When I think of the power of God, I often think of the mighty force that it took to part the Red Sea. When I think of God’s might, I think of the earth shaking, the veil tearing, the sky going dark at noon. When I think about God’s strength, I picture Samson killing a lion with his bare hands and David flinging a stone with enough force to kill a giant. God has certainly given us many examples to cling to when we need to see his power and might!
Yet, sometimes those displays of power, so vividly described in the Bible, often leave me disappointed. Not because they aren’t great (and true!) stories but because I haven’t ever gotten to actually see those strengths played out in real life!
Why do we cling to the physical pictures of God’s strength when we are desperate for His help in our trials? Why do we ask, and expect, a supernatural physical strength to overcome us when we are exhausted and weary? If you are like me, you pray for strength often and find yourself frustrated that your muscles didn’t magically grow to the size of tree trunks. I grow weary when I don’t have a supernatural burst of energy to get through the day, and I am disappointed that my physical body forces me to rest when I just have SO. MUCH. TO. DO.
Why doesn’t God answer my prayer for strength when I ask for it, darn it?!
A few nights ago, I was wrestling with God about a decision that was made which had long-term effects on my life. In this decision, I wasn’t given a choice, and I wasn’t given an opportunity to voice my concerns. This decision had effectively ruined short-term plans that I made for myself and my family, and I had no other choice but to rearrange my life to accommodate the change. I was mad, hurt, and quite honestly, just plain out of energy.
I spent the night in tears waffling between giving up and fighting. I was crushed and defeated. I tried to sleep, but sleep evaded me.
So I did what I always do when I need to seek God. I went to my favorite spot in my yard, and at one o’clock in the morning, I began to beg God for either the strength I needed to endure, or the peace I needed to be able to walk away.
The Lord quickly told me I was not released to walk away.
“Ugh. Ok, God. Then you BETTER give me the strength to endure,” was my next prayer which was met in infuriating silence.
And then I let loose on Him.
“Why don’t you ever give me the strength I need? I have prayed for strength for the past 15 years, and You have never once given it to me.”
“Why can’t you just fix my body, calm my spirit, and give me the physical muscles and energy to do what needs to be done?”
“Why can’t you part the proverbial Red Sea of this mess and smash all the rest to pieces?!”
“Where ARE YOU?!”
And as the crickets chirped, the gentle breeze blew, and the full moon shined, an answer came. An answer, not in an earthquake strong enough to crack the temple foundation, or in a swarm of locusts big enough to destroy an entire crop of wheat. The answer was not in the form of a Spirit intense enough to shield three men from the devouring flames of a fiery furnace or a Force strong enough to calm a raging sea.
The answer came in a gentle peace that whispered to my soul, “My power has been made perfect in your weakness. Every step you have taken, every obstacle you have overcome, every breath you have breathed when you simply didn’t want to breathe any more….ALL of that was MY strength. Every tear you have cried, every kind and gentle word of encouragement received from a friend, every worship song you have sung that reminded you of My love for you. This was all My strength in you.”
At that moment, I knew I needed to repent.
God had given me strength–I was just looking for the wrong kind of strength. In my self absorption, I was looking for the wrong things. I had put God in a box and was angry when I didn’t find Him outside of the very box I used to contain Him. He was already in me, and I was too stubborn and arrogant to see it.
“Oh, Lord, I am so sorry. Forgive me for my shortsightedness. Thank you for giving me strength even when I wasn’t look for it in the right places.”
So, again, I ask:
Why do we cling to the physical pictures of God’s strength when we are desperate for His help in our trials?
Why do we ask, and expect, a supernatural physical strength to overcome us when we are exhausted and weary?
Why does it seem as if God doesn’t answer our prayers for strength when we ask for it?
Lift up your eyes, see Him–-not in the way you want to see Him, but in the way He is.
Find Him–-not in the places you want to find Him, but in the places where He is.
Thank Him–-not for the mighty ways He has shown Himself, but for the way that He is.
Verses to ponder:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)
“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”
(2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT)
~ Jill Haskins, writer
~ photo by julian-hanslmaier, unsplash