The gift of weakness – His strength is enough

“The gift of weakness is that it leads us to the only strong one.  And his strength is enough.  Enough for this day.  Enough for this life.  More than enough, actually.  It is all that we need.”- Ann Swindell

“But he said to me, ‘My strength is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest upon me. . . .  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”- 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV)

Ann Swindell concludes Chapter 2 of Still Waiting as she discusses 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.   Ann states the Greek word for weakness in this passage = astheneia.  That Greek word refers to a weakness of the body or of the soul.  However, both meanings connect to a lack of strength.  Precisely, the definition of astheneia refers to “want of strength.”

As Ms. Swindell notes, body weakness results from physical illness, or frailty.  But weakness of the soul consists of the inability to:

  • understand something
  • restrain oneself from doing something wrong
  • carry burdens and trials
  • do anything glorious or great

Furthermore, the author observes, God isn’t deaf or ignoring you.  He hears every single one of your prayers.  The question: Do you have ears to hear what Jesus wants to say to you?  Therefore, Ann asks, what if Jesus:

  1. told you that your weakness doesn’t discuss or repel him in the same way that weakness disgusts you?
  2. asked you to enter into your weakness rather than run away from it?
  3. told you His strength is greater than any strength you can access in yourself?
  4. informs you that He’s not only the bridge but the other side itself?

In conclusion, Ms. Swindell states, God uses our weaknesses to lead us into a place of waiting where we’re solely dependent on Him.

Today’s question: How has the gift of weakness show you that God’s strength is enough?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “We spend ourselves on what we value the most”

The road of weakness leads straight into waiting

“The road of weakness, it turns out, leads straight into waiting.  It’s a painful place to be.  It’s one we’d never choose on our own.”- Ann Swindell

As Ann Swindell continues Chapter 2 of Still Waiting, she confesses she had to stop trying to make herself better.  Rather, she needed to wait.  Or, as she states more honestly, she was forced to wait.  Thus, Ann learned to wait for Someone stronger than herself to move on her behalf.

In other words, weakness makes us stop, forcing us to wait for Someone bigger than us to fix what’s broken.  Or to right a wrong.  Yet, on days where weakness dominates our thoughts, we often wonder what happened to God.  As a result, our wonder reveals a disconnect between our cognitive knowledge of God’s goodness and strength and our experiential reality.

However, Ann observes, God seems to embrace – even value – weakness.  In fact, the author adds:

” . . . in Jesus we see the valuing of our frailty — of our flesh — with heavenly fervor.  He became human.  He didn’t step into our flesh the way someone puts on a business suit, as something he could take off at the end of the day.  Instead, the God of the universe  . . . became embodied. . . .  He knew hunger and thirst (see Matthew 4:1-4), perhaps one of the ultimate signs of our weakness and dependence on things outside of our control.  And he did not despise our flesh.”

Therefore, Jesus entered into our weakness, rather than seeing it as something to avoid.  In contrast, Ann notes, we tend to look at weakness as something that slows us down or holds us back.  Unlike God, we equate weakness with evil.

Today’s question: What Scriptures lead you away from the road of weakness?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the annotated bibliography of I’d Like You More If You Were More Like Me

Coming to know weakness in a broken world

“As humans who live in a broken world, we come to know weakness in the same way we come to know a new scar on our flesh; what is at first unfamiliar and new eventually becomes normal, consistent, even expected.”- Ann Swindell

In Chapter 2 (“When Waiting Makes You Weak”) of Still Waiting, Ann Swindell cites C. S. Lewis.  As C. S. Lewis wrote in his essay “The Weight of
Glory,” a child experiences deep satisfaction in pleasing his/her father.  Similarly, Lewis states, it’s the end delight of the redeemed soul to please “Him who she was delighted to please.”

However, when we come to know weakness, we can’t muscle our way through it , get tougher on ourselves, or try harder.  Therefore, we fail when we see weakness as an obstacle to get around, push through, or ignore.

Furthermore, like Ann, we may feel a disconnect between what we know or learn about Jesus and the adversity or weakness we encounter every day.  As Ms. Swindell observes, the weaknesses still present in her life tend to be less clear-cut than those of her teen years.  Yet, they’re more potent.
Therefore, she still tries to hide or ignore them.  Neither option works very well.

Thus, we can’t wriggle our way out of our brokenness, our weakness.  And ignoring it doesn’t magically make it go away.

In conclusion, Ann states that all of us – from the oldest person alive to a baby drawing its first breath – know weakness.  Of course, we know weakness in various gradations.  But, whether we come to experience physical, familial, or emotional, it catches us unaware.  Weakness sends us groping in the dark.  Coming to know weakness starts forcing us to the edge of ourselves.

Today’s question: How has coming to know weakness in a broken world brought you to the edge of yourself?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The road of weakness leads straight into waiting”

Brokenness – more normal than foreign

“All of us live with brokenness in our lives.  To varying degrees and in various ways, brokenness is more normal than foreign in the human experience.”- Ann Swindell

in Chapter 1 (“When Waiting Makes You Broken”) of Still Waiting, Ann Swindell states she began to clearly understand brokenness at the age of eleven.  Up until that point, Ann considered herself a “good girl.”  A rule-follower by nature, the author notes she came from a long line of rule followers.   Thus, Ann felt a sense of internal control.

