The Weaker I Get, The Stronger My Faith In Him

Strength-FaithFaith in God is a funny thing.

It tends to show up the strongest when we are at our lowest point.

There is an old saying that “there are no atheists in foxholes.” This refers to the fact that in times of high stress (such as war) everyone tends to cry out to God regardless of what they claim to believe.

The fact is we all tend to be self-reliant and want to handle things on our own if we can. However, in certain situations, that is just not possible.

I got the idea for this post after reading Shelly Sorem’s blog, Deeply Rooted In Him.  In the post “Ice Bucket Challenge and A Man of Faith,” she talks about a friend who battled ALS.  This friend was incredibly inspiring as his faith seemed to grow even as his body failed him.

As I read this post this morning I could relate to this experience.

I have watched it myself over the last year and a half as my Dad battled cancer.

It seems that the weaker he got physically, the stronger his faith grew.

We made it to countless doctor’s appointments, visits to the hospital, and ultimately in-home hospice care.

At each of these stops along the journey, Dad made sure to let people know that he was in God’s hands and that he wasn’t afraid of what the future held.  He was a Christian his whole life, but when his physical strength decreased, his faith in the Lord blossomed.

I think for many of us, the same thing can happen.

When control is wrenched from our hands we usually have no where else to turn but to God.  It is unfortunate that it has to be this way, but I know that I am a stubborn, slow learner sometimes.

We may not be stricken with a terminal illness for this to occur. Sometimes it is

  • the loss of a job
  • a financial emergency
  • a divorce
  • the death of a loved one.

I have found in my life that I am closest to God when things are most turbulent in my life.  Sometimes there are storms that we face that drive us to our knees as we cry out to Jesus.  Perhaps you have noticed this too.

It is there that I fully rely on God.  I seek solace in the word of Romans 8:28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

I can’t understand with my heart why God didn’t heal my Dad.  It hurts and I miss him tremendously.  I know that the grieving process will take time.

However, with my head I can see that his illness impacted many people and furthered the kingdom of God. There were people praying for him from Georgia to Colorado to Michigan to Texas. I hope that some of you were praying from around the world. There were doctors and nurses who marveled at the family support and love that we showered him with.

There was a funeral service where the gospel of Christ was preached, and the legacy of a life well lived was remembered.

I know that one day in eternity, we will see the impact of Dad’s increasing faith and the countless people who his life and ultimately his death impacted.

Consider the chorus of the song “His Strength Is Perfect” by Steven Curtis Chapman:

His strength is perfect when our strength is gone
He’ll carry us when we can’t carry on
Raised in His power, the weak become strong
His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect

Remember this when you feel weak:  There is one who will walk alongside you, no matter what your struggle is, and give you the strength to do the work he has called you to do.  Never lose heart; never lose hope; never lose faith.  

One day you will see those you have impacted and what a glorious day it will be!

The Pain of God’s Best

Hands on a rope

We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.

C.S. Lewis

Ain’t that the truth?

Stop and think about that quote for a minute.  Does it ring true with you as it did with me? I absolutely know that God has a purpose for my life and that he is using me daily to make an impact on others.  He is also using the circumstances in my life to shape me into the image of Christ.  I know that a lot of times I wish he would mold me and shape me in a less painful fashion. Sometimes it is difficult in the struggles to see what God is trying to do with us.   Sometimes all we can do is just grab hold of my faith in God and try not to let go.  This C.S. Lewis quote made me think of a great passage dealing with the struggles of life.

In 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, Paul writes:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 

Paul, who had no doubt that he was an Apostle charged with spreading the Good News of Christ to the world, also knew that following that path would cause him tremendous personal pain. He was beaten, run out-of-town, his name maligned, shipwrecked, imprisoned, and ultimately killed for his words and his beliefs.  In the midst of all that, Paul must have asked himself sometimes if it was all worth it.  However, because Paul stayed the course and “fought the good fight” and “finished the race” he left us with 13 letters in the New Testament that encourage, uplift, and instruct us. He wrote the words above to the Corinthian church knowing that they too would face pressures and confusion and difficulties.


