I used to think that I’m not a very strong person. I don’t mean physical strength (although I’m pretty wimpy there, too, even though I’m a regular at the Y). I’m talking about a Scarlett O’Hara, “Tomorrow is another day” kind of fortitude. Not caving to circumstances. Moving ahead in spite of major setbacks and painful failures. Holding onto joy in the midst of suffering. That kind of strong.
Strong like Paul, for example. Throughout his New Testament letters, we read how Paul survived overwhelming obstacles—fleeing death threats, surviving shipwrecks, being imprisoned, mobbed, beaten, flogged, stoned…. “in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger”… and the list goes on and on. (Check out 2 Corinthians 1:8-9a and 2 Corinthians 11:23-33 for starters.) And then he was executed.
I think, I could never handle that!
Paul talks about being hungry. I become hangry when I miss a single meal. He talks about going without sleep. I mope about in a daze when I don’t get at least 6 hours.
Then I read of Christians in other places suffering persecution for their faith, yet praising God in the midst of it all, and I wonder if I would likewise stand strong.
When I look at my life, it seems that I’ve had it easy. No one has a problem-free life, but when I look around and hear other people describe what they’ve been through—when I consider some close friends who are currently facing huge challenges—I think, wow, I can’t imagine experiencing that! Why are we so blessed? Must God treat me with kid gloves because He knows I can’t handle more?
Then I realized that I simply cannot compare my life to anyone else’s. What I think are minor trials, someone else considers huge calamities. And situations that I struggle greatly with are someone else’s “no big deal.” Pete and I have experienced plenty of trouble. It just didn’t feel like it.
Why? Because God carried us.
I’ve already written about how the saying “God won’t give you more than you can handle” is not in the Bible, and is, in fact, blatantly false. God frequently gives us more than we can handle! He does that because He wants us to depend, not on ourselves, or on our own strength and abilities, but on Him.
In 2 Corinthians 4:7, Paul writes, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” And in 2 Corinthians 11:9, Paul explains, “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”
Even better, I don’t have to screw up my faith in order to trust God. He helps me to depend on Him! I may be numb with shock, overwhelmed, and unable to pray more than “God, help” but I have found, time and time again, that God’s presence is tangible right when I need Him most.
God never promised us a carefree life. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33) But then He adds, “Take heart! I have overcome the world.”
I used to think that I’m not a very strong person. Now I know I’m not. It’s all right, though. I’ve learned that God is strong enough for the both of us.