes through Him.

What I find particularly interesting, though, is how we seem to acknowledge this strength and grow in utilizing it. First up is waiting.

But those who wait for Yahweh’s grace will experience divine strength. They will rise up on soaring wings and fly like eagles, run their race without growing weary, and walk through life without giving up. Is 43:10

We really like the part of this verse where we think about soaring like eagles, running without getting tired and walking without giving up. The part that I gloss over quickly is the way we experience this divine strength— through waiting for God’s grace.

I don’t really like waiting. I feel helpless, passive, incompetent. It is difficult for me not to come up with a thousand lists of how I can help God figure stuff out more quickly rather than wait for Him. But I am seeing more and more that in the waiting, I experience a strength that is impossible in and of myself. There is value and purpose in waiting. I keep reminding myself of this while I am in waiting periods—this is the way to experience divine strength and do all the soaring, running and persevering I want to do. It comes at a price, though, and the price is waiting.

A second way that we experience God’s strength is weakness.

But he answered me, “My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.” So I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Weakness is not something I tend to celebrate or even acknowledge. I often feel it makes me inferior, or a failure. But God (as with so many things) turns that upside-down and says that His power finds full expression through my weakness. What if instead of berating myself for weakness, I turned to Him and saw that it was a place that His power could be seen all the more. I don’t have to run from it, but I can instead give my weakness to Him as an offering. He loves this, as He wants to be be everything we need in each circumstance. Dependence on Him is His desire, rather than a place we can’t figure it out on our own.

Strength also comes out of suffering, our third way of seeing divine power.

God, you’re such a safe and powerful place to find refuge! You’re a proven help in time of trouble—more than enough and always available whenever I need you. So we will never fear even if every structure of support were to crumble away. We will not fear even when the earth quakes and shakes, moving mountains and casting them into the sea. Psalm 46:1-2

In her fantastic book, In the Hands of a Fiercely Tender God, Connie Chao says this about suffering:

Suffering provokes our weakness, amplifies it, exposes it in all its ugliness, Take me to dinner at a cliffside restaurant with a sunset view, and I will be the picture of perfection. But drop me in the middle of the ocean without a lifejacket, and I will be a far less admirable version of myself. But in exposing our weakness (weakness that was already there, mind you), suffering does us a great favor: it helps us feel the tragic depths of our fragility, which sends us running into Strength itself—and Strength transforms us, making us look a wee bit more like Him today than we did yesterday. When people say I’m the strongest person they know, I laugh. I’m absolutely the weakest person I know, and I could produce plenty of proof to convince you of it. But I’ve spent so many years leaning hard into God’s power (asking Him to be for me what I cannot be for myself) that to the untrained eye His strength in me can be mistaken for my own. He is in me, and I am in Him, and so my weakness doesn’t have the final say—His strength does.

So, suffering amplifies our weakness, taking our trust in God as a refuge, a strength, a present help in trouble to a new level. I think that suffering is often God’s gentleness in bringing us back to His strength and power when we had gotten distracted and dependent on our own resources. We do fine until we hit a big wall of suffering, and then we come to the place again of recognizing our lack, our weakness.  

Perhaps after these things, you can understand why I wasn’t incredibly excited about “strength” being my word for this next year. But I do realize in a deeper place in my spirit that what I want is to know Him, to grow deeper in relationship with Him, and to let Him take me wherever that is going to take place in the best way.

Mike Wells used to say that God puts each of us in the best place to know Him every day. We don’t always choose it, but I sure want to. If I am knowing Him through waiting, weakness and suffering, amen. If I am knowing Him through the opposite of all that, amen. But I see how more and more the presenting problem isn’t really the problem. I don’t want to attack my weakness, the slowness of God’s answering or whatever circumstance is facing me as being the problem. Instead, I can start to see these places of pain as incredible catalysts to know God’s strength in and through me.

Re-published with the permission of Hannah Morrell at Borken & Hopeful, a ministry created for those who feel broken to fin hope in Jesus.

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