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Refresher Course: The Opportunity of Weakness

Refresher Course: The Opportunity of Weakness

Over the past few weeks, I have been revisiting a sweet truth I learned years ago: being weak in body is actually a wonderful opportunity – a chance to have more of myself removed and replaced with Christ.

Due to an extended absence of one of my major medications, I have grown quite weak and my brain chemistry has become abnormal. When I first began noticing the psychiatric effects, my emotions had become flat. I had no emotions – neither good nor bad. As weeks have passed, I have fluctuated between depression and flat emotions.

None of this matters except to illustrate a spiritual point that I believe will encourage you, whether your weakness is in your body, a stress on the job, or a loss of some sort. Whatever it is that seems too frustrating, too hurtful, too impossible – it could be actually be an incredible opportunity.

Jesus Christ: An Indispensable Necessity

3Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek and require the Lord [as their indispensable necessity].  4 Seek, inquire of and for the Lord, and crave Him and His strength…seek and require His face and His presence continually evermore.” Psalm 105:3-4, AMP

When you woke up this morning, were you able to start your day without spending time with God? Were you able to go about your agenda for the day without needing the presence of Jesus Christ to perform your tasks through you?

This alone is the true life of a Christian—its source, its sustenance, its end, all gathered up in one word—Christ Jesus.” – C.H. Spurgeon

I have been frustrated by the temporary absence of this vital medication. It didn’t have to happen. It seems to have been avoidable – the fault of man. However, I have known down deep that in reality, it would serve as a refresher course…and I might as well go ahead and welcome it as such, for this is likely why God allowed it to happen.

Refresher Course

One of the things I miss from my previous years of extreme sickness (and even the first years of improvement) is that I had to have Jesus’ very strength in me. I had to have the life of God’s Word. They were indispensable necessities for me.

Hebrews 4:12 says that the word of God is “living and active.” That means that it has power and is capable of affecting change in our lives. The Bible is unlike any other book in the history of the world. It was inspired by the creator of the universe. Its words have His life in them.

When my brain chemistry was drastically abnormal (from encephalitis), the symptoms were unfazed by medication. The terrible feelings, sensations and thoughts never relented. But through His Word, God gave me the mind of Christ.

A born again believer, one could argue, is a little bit like an Apple computer. We have a dual platform. We are capable of running by the human operating system or our eternal operating system by the Spirit of God who lives within us.

In the instances where my mind was in total anguish, the Holy Spirit would call up the truths of Scripture and cause me to think, feel and operate by my Spiritual operating system. I could choose by faith the mind of Christ – and before long I would feel it.

A passage God always seemed to work through was Psalm 42. The psalmist was candid about his suffering:

“My tears have been my food day and night…deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me…I say to God my Rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?

In the midst of suffering, the psalmist craved one thing. One thing was an indispensable necessity:

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?”

He wasn’t grabbing the television remote…his cell phone to call a friend and sob…or heading to Facebook to read the news feed. He knew he needed a feed direct from Heaven. All else was pointless!

He pours his heart out to God, then closes with a powerful statement:

“Why are you cast down, O my inner self? And why should you moan over me and be disquieted within me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, Who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

Like the psalmist, when I passed through seasons of a depressed mind and sad countenance, I waited expectantly for God. I would yet praise Him. And just as scripture promises, He was the help of my countenance!

Infused With Resurrection Power

My improvement phase was extensive. It took years to progress from being elevated from the waist up, to walking, driving, speaking and singing. For years, I never felt my body had the natural strength that was required.  Undertaking anything – whether a family gathering or a speaking event – meant  the Holy Spirit would have to be faithful to God’s promises and give me the strength of Christ.

One of my favorite verses in such an instance was Philippians 4:13 in the Amplified Bible:

13I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency].

This is the reason why I emerged from those torturous years grateful for their existence. I had come to rely on Jesus and the life of His Word like never before.  Consequently, I had fallen deeply in love with the Word of God. It became more valuable to me than the rarest of treasures. I had experienced Jesus in ways that exceeded mere head knowledge.  When He became my thoughts, my mood, my physical strength, it was the most intimate kind of encounter with Him I could have on this earth.

The power that raised Christ from the dead raised me to new strength – His strength. But this kind of power – resurrection power – is clearly relative to death. In order to be resurrected, something has to die. Christ’s power could only inhabit the places of my life that were dead. To the degree that we are crucified, we will know His resurrection power. Weakness, difficulty or death of something is a great opportunity!

The years of affliction forced me to a place of not merely having Christ live in me but needing Him to live for me. There is a big difference between the two.

Have you discovered this difference?

Suffering – a Surprising Definition

Suffering impairs our ability to live autonomous of God – to survive by the abilities of our natural man. Suffering pushes us to the end of ourselves.

Suffering has been defined as having what you don’t want and wanting what you don’t have. Applying this definition, in what ways are you suffering in your life? Is the life of Jesus and God’s Word a requirement for you concerning this area?

The Night Watches

My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises. Psalm 119:148, NIV

Perhaps you have never experienced illness. So this kind of dependence upon God seems impossible to comprehend. At the risk of being too transparent, I will be candid about something I never share with others. It’s  about a weakness or loss other than bodily illness. Any difficulty, weakness or hardship is a cause to require the life of Jesus and God’s Word.

