Weakness can be flour and oil or it can be cake


On New Year’s Eve, we used our fireplace for the very first time.

We’ve lived in our home 12-1/2 years.

We didn’t even use our fireplace on December 20th, 2004–the night of a huge winter storm when we lost power and running water.

I remember that night and that storm because I was in labor with my first baby and I huddled on the couch with blankets and a flashlight because the contractions kept me awake all night long.

It wasn’t until about 10 years later that I even realized my mistake. I had a fireplace available and didn’t use it.

What was I thinking?  Why did I choose cold and dark when warmth and light were so nearby?

How I have missed out.

How I still sometimes miss out because I have access to all that God gives and offers and simply IS, but still struggle along in my own strength.

I’ve read this verse so often these last two weeks:

But he said to me, “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. (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV).

It’s a familiar promise, but one I return to now because I’ve been startlingly aware of my weaknesses.

It’s in the days when I want to give up or the moments when I mess up (again).

It’s in the way I try to avoid the difficult and the hard and hide my head in the sand instead of facing what might be.

I remember the widow of Zarephath who only had a little flour and oil to feed herself and her son. It was enough for one final, insufficient meal before resigning to starvation.

That’s the moment Elijah showed up asking for some bread.

Even after she told him how little she had, he boldly asked her to feed him first.  Then he promised this:

 For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” (1 Kings 17:14 ESV).

I don’t know what struggle she might have experienced then.  I can’t imagine the choice–feed this stranger and hope God comes through–or feed my son at least one more guaranteed meal before we starve.

The Bible simply says, “She went and did as Elijah said” (verse 15).

And God came through.

If she kept the flour and oil for herself, she’d have had one small meal.

By giving it up,  though, she had miraculous abundance.

She gave God her weakness, her insufficiency, her smallest supply .  She gave out of her poverty, and He provided.  He refilled the flour and the oil.

God fills the empty when we’re poured out for Him.

Maybe I’ve been living on flour and oil when I could give it over to God and let Him make so much more.

Elisabeth Elliot wrote this about Elijah’s words:

’Make me a cake.’ In other words, Elijah said: There is one thing you can do. Even from your poverty, you can give me something.  It may not seem like much, but it is the very thing I need. If you will give it to me I can do something I could not do without it” (Loneliness).

We can fret over our insufficiency, we can hide away our weakness out of embarrassment and shame, we can run away from challenges, we can give up when it gets too hard.

Or maybe we can try to make do with the little we have.  “I have a little flour and a little oil. It’s not enough, but I’m on my own here.”

But weakness simply remains weakness when we avoid anything difficult and only live within our own abilities.  It’s just flour and oil.

So instead we can learn how to “make a cake” for Him with anything we have, no matter how small or how meager:

Here is everything, Lord.  It’s not enough.  Please be strong in my weakness.

We don’t need to be stronger ourselves; we need God’s strength.

We need more Jesus.

We need Holy Spirit fruit and comfort and anointing.

His strength is a promise.  It’s available!  It’s an unlit fireplace waiting to be filled with flame when we bring Him our needs  and ask Him to be powerfully sufficient in our insufficiency.

In every place we feel weak, we can make a cake, offer it up, and leave everything else to Him:  our future, our provision, our “success,” our salvation.  It is all in His hands.

Our strength begins when we rely on His strength alone.

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