However, at age eleven, Ms. Swindell received a challenging diagnosis: trichotillomania.  The American Journal of Psychiatry defines the condition as “a poorly understood disorder characterized by repetitive hair pulling that leads to noticeable hair loss, distress, and social or functional impairment.”  For Ann, “trich” manifested itself through pulling out her eyebrows and eye lashes.

As a result, Ann first experienced the emotion of knowing her own brokenness.  In addition, for the first time she felt helpless to change her brokenness.

Whether small or overwhelming, we all know that feeling.  And sometimes it seems too much to bear.  As the author astutely observes, “we wait because we are broken and we are broken because we are waiting.”

Also, waiting hardly presents as a calm and even business.  Ann explains:

  1. We wait because we are broken.  The Bible declares what we know in our bones.  It describes all creation as tattered, destroyed, and torn.  Yet, until God comes and makes all things new, we wait in the brokenness.  We wait to receive from God what we can’t secure on our own.
  2. We are broken because we’re waiting.  God could end our waiting at any point.  Until then, we wait.  We put our trust in a God who saves, who promises to come through.  And yet, Ann stresses, God’s prolonging = a kindness.  It reveals His patience.
  3. We know the defeat of broken waiting.  As Ann poignantly writes, “we all know the hollow truth of brokenness, of feeling defeated, of seeing ourselves as failures.”

Today’s question: How do you reconcile that brokenness is more normal than foreign?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the annotated bibliography of I’d Like You More If You Were More Like Me

Tomorrow’s blog: “Coming to know weakness in a broken world”

God’s people – a waiting people

“God’s people are often called to be a waiting people — not because he is unkind or unloving, but rather the exact opposite.  God’s people are a waiting people because he is an on-time God, not an on-demand one.”- Jess Connolly, Foreword to Still Waiting by Ann Swindell

“There was a woman who had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.  She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him and touched his garment.”- Mark 5:25-27

In the Author’s Note to Still Waiting: Hope for When God Doesn’t Give You What You Want, Ann Swindell states her ultimate desire for this book.  Ms. Swindell desires that the story of the Bleeding Woman (Matthew 9:20-23, Mark 5: 25-33, and Luke 8:43-48), combined with her own journey, points the reader to the truth and goodness of Christ Jesus.

Furthermore, in the Introduction (“A Woman Acquainted with Waiting”), Ann wants to uncover:

  • what the Bleeding Woman’s story reveals about the character of Christ
  • how Christ draws near to the hurting

Most noteworthy, the woman’s story involves a story of waiting.  Similarly, at some point in your life, you’ll find yourself waiting for something.  Like the author, you may ask these questions:

  1. Will Jesus give me what I’m seeking?
  2. As my waiting stretches on, will I still love Jesus, no matter what?
  3. Will I still trust Jesus?

However, in the middle of her questions, prayers, and confusion, Ann discovered that:

“I found myself waiting for a God I couldn’t always make sense of or understand.  But I met him in the waiting.  And for me, that changed everything.”

Today’s question: How has your life grown as part of a waiting people?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: Brokenness – more normal than foreign”

The worst kind of waiting there is

“But really the worst kind of waiting there is comes when you or I have to wait on God.”- Dr. Tony Evans

“How long, O LORD, will I call for help, and You will not hear.”- Habakkuk 1:2 (NASB)

In Chapter 15 (“The Patience of Detours”) of Detours , Dr. Tony Evans states that, although patience is a virtue, we find it difficult to come by.  Yet, while all kinds of earthly waiting inconvenience us, the worst kind of waiting comes when we wait on God.

Dr. Evans describes what happens when, despite our prayers and worship, nothing seems to change.  We still feel empty and stuck.  Thus, Tony gives voice to our feelings:

“Sometimes it seems that God takes so long that you can begin to wonder if believing in Him is even reasonable.  You begin to wonder if it’s even worth the effort.  What’s the upside to this thing called faith, God? . . . After a while you begin to feel that the relationship is too one-sided.  Then, when things get even worse, you may even consider pulling back.  Withholding worship, prayer, devotion — because it just doesn’t make sense anymore.”

As a result, we cry out to the Lord like Habakkuk.  However, over and over again, the Bible instructs us to wait on the Lord:

“I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope.  My soul waits for the LORD more than the watchmen watch for the morning.  Indeed, more than the watchmen watch for the morning.”- Psalm 130:5-6 (NASB)

In conclusion, to dissipate doubt and dissolve despair, Dr. Evans states that we need to wait with:

  • anticipation
  • hope
  • longing
  • expectation
  • desire
  • faith and obedience

Today’s question: For you, what defines the worst kind of waiting?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Learning to wait well- living as a child of God”

Our impossible situations

“God never asks us to figure out a solution to our impossible situations.  Instead, he calls us to trust him.”- Dr. Wayne Stiles

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God.  For all things are possible with God.”- Mark 10:27 (ESV)

Dr. Wayne Stiles concludes Chapter 8 of Waiting on God by affirming that we find impossible situations frustrating.  On the other hand, Wayne states, “God intends those unreasonable and often unbearable circumstances to encourage us to the next round. . . . We connect what we learn about God’s faithfulness in one area of life to all other areas of life.”

Therefore, if we consistently flee from the pain faithfulness demands of us, we won’t experience the joy of God’s power.  As Wayne emphasizes, “God’s miