I have always been a weak woman, though not necessarily outwardly, but the One who knows me better than anyone else has always known about my frail health, my indecisiveness, and my lack of assertiveness. Actually, it grieved me a lot that I was never as healthy as other people, yet I fought against it with sports and I had to try harder to do so than others who never felt fatigued or were never plagued by physical pains and sicknesses. Just recently I thought that it was a great gift from God to have me act that way, that is, to never give up, but to fight despite feeling bad most of the time. I know that God can heal and sometimes He truly did. Yet often times He decides to not heal us and only He knows why.
To put it more spiritually, I was wondering where our spiritual strength might come from. What is it that makes us strong when we are weak? What helps us to face circumstances that grieve us and of which we know that we cannot change them? We know that Paul lived that life of spiritual strength in light of many adverse circumstances. Even his flesh (body) was affected, yet God would not help him as Paul had wished. Instead, the Lord said,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I [Paul] 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. (2 Cor 12:9-12 ESV)
That our strength should come from God is not a new thing. In the Old Testament we find interesting Scriptures concerning this matter. We read for example, “And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Neh 8:10 ESV) Just recently I realized that not any joy about divine matters was meant here. No, we need the joy OF the Lord so that we might be strengthened. Or in Jesus’ words,
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (Jn 15:11 ESV)
What were these things Jesus had spoken of before? Summarizing the verses before where Jesus described Himself as the true vine and His disciples as His branches, we see that there is a certain wording that is frequently mentioned. I decided to copy and paste all the verses and to highlight what I believe is crucial about experiencing His joy as our continuous strength.
1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.
2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (Jn 15:1-11 ESV) [Colored emphasis mine]
The necessity to abide in Christ and in His love can hardly be denied after reading these verses, don’t you think, dear reader? Abiding in God and His love is certainly not a hurried life. It is a life of rest and peace, full of Christ’s joy because we have been enabled to live in God’s presence day and night. In fact, our spiritual strength should always spring from knowing God and trusting Him. In this respect, one of my favorite Scriptures has always been the following.
For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling, and you said, “No! We will flee upon horses”; therefore you shall flee away; and, “We will ride upon swift steeds”; therefore your pursuers shall be swift. (Is 30:15-16 ESV)
I assume we all know the difference between the choices we make when being at rest versus being restless. The quality of our choices and our doing is indeed heavily dependent on our state of mind and heart at a definite time. It is so important to listen to God’s still and small voice – more than to the multiple voices of men – so that we can rest more and deeper, even though our adverse circumstances do not change. All our worries and concerns will melt into thin air if we have listened to God’s voice in all things. There is nothing that lies ahead of us which we should fear. The Scripture that always has helped me to let go of my worries regarding the future are the following words that remind us to listen to God’s wisdom.
“For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” (Prv 1:32-33 ESV)