 We will also face these things but we find that God will give us strength to hold on in the pressure, hope instead of despair, a friend in time of need, and restoration when we feel run down.


This is why Paul closes out this chapter with the following words: (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

It is difficult for us to fathom sometimes, but God really is reshaping us and making us into new creations.  We can’t see it because we have a finite view of things, but God moves in a way that shapes us into what we ought to be.   We must have hope in him and trust in him even when our circumstances don’t seem to make sense.  We have to remember that we are here for but a short time and that our glory will be revealed in eternity.

Nothing that has ever shaped me in a positive way has come without pain.  Whether it be the benefits of exercise, the learning of a new skill, the recognition of my sin and separation from God; it all requires some pain and adjustment as God molds me into the man that he wants me to be.  Remember a diamond has to be cut many times to sparkle and shine.  Gold must be melted and refined before it is crafted into a thing of beauty.


When the refining is complete, we find the perfect was masked by the imperfect the whole time; it simply needed to be brought forth.


So when you find yourself struggling with the pain of life that comes with God’s best for you, seek deeply to find what God is doing for your life.  Has he healed broken relationships?  Has he drawn you closer to himself?  Has he helped you store up treasures in eternity?

Do not lose heart! Take things one day at a time and remember that our life, our struggles are temporary.  One day we will stand before God, as Paul did, healthy and restored and whole and hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

 

*Photo courtesy of: JGI / Blend / Learning Pictures / Universal Images Group

I’ll Fly Away

Some glad morning when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away;
To a home on God’s celestial shore, I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).

I’ll fly away, Oh Glory
I’ll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).

When the shadows of this life have gone, I’ll fly away;
Like a bird from prison bars has flown, I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).

I’ll fly away, Oh Glory
I’ll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).

Just a few more weary days and then, I’ll fly away;
To a land where joy shall never end, I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).

I’ll fly away, Oh Glory
I’ll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).

This post is going to be a little different, so bear with me.  Today my Grandma passed away.  All afternoon I have been thinking of the lyrics to this song.  You see, she has been fighting a protracted battle with Alzheimer’s disease for the last several years.  We have watched this disease rob her of her memories and dignity.  What makes me sad about this illness is that she was always a very dignified lady.  She was always put together with her pearls, her church outfits, her matching shoes and purse.  In her home everything was in its place and organized.  This was just how she was.

So now, she has flown away.  Although it is a sad day, I am thankful that God chose to take her home.  You see, she made the decision long ago that would guarantee where she would spend eternity.  So to her, this is a home going.  Now she will get to see my Grandpa again.  Now she will get to rejoice at the feet of her Savior.  Now she is free from the grip of an illness that robbed her of these last few years.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:6-8:

So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.  For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

As believers, we know that it is not a bad thing to leave this world and go home to Heaven where we can be with the Lord.  That is an amazing promise that His word provides us.

We can go forward with the hope that is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14:

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.

So today we mourn for ourselves, but we know that this is not the end.  It is merely another facet of life.  We will go on and know that we will see her again.

We have hope and we know that Grandma is in ” a place where joy will never end” now that she has flown away.

The Third Day

It began with a ray of light.

The column of light seemed to emanate from the very core of the earth. It shot through the rough hewn tomb and radiated through the sky.  White hot and blinding, it seemed to stretch far upwards to the edges of space, pointing ever closer to Heaven itself.  Invisible to human eyes, yet present to all with spiritual eyes rose a multitude of the Heavenly Host.  Arranged in concentric rings around the beam of light, the angels hovered with a beautiful symmetry.  Their radiant wings outstretched, fiery swords extended toward the light.  Hundreds of thousands of them flew. Arranged as low as the blooming dogwoods that circled the tomb and as high as the stars unseen because of the risen Son.

