But he said…

photo beach

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,

for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9

I have taken for granted that I understand this verse. I’ve had it memorized for years, but I don’t think I fully grasp its meaning.  I think I’ve been skating along the surface of it.  Satisfied with an easy glide rather than challenging myself to some beautiful spins and leaps.

Today I was thinking how much I do really want to get this passage and how there seems to be a depth to it I can’t comprehend.

God sometimes gives me better understanding through writing.  It’s like I think with my fingers on the keyboard.  So here I sit with a very few minutes before the day begins in earnest and I must rush to work.  I had to write though.  I had to “think” about this verse more.

I have a foundational understanding of the “grace is sufficient” part – I know how desperately I need grace and how it is all I need.

Sufficient is an interesting word…it means “enough to meet the needs of a situation or a proposed end.”   (Merriam-Webster)

Enough for me in my situation.  Enough to get me where God wants me…my proposed end in eternity.

Grace is the perfect amount to get me to God.  Grace is the perfect amount to give me hope.

No matter if I need a dash or dump truck full…God provides.  (Hmmmm….trying to think of a time I’ve only needed a dash…)

The second part of that verse is a bit more baffling to me.

“for my power is made perfect in weakness”

It’s like I read that verse and for a moment I have some clarity and then it clouds back up again and I think (as so many of my students say), “Wait, what?”

What has God’s power being made perfect in my weakness have to do with grace?  With sufficient grace?  And how does that word “perfect” fit?

I understand that God’s power shines through my life because I must rely on Him…trust Him with so much of my life.

Maybe the issue is not in my not understanding His power, but rather in not understanding my weaknesses.

I’m realizing that maybe I’m consistently viewing my weaknesses as all sin issues.  I should be able to do all that God has given me to do and do it well…it must be a flaw in me that I can’t.  I should be able to do this life better.

Do I have this all wrong?

I think I might.

Paul says that because of God’s power being made perfect in weakness, he “will boast all the more gladly of [his] weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon [him]. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Another verse that seems deeper than I treat it.

Sooooo….I boast in my weaknesses?  Seriously?  I want to hide my weaknesses.  Really hide them.  Like dig a very deep hole, bury them, cover with a pretty garden, and throw away the shovel.    The pretty garden is key.  Keep that baby hidden and beautiful.

Paul says that because of all this grace and power stuff, he is “content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.”

Maybe I need to look up those words and see what applies to me.  Weak? Check. Insults?  Not sure.  Hardships? Check.  Persecutions? I don’t think so.  Calamities?  Ummm…seems like it.

Weaknesses.  In spite of them, God’s purpose prevails.  That must be His power.  The power to use this weak, fail of gal and make her strong in Him and possibly even a blessing to someone else.

“For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:10

I looked this verse up in the Matthew Henry Commentary that we inherited from an old pastor.  (We backed over his books so they became ours…long story.  Kinda funny.  Good ending.  I now own a great (albeit slightly bent) set of commentaries.  And the pastor has a brand new set.)

Matthew Henry says, “ This is a Christian paradox:  when we are weak in ourselves, then we are strong in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; when we see ourselves weak in ourselves, then we go out of ourselves to Christ, and are qualified to receive strength from him, and experience most of the supplies of divine strength and grace.” (p. 643)

I think that I understand it a bit better.  If I can acknowledge my weaknesses and not turn in on myself in despair, but rather look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith…if I can turn to my Savior and grab hold of his strength and power…if I can step outside of myself and into His strength…that is the power in weakness.  That is God’s power perfectly working in my life not just in spite of my weakness, but within my weaknesses.

Again, I am back to the question of how does that practically happen in my life.

Maybe I’m looking too often for the 10 step plan when all I really need to do is change the way I think about things.

I seem to be looking for an actual sword I can wield throughout the day…slaying worry, anxiety, anger, frustration, disappointment, and sorrow.  Have I not been given a sword to wield already?

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darks of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.  Ephesians 6:16-17

Sometimes I forget the power that God has given us within His word.  I can look at those words as something to be studied, pondered, and memorized, and completely forget that they are life…life-giving, power-infusing, fear-dispelling, hope-instilling, peace-providing words.   Words that not only show me how to live, but words that make life livable.

Psalm 119

With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!  I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (v.10-11)

Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors. (v.24)

My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word! (v.28)

Incline my heart to your testimonies and not to selfish gain!  Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.  (v.36-37)

Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments. (v.66)

Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.  (v.73)

If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.  (v.92)

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.  (v.103)

Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.  (v.105)

Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart. (v.111)

You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word. (v.114)

Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble. (v.165)

Those verse are rich with the beauty of how God’s word is an integral part of our lives when we let it…the blessings if it are many.

The oh-so-many weaknesses that I have are not my flaws, but the cracks in my pot that let God’s power shine through.  His power is holding this cracked pot together.  I’ve been trying to hold it together for a while, and it is difficult work – dare I say, impossible.  The visual I provide others is a harried, weary working mom who is easily frustrated, easily angered, and easily brought to tears.

The woman I show when God is holding me together is peaceful, even joyful…she knows her life is not her own that she’s been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20).  She knows her Savior loves her.

No matter what I struggle with or where I go or what I do or say or even think, God loves me and His power is perfectly displayed in my life…and amazingly, even in my weaknesses.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.  2 Corinthians 4:7-10

Would you rather trust?

path through the forestThe other day at bed, my littlest girl and I prayed a bold prayer for a contract on our home…that night.  She doubts God right now.  She doesn’t see things changing…she doesn’t see God working. We all really need something to change soon, but God doesn’t seem to be changing anything right now.

I wanted God to do something amazing that night…I’d even have taken the next day.  In fact, I thought it probably would be the following day.

Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.  And the “somewhat interested” response from the people who looked at my house caused my faith to wobble a bit.

See I’ve been reading a book that has encouraged me to pray big prayers so I can see God answer in big ways…and I’m all for praying big prayers…but I’m wondering if I pray big prayers for big answers, am I also praying big prayers understanding that God might not answer in a big way?  His gentle and loving answer might be something like, “Not yet.”

But I will be honest and tell you that I am tired of the “not yet” answer…and the “no” answer…I’d like a “yes”.  But even as I say that I know that some of the nos and not yets have been the very best answers to my prayers.  And I do trust Him to answer perfectly.

Argh!  But I so want to get out of this situation…when I’ve used the word “desperately” to describe something in the past I don’t believe I’ve understood it as deeply as I do now…I desperately want to be released from this place God has me and my children.  I don’t want to be here anymore.  But I also don’t want to force it and end up in a place I’ll eventually desperately not want to be either.

I’d rather trust God.

That’s huge.  Because right now, I can tell you I’ve had some conversations with God…and they haven’t all be holy.

But when given the alternative of figuring things out without Him, I’d rather trust God.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

When faced with decisions and dilemmas in this life, I’d rather trust God.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.  Therefore for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.  Hebrews 12:11-13

When I’m trying to raise my children to love and honor Him, I’d rather trust God.

All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.  Isaiah 54:13

When I’m exhausted and weary with nothing left to give, I’d rather trust God.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

When I have no idea which way to turn, I’d rather trust God.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Psalm 23:1-3

No matter how strongly I feel that I know what would be best, I’d rather trust God.

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.  2 Thessalonians 3:5

Oh, how I need my heart directed.  This has been an exceedingly difficult time…and sometimes I don’t think others can quite understand the challenges.  I don’t think I’m necessarily doing it with the grace I’d hoped, but the Lord continues to meet me where I am.  He continues to love me through my doubts, fears, and faltering faith.  He continues to be faithful.  I do trust that He will guide my family, that he is a shield about me, that he is my refuge and strength.

I do trust that He will enable me to do this life well…even when it feels anything but wonderful.

And I do trust Him for the sale of my house and the purchase of our next home.

But most importantly, I trust that He will reveal Himself to my littlest girl in just the right way at just the right time.  That I don’t need to orchestra things to convince my daughter of His love, faithfulness, and existence!  He will handle that…I just need to love on her and pray.

So tonight, as I lay my head down on my pillow, I will be praying for my children and their faith and for me to trust Him without hesitation….and for a buyer for my house!

