Psalm 18:1-3, 31-33, 49; Lamentations 3:19-24; Philippians 4:10-13
To assure that we keep standing, when in our strength we will surely fall, we need God’s strength, too. So why refuse it? Reaching out for help or an arm to lean on is not weakness. Weakness is refusing to reach for help when we need it, and we do need it daily in the Christian life. Weakness is falling because we won’t take the help that is available to us, and God’s extra measure of strength is always available to us.
Jeremiah, the writer of the Book of Lamentations was not too proud to ask for God’s help:
The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. – Lamentations 3:19–22 (NLT).
George Fox, founder of the Quakers, related the moment that this reality first dawned upon him. He said,
. . . when all my hopes … in all men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could tell what to do, then, Oh then, I heard a voice which said, “There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition,” and when I heard it my heart did leap for joy.
Let us rejoice today that strength is available to us right now for facing whatever life has brought us, and that strength is in Christ Jesus. Claim it! Let it work in you!
Paul claimed it and wrote about it for the benefit of the Christians in Philippi. In Philippians, Paul said triumphantly, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” He wasn’t talking in abstractions or generalities. He was talking about real and hard experiences of living. He had been persecuted. He had been hungry. He was in prison when this letter was written. Eventually he would die because of his unswerving commitment to Jesus Christ.
If he had tried to face all these situations in his own strength, he would never have made it with his emotional and spiritual health intact. Because he saw the real source of strength through God in Christ, was willing to reach out for it, and let it work in him, he had real life, abundant life, in spite of innumerable hardships—hardships that would have defeated those of us who think that it’s a sign of weakness to depend on God and the power He offers us so that we can be victorious people in the world.
The bottom line is this: Without God’s strength we do not have the power to face life, much less live it. Life as it was meant to be is not some pronounced spiritual independence which tries to become, for all practical purposes, self-sufficiency. Life as it was meant to be is a shared journey—day-by-day living in the close company and companionship of God. The shared journey is not simply to enjoy the presence of God, though that is a joy and an added benefit; it is, rather, an intimate relationship in which each person gives and takes and wherein we receive—for the willingness to receive it—strength to live.
I urge you to claim this strength because I believe we all need it. But how can we get it? When Paul says, “All things I am strong to do through the One who strengthens me,” he is thinking of the result of intimate relationship. He is able to draw strength from Christ because Christ intimately shares life with him. Christ is able to empower him and make him strong enough to deal with the rough places and the tragedies of life because Paul is willing to receive the strength from outside himself. This essential power is not something that can be claimed by one who occasionally bumps into God; it can only result from a continuing, dynamic relationship with God. That’s it! Strength from God is not a neatly wrapped gift or something we can receive on demand. It is an outgrowth and inevitable result of depending upon God as we share the journey of life day by day with God. Don’t you need that?