I am Strong in the Lord

Strength when I’m Failing

I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted; the horse and rider He has hurled into the sea.  The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; This is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will extol Him.  The Lord is a warrior; The Lord is His name.  Exodus 15:2-3

I grew up in church, and the story of God parting the Red Sea is as familiar as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves to me.  If I’m not careful, it becomes as ho-hum as a fairy tale.

Moses didn’t have that problem.  The man had just lived it.  Pharaoh’s army was hot on his tail, and in a deafening rush, the waters of the sea piled up in two shimmering blue walls, leaving a path of dry land between them.  He rushed his people through the bizarre tunnel, but they could hear the whips and shouts of Pharaoh’s horsemen right behind them, wheels grinding over the gravel.  An entire army was after them, heading through the same escape path.  The Israelites were far too panicked to stop and admire the fish swimming passed their heads.

But just as the last Israelite reached the opposite shore, the watery walls collapsed, drowning the Egyptians in blue death.

Moses stood on that beach trying to wrap his mind around it – the most amazing thing he had ever witnessed.  This was a man who had never even seen a movie seeing the hand of God do the impossible.  Well, is it any wonder he burst into praise?  “The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation!”

Who could help but feel strong in God at that moment?

But, let’s not forget all the dreary, sweaty, disappointing moments that lead up to it.  God told Moses to free the Israelites, a task he didn’t want, for which he felt ill prepared, and at which he failed several times.   He trusted God enough to march into Pharaoh’s throne room and tell him to free the Israelites, and Pharaoh not only said “No,” but made the Israelites’ work harder.  And that turned the very people Moses was trying to rescue against him.  You know the rest – plagues and complaining until finally Pharaoh released them, only to change his mind and send his army after them.  Hardly a ringing victory.

Was God any less Moses’ strength in those times of discouragement, of rejection, of trying and failing?  When I hit a roadblock, I tend to feel like God is no longer my strength, that He hasn’t really given me the task, or that He just doesn’t care if I complete it or not.

The tasks God gives us are hard. It seemed to me, in sweltering Africa, that if God had sent me there, He should have done me the favor of making the language a bit easier to learn and kept me healthier.  I mean, malaria and diarrhea?  Come on, God!  How am I supposed to share Jesus with these people if I can’t get out of bed and can’t speak when I do?  But God didn’t make Africa easy for me.  Most of the tasks he’s given – on any continent, exotic or not — have been so difficult that it was impossible for me to complete them on my own strength.

And perhaps, that’s the point.

May I praise God for being my strength not only in the moment of awe-inspiring victory, but also in the uphill battle before it.

 

 

I am Strong in the Lord

Courage in His Strength

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” ~Joshua 1:9, NASB

Your emptiness is but the preparation for your being filled, and your casting down is but the making ready for your lifting up.” – Charles Spurgeon

Failure stinks. Failure because of fear is devastating.

I’m not a quitter. I push through things with (probably annoying) determination. So when I failed to summit a peak several years ago, the disappointment I felt was increased significantly by the shock others displayed by my sudden breach of character. “Why didn’t you summit?” This was the echoing question of the day. I hated that my honest answer was a cowardly one. “Because I became afraid, and I could not go on.”

Sometimes that kind of failure propels a person like me. Sometimes, however rarely, it paralyzes us. In that case, I was grounded. I never wanted to try to summit another mountain again. That very real, cold fear snuck into my sleep, disturbed my day-to-day living, and shriveled my confidence.

But I’ve been on top of some mountains since then. Fourteeners, actually. But not because I overcame that terror–not by myself. My husband developed a taste for high altitude after summiting Long’s Peak, and he wanted me to give the thin air another try. He picked a peak he thought we’d enjoy together and spent two years convincing me to go. “I’ll be right there with you, Jen. When you’re afraid, I’ll be there. When you’re tired, I’ll be there. We’ll do it together, and you’ll get to the top this time.”

His strength saw me through my fear. And my first glimpse at the world on a fourteen-thousand foot high peak was amazing. I don’t regret going, and I’m so grateful to my husband for ‘making’ me try it again.

I know the illustration breaks down, but there’s a bit of spiritual truth in that journey. Here are some things I’ve taken away from that experience:

  • Pride can take us places where we end up feeling cornered—trapped. At some point we all need to admit we cannot do everything, especially not on our own.
  • There are some things I simply cannot do in my own strength.
  • Sometimes God allows failure to show us our weakness.
  • Sometimes God takes us back to that weakness to show us His strength.

There are times our souls will cower in terror. Sometimes we quit. But God is calling, reassuring our feeble hearts, “I am with you. I am always with you, and I will see you safely through.”

And I’m pretty sure that just like that first summit was for me, the journey will be worth it. Can we take courage in his strength?

I am Strong in the Lord

False Hopes for Victory

The king is not saved by a mighty army; A warrior is not delivered by great strength.  A horse is a false hope for victory. … Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name.  Psalm 33:16-18, 20-21

Imagine an epic battle, fought with thousands of horsemen, swords swinging, slow-motion cameras catching their grimaces and mighty blows.  The music swells in the background, our hero charges forth to win his cause, his steed’s mane flowing and nostrils flaring.  Strength.  Great, manly, strength.