Grief Upon Grief Upon Grace Upon Grace

Pier Along IslamoradaI wrote this blog last week and hadn’t posted it yet because I can’t seem to catch up with school, work, and house…well pretty much anything. I was sharing with a friend some of things that I’ve been thinking about and writing about lately. This dear friend challenged me to share a happy post I’d written…I couldn’t find one happy enough! So now I’ve been challenged to write happier blogs at least every once in a while. But I had already written this one and I’m praying that it will bless someone even if it isn’t as cheerful as I’d like! I pray you are encouraged…

This week has been a little rough.

Being gone all last week was difficult…I missed a week of being with my children. I missed walking my children through the grief of their grandfather’s death. I missed day to day. I missed bedtimes. I missed packing lunches. I missed A LOT of laundry (which was all waiting when I arrived home). I missed my little girls’ Back to School night. I missed the book fair at school. I missed chatting with children. I missed my Bible study. I missed piano lessons. I missed a lot.

Right now though, I miss my Dad.

And I’m not sure how missing him should impact my day.

I have a sweet friend who reminded me that I should give myself and my children the opportunity to grieve…that I shouldn’t just jump back into life. I totally understand and agree.
I just don’t know how to do that.

When I arrived home my children had done an amazing job of holding down the fort — everyone had been well-cared for and our home looked pretty darn good! Except for the mountain (and I do mean mountain) of laundry by the washing machine….and the fact that schoolwork had been put aside for other pursuits.

This week began with sweet time with my children, a tremendous amount of washing, drying and sorting of laundry, grocery shopping, and massive amount of catching up on school work along with all the other craziness of a normal week. I haven’t found a moment to sit down or really contemplate anything deeply. There are brief moments while driving alone when grief washes over me, but really I don’t have time to allow myself to feel anything profoundly for more than that brief moment.

I’m not sure how to walk my children through this grief. It feels like grief upon grief for us. One big and little and then big thing after another.

“Grief upon grief” reminds me of a verse I keep seeing lately…on Facebook, in a book, and on a church sign…

For from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. John 1:16

In the past several years God has shown me nothing but grace upon grace. And even this week as I deal with the loss of my father and just simply living the life of a single parent, God continues to show me grace upon grace.

Grace for responding to difficult moments.

Grace for single parenting even when I’m exhausted and emotionally drained.

Grace for being content when the day doesn’t go as planned…pretty much ever.

Grace for myself…forgiveness and mercy when I fail.

Grace for others who disappoint and hurt me or my children.

Grace for my children when they mess up.

Grace for knowing that God loves messy me and my chaotic crew.

There is no doubt in my mind that God loves us and that God feels acutely the pain we feel. Jesus felt grief…He understands.

We have all suffered grief at one point or another in our lives. I was thinking of Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians where he shared about his thorn…the thing that he pleaded God to remove from his life…it was his grief-giver. And God’s response was:

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9)

And oh that my response to that could be like Paul’s:

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:9-10)

Sometimes in my weakness…I just feel weak. Sometimes in my grief I don’t truly feel content.
How do I get contentment in sorrow?

I don’t know any particular thing to do, but I do know that God offers contentment…Paul wouldn’t have had it if God didn’t give it!

Once again I’m brought back to prayer. Once again the answer is prayer.

I know that God wants me to be content in my circumstances actually according to 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 God says to:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

I’m of the firm opinion that God doesn’t call us to anything He will not also enable us to do. So if I’m to continually be rejoicing that must mean I rejoice in all my circumstances whether they are good or bad. If God tells me to give thanks in all circumstances, I must be able to find something to be grateful for no matter the way things are going. And in the middle of all that God says to pray without ceasing.

So I’m going to pray…constantly…for the ability to rejoice and be grateful no matter how wonky things are. I’m also going to pray that I will be better about praying without ceasing…I want to be a prayer warrior so I believe I will pray that God will help me be one.

And I’m going to pray that God will give me His peace so that no matter what happens – whether its grief upon grief, joy upon joy, or grace upon grace – I’ll be content.