With audiences of women I occasionally mention that I was married many years ago. The illness took its toll on the marriage. When I was still very ill and confined to bed, I found myself suddenly alone in the home I had shared with my husband. The shock and grief were fresh. I felt as if someone had suddenly died. It was difficult to manage through the day, but even harder at night.

So at night, I took my Bible and placed it on the empty side of the bed, a tangible illustration of what I knew God would do for me. His Word would fill my emptiness. His Word would heal my grief. His Word would comfort me. And the instant I needed it, His Word would be there to infuse me with Christ’s life – His comfort, His strength, His peace, His healing.

I don’t remember how long I did this. Maybe every night for a week or two; then occasionally thereafter when the grief or loneliness would strike. Ever since my illness began, I have kept my Bibles in the nightstand by the bed. I’ve always wanted them close by. Yet moving the Bible this short distance stood for something. It was symbolic.  Once again, the life of the Word of God would live for me. (Jesus is the Living Word (See John 1:1, Rev. 19:13). Scripture is the Written Word.) The grace of God would carry me.

In the twelve years since, I have found it helpful on many nights to have the Bible by my side, though not because of grief or loneliness. It may be due to a particular stress, an overwhelming obstacle, or simply because I know my faith is under attack.

Regardless the reason, I like having the Bible near me. If I wake up during the night, I can instantly take refuge in its truth. Sometimes I place it on my nightstand, at eye level between me and the alarm clock. That way, when I wake up, I am reminded that nothing else comes first. Often, before falling asleep, I will have been seeking God about a problem. I will have gone to sleep meditating on His answer in Scripture. Leaving it open to that passage at eye level puts my focus immediately on God’s answer rather than the overwhelming nature of the problem when I awake.

And I—in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness” (Psalm 17:15, NIV).

Thank God for Refresher Courses

And YET, in spite of loving Jesus and taking refuge in His word, as I have often taught is the case with us humans, the more comfortable our lives are, the less we tend to make the life of God’s Word an indispensable necessity. Nothing nudges us to the point where seeing Him, feeling Him, living by Him are not options; they’re daily requirements.

And so I too, as happens to others, have grown less dependent in recent years. Though I face many challenges and stresses in other areas of life, I can choose to cope with food, or television or friends or family – not by requiring the life of Christ.

But when bodily and psychiatric weakness are present and responsibilities do not relent, there is no other way to continue on than by the life of Christ.

For little things, such as getting up and dressed to big things such as ministry events, the life of Christ must live for me every moment of the day.

Christ’s Power Accomplished in Our Weakness

In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul wrote about his thorn in the flesh. Three times he pleaded with God to take it away from him. Jesus’ reply to Paul was:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

The Greek word for “perfect” means to “complete, accomplish, fulfill.” Christ’s power is completed, accomplished and fulfilled in us when we depend on Him in our weakness.

Paul continued,

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NIV

When Paul said he would boast about his weaknesses, it meant that he would be “loud tongued” about them.We are loud tongued about miracles of restoration and healing. And we should be! But are we loud tongued about the miracle of Christ’s resurrection power living through us in our weaknesses, hardships and losses? No.

The majority of Christians in America have it all backward. We believe that having things and doing things represent the power and blessing of God on our lives. For me personally, the power of Christ has rested on me when I am the most broken, the most crucified, the most weak…and in the most difficulty.

When I have the most going for me and I’m the most comfortable and happy in life is when His power diminishes. That’s when I rely on my will and my abilities – my ‘human operating system.’ I coast on my own abilities or get preoccupied with my agenda.

This is a scriptural principle: with weakness, hardship, difficulty, insult and persecution comes spiritual power…if we yield to Christ in the midst of them. If we take refuge in His Word. If He is the one thing for which our soul thirsts. If the only quest we have is to meet with God.

Beloved, if this is where you are, and these are the desires of your heart, you will receive such a meeting, such an encounter with God, that you will never be the same! In fact, once there, you’ll never want this encounter to pass, no matter what circumstances ushered you there. I dare say you will even become grateful for the weakness that caused Christ to become a requirement. Because this encounter – this replacing of your strength with Christ’s resurrection power – will be the most incredible experience you could have this side of Heaven. Jesus Christ Himself will be living for you. Oh the joy, the miracle, of living by His life!

“My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God…Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” Psalm 84:2, 10, NIV

In other words, the psalmist is saying, “No matter what it takes to know You, God – no matter what it takes for You to become a requirement in my life, it’s worth it! I don’t care what ushered me here, I would rather experience Your presence, Your power and strength with these problems than be without You in a life of ease.”

Beloved, whatever is causing you to press into Christ, it’s worth it! God is giving you an incredible opportunity to experience Christ like never before!

“Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life.  Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung.  I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him…I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself.  If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.” – Philippians 3:8, 10

Years ago I used to quietly sing a song as I was moving about, trusting Christ to be my strength. In recent weeks, it has returned. Oh how I praise God for the great exchange of the cross. Christ takes our flesh and gives us His very life and strength:

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.

(My favorite version of this song is recorded by CeCe Winans on the album Alone in His Presence.)

Questions: How are you suffering? Is the life of Christ a requirement for you in your suffering, your weakness? Do you crave Him? Is the power of the Word an indispensable necessity for you? Have you discovered the difference between having Christ live in you and needing Him to live for you? 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, Shades of Grace will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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