We draw those images from movies, but back when this Psalm was written, those battles weren’t the stuff of popcorn and date night.  That was real life … and real death.  Nations stood or fell on battles like that.  Individual lives were torn apart, women and children of defeated nations sold into slavery … all because of battles fought by kings leading soldiers on horseback. So, it would stand to reason that those real-life people would put their hopes in strong warriors and exceptional horses.  They were the strongest things on earth.

But those sources of strength were false hopes for victory.  And pondering that led me to question myself: What are false hopes for victory today?

For an army, perhaps it is the strength of their tanks and missiles, or maybe the wisdom of their commanders.

For me, it is often my own ability to do the right thing.  I (mistakenly) think that I can be good enough, moral enough, loving and kind enough to win personal victories – to overcome temptation, to triumph over negative thoughts, to achieve happy relationships.  But my own strength will fail me.  It has failed me.  It is failing me.  In every verb tense, my own good works wither.

I am strong enough to gain victory over my own faults and also in the spiritual battles that rage around me only as much as I rely completely on God.  The moment I begin to give myself the credit is the moment I stumble.

My soul waits for God.  He is my help and my shield in every conflict I face, during every heartache and every exhausting trial.  God alone is my knight in shining armor – no man, mentor, friend, job, hobby, house, or more pleasing situation will ever fulfill me or be strong enough to win my battles for me.  My strength is in God alone.

May I remember that this week.

I am Strong in the Lord

Strength To Do His Will

“My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed. The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength. Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry are hungry no more. She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away. The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s; on them he has set the world. He will guard the feet of his faithful servants, but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness. It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the LORD will be broken. The Most High will thunder from heaven; the LORD will judge the ends of the earth. He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.” 1 Samuel 2:1-10, NIV

A long section of scripture, I know. But I invite you to read it again, and then guess (no peeking) the context.

A great battle? The coronation of a king? The release of captive people?

No. To all of those, and likely to anything else you’d guess. These are Hannah’s words, and they were not prayed right after the birth of her son. She uttered them at Shiloh, after she brought her son, Samuel–the very son she’d fervently begged God for, to the point that Eli the priest thought she was drunk. Her only son. And here she is, delivering him to the house of God. To stay. Forever.

Because she’d promised God she would.

I’m a mother. I have four children, and this idea of handing them over for the remainder of their little lives makes me tremble. Could I give my three-year old son over to the full-time service of God? I don’t know that I’d have the strength to do that.

But here we see Hannah making good on her promise. How could she do that? How did she not shrivel up as her heart shattered into pieces?

Consider her words . . .

“I delight in Your deliverance.”

“There is no rock like our God.”

“The LORD is the God who knows.”

“He will give strength.”

I’m learning from this tender warrior-woman. She knew her God. She took refuge in her God. And she found strength in her God. Even, no, especially when His will seemed impossible.

I am Strong in the Lord

I am Strong in Him: a Joint Post

From Susan

Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.  Ephesians 6:10-11

I was 19, and worn out.  I’d been studying for college final exams, skipping sleep and feeling sorry for myself.  I’d yet to really experience deep pain in my life, and to me – at age 19 – final exams were a mighty trial.

“I have no strength left,” I told my mother over the phone.

“Ah, well, that’s when you are your strongest, when you have none of your own strength to lean on.  That’s when you have to rely fully on God.”

Her words, spoken to her college sophomore, have echoed through the decades of my life as I’ve faced weariness and trials far beyond the scope of a biology exam.  God’s strength is what really makes me strong – not my own effort, my own physical stamina, my own brain power, my own logic or ability to solve problems.

When Satan hurls temptations and heartaches, when he aptly aims fiery darts of doubt and peril, I must put on God’s armor, stand in His strength, and prevail.

From Jen

It seems that God takes us to places our strength cannot match on purpose. Like Gideon, in the book of Judges.

Outnumbered something like 450 to 1, Gideon’s army shouldn’t have overcome the Midianites. Not by any calculative measure. Not by any stroke of luck. And the reality is, even if Gideon’s army had remained at the diminutive number of 32,000 (verse somewhere around 135,000), their chances were slim at best. But by God’s direction, the fighting men of Israel were whittled down to three hundred. Three hundred men with trumpets and pottery against trained soldiers, yet they won. Soundly. After that battle, Israel lived in peace for forty years. No one wanted to mess with the power that protected the Hebrew people.

That’s amazing. That’s the power of God.

Am I resting in that strength? Am I trusting Him to do what I can’t? Do I believe He can accomplish the impossible?

David Peach writes: “The truth is, whatever God wants from you, it probably will be even more impossible than you could imagine.”

God specializes in the impossible. He calls us to believe, and to act on it, even when the odds are overwhelmingly against us. That way we know it’s Him, not us.

His strength, and not my own.