His strength is enough for the grand and the ordinary, the big and the small

Earlier this week, I prepped my son for his four-year-old checkup.

“We’re going to show them how big you are,” I said. “We’ll see how much you’ve  grown since last year.”

“Yeah,” he chimed  in,  “’cause I was a baby and then you held me and I grew bigger.”

“Right,”  I nod.  Then I slipped off his pajama shirt and reached back for his clothes for the day.

That’s when he stretched out his bare arms over his head and squeezed them to show me his muscles.

“I’m strong now!  I’ve got big muscles ’cause I’m bigger.”  Then he poked out his chest and beat on it like  a gorilla.

I didn’t laugh (although it was totally cute and I wanted to chuckle).  I just slipped his clean shirt over his head and told him he was definitely strong.

When they called his name at the doctor’s office, the nurse asked him to  “step up on the scale here, baby.”

Well.

He informed her of the situation. “I’m not a baby.  I’m four.  I used to be a baby and then my mom held me and I got bigger.”

There you have it.

Of course, I try to spin this to my own mom-advantage.  “If you want to get even bigger and stronger,” I say, “you need to eat lots of healthy food.”

He tells me, “I’m already bigger.”

As in, been there,  done that,  Mom.

He is bigger, though.  He is stronger.  And while he makes muscle-man arms and tells me how strong he is, I’m thinking myself about strength and needing more of it and how hard it is to be weak.

Oh, we all need strength for the big things,  of course.  God calls us to take a huge faith-step and we need supernatural strength, for sure.  We need strength for  big risk and strength for big courage and strength for big life moments.

But we also need His strength for all our ordinary weakness.

This week I flew home  one day, beating my kids’ school bus by 10  minutes.  I greeted them, listened to  the recap of their day, then left for another quick errand.  I walked back in the door 40 minutes later and didn’t even put my keys down when my phone rang.  My youngest daughter was feeling sick and wondered if I could pick her up from school instead of risking her  riding the bus home.  Out the door I went again.

I need strength for in-and-out days.  I need strength for mundane and strength for ordinary because few things catapult me into weakness more than when I feel bogged down by the little.

The little things sure can pile right on up until you wonder how you could be so plain-out tired when you haven’t actually accomplished anything significant all day.  You have, however,  been doing a whole lot of little things without feeling like you’re making any grand impact.

So, in the a mornings, even when it’s a day when my to-do list is full of a long list of the tiniest of things, I cry out to God from my weakness.

Jesus, help me. 

Give me your strength today.  

Help me to  love others.  Help me not to get overwhelmed and anxious,  but to be at peace.  Help me to take things slowly and be comfortable with that.  Help me to value what  you value.  You set my agenda.  You plan my day.  You guide my feet.  You control my tongue (oh yes, Lord!).  

I remember my weakness when I forget.  I remember my weakness when I blow it and lose my temper or snap in anger with an out-of-control  tongue.

I remember my weakness when I let the littlest things catapult me into worry or make me feel harried and undone.

I  remember my weakness when I feel tired or I finish the day with items still left on that trusty to-do  list.

But those are the exact moments  to also remember God’s strength.   His muscle arms are big enough to take care of every load I carry;  I just need to keep on handing these burdens over  to Him instead of hefting them around myself.

In Psalm 84, it says:

Blessed are those whose strength is in you…
They go from strength to strength;
    each one appears before God in Zion (Psalm 84:6-7).

It’s not “Blessed are those who are strong on their own.”

No.  So we can let that go.  We can stop trying to be strong enough.

We can stop  beating ourselves up over mistakes.  We can stop pushing ourselves to do more, be more, try harder, get farther.

Blessed are those whose strength is in HIM.  His strength is enough for the big and small, the grand and the ordinary.  His strength is enough for it all.

Weakness can be flour and oil or it can be cake

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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.

Wonder Woman, Here’s Your Cape

Pride is such a sneaky slave-master.

It confuses and deceives, tricking you into feeling free, distracting you so that you never notice the slow clinking of the restraints on your wrists, the ever-increasing weight of the chains on your legs, dragging you down, holding you back, restraining your worship and your service.

Friends encourage you.  Loved ones compliment you.  A boss pats you on the back.  They say: How well you are doing, how quick…how strong….how capable……and slowly you believe it.

Slowly you try to live up to it.

Because if you admit just for a second that you’re needy or weak, struggling in hidden ways, tearful, hurt, broken, tired, or sad, you’ve taken a hammer to that pristine persona.  You’ve shattered the image of The Woman in Control or whatever fake statuesque creation you’ve built onto that shaky pedestal for others to see.

The truth is it’s hard to admit you’re not Super Girl or Wonder Woman, complete with cape, tights, mask and heroic strength and powers.

Because of pride, that’s why.

Most of us, after all, choose the super hero costume over the average, flawed, everyday, hard-working but imperfect woman we really are underneath all that bright-colored spandex.

But God won’t let us.  Not forever, anyway.

He gently reveals our weakness on the tough days:

….When we forget the appointment.

….Or lose our temper with our kids.

….Or pack our husband’s lunch but leave out the sandwich.

….Or put away the groceries one morning only to find the frozen broccoli a week later defrosted and disgusting in the pantry and the box of pasta iced over in the freezer.

I’ve been there, done that, refused to wear the t-shirt.

Truly, I need the grace.

I need the reminder that on the days I actually remember to sign my kids’ school agenda books and send in the right forms with the right child….on days when I get everybody ready for school AND manage a shower and makeup myself (even more so if I actually get to dry my hair)…that this isn’t because I have super powers.

It’s because I have God.

He helps me.  He gives me rest.  He strengthens me when I’m feeling worn down and He gives me energy when I’m sleep-deprived.  I can’t take credit for that.  I can’t accept the compliments from others and let it go to my heart and my head, making me think that I sure do have it all together.ephesians2

I think of Peter’s mother-in-law, feverish and ill in bed when Jesus and His disciples stopped by for an unexpected visit (Matthew 8:14).

That poor woman, too sick to pretend to be Martha Stewart.  Guests sat in her living room and she couldn’t pour cups of iced tea and serve cookies.  She couldn’t tidy up quickly when she heard them knock on the door and hide the dirty dishes and the pile of clean clothes before inviting them in.

She needed Jesus in her moment of frailty.  He healed her and then she could serve.  He equipped her and then she could give.

On her own, she lingered frail and tired in the sick-bed, but in Christ and through Christ she rose in worship and thanksgiving to care for Jesus and His followers.

And when I’m struggling, it doesn’t mean I need to pull myself together all on my own.  It means I need Jesus.

I need to lean in more onto Christ’s steady shoulders.  I need His counsel, His wisdom, His help to be disciplined and discerning.

Or maybe it means I need to give myself the grace to accept help from others.

Either way, it requires being real and downright honest about who I am (plain old regular human being Heather) and who I’m not (endowed with superhuman powers of perfection and infallibility).

Maybe more of us need to make that honest confession.

I, ____________________ (insert your name here), am in need of God and in need of grace.  I’m not perfect.  I don’t always have it together.  Sometimes I’m a mess.  I often make mistakes.  But I’m forgiven and God promises to help me do everything He’s called me to do.

That’s the challenge, isn’t it?  To remember Paul’s prayer:

Now may the God of peace…equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen (Hebrews 13:20-21 NIV).

We’re equipped to do His will, not to do everything we volunteer for or everything others ask us to do or every good service and fun event we could pencil onto our calendars.

He gives us everything we need to fulfill the calling He’s given us today and no more than that.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King