As the beam of light shot forth with all the velocity of the speed of light, something amazing happened.  The demons that had been crowded around the stone, excited in their apparent victory, began to tremble.  As the stone began to roll back, they jumped and twitched and shuddered.  They nervously moved, leathery wings unfurling, prepared to slink away.  This couldn’t be happening!  They had finally defeated this Jesus, the Son of God.  He had breathed His last on the cross.  He said “It is finished.”  God the Father, had turned his back on His Son.  But all at once, with a sound like thunder, and a rumble as the earth shook and quaked, the light burst forth from the ground and shot out from the tomb like an exploding star, and with a loud squeal, the demons fled.  Shot forth like a million pieces of shrapnel, they fled from the onslaught of light.  The angels that for three days had been held back from the tomb suddenly rushed in to fill the void.  They took their places in rings around the beam of light stretching from the earth to heaven.  Their singing could be heard in beautiful angelic harmony.  “It’s time, He is Risen,” could be heard echoing over and over and over throughout all the atmosphere.

Slowly the stone moved away. The guards who had been stationed there fell to the ground and lay as dead men.  Although they couldn’t see the light or hear the beautiful songs, they could see the stone move and hear the shuffling coming from within.

At once, with majesty and power, He stepped out from the shadows.  Where a day earlier there was only death and decay, now stood life everlasting.  Where sin once had had it’s way, now it had been defeated once, for all.  Where death had seemed to claim victory, now its sting was gone.

Jesus, Son of God, Son of Man; the source of the radiant light, stepped into the morning of the third day.  The grave clothes had fallen from his frame and he stood in glowing white, the only source of imperfection coming from His nail scarred feet and hands.

Two angels descended from their place among the host and sat on the stone.

They waited in humble adoration as the Savior walked away from the empty tomb.

They knew that soon the women would come to anoint his body.

Soon the disciples and Peter would run to the tomb only to find it empty.

Soon the message, the Good News, would ignite like a fire and spread across the land.

Soon He would return home to His Father’s side, and resume His place at the throne.

But today would bring a message of hope.

For today the angels would say, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here, He is risen, just as He said!”

Storms, Anchors, and Prayers for Daylight

This has been quite a week. I am literally a broken heart and a lost dog away from a country song.  This week has seen two broken vehicles, one broken furnace, two sick Dads and it’s only Friday morning.  Thank goodness weeks like this don’t happen often!

I have been reading through the book of Acts in my daily devotional time.  And as God often does, He provided me with just the right verse at just the right time.

Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they [the sailors] dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. Acts 27:29.

The backstory for this verse is this:  Paul has been arrested in Jerusalem and has appealed his case to Caesar, his right as a Roman citizen.  He is placed on a ship and begins his arduous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Rome.  Along the way, all manner of misfortune falls upon the ship and its passengers.  Just prior to this verse, the sailors literally tie ropes around the ship in an attempt to keep it together as they ride out a horrible storm that is going on two weeks long.  

I like this verse because it ministers to me as I have struggled through this week.  

Sometimes, all you can do is anchor to what you have, hunker down, and pray for daylight.

As I mentioned before, weeks like this don’t come around very often.  But when they do, you have to start looking around for those things to anchor to.  Fear can quickly and easily incapacitate us.  You have to find, in this case, four anchors to throw out.

For me, I anchored to the Word of God, a family that loves me, a job that provides for my needs, and peace that passes understanding.  These anchors can change daily and what I anchor to can be totally different than what you anchor to.  One thing I know, your first anchor had better be your relationship to God and the promises found in his word.  That is immovable.  

As this week progressed and I tried to minister to others in the midst of my storm, the Holy Spirit led me to Lamentations 3:21-26:

Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:

 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,

    to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.

This week, this was my prayer for daylight.  When it gets to the point that you just have to throw out the anchors and pray for daylight, it may be good to remember that our God is a faithful God.  His mercies are new every morning.  If we can just trust him to get us through the darkness of night the light of day will shine again.  He gives us hope.  He is filled with compassion. Nothing in our lives sneaks up on Him and he will use all things to shape us into the image of Christ. 

He will carry us through our storms.

So hold fast, find your anchors to throw out, and pray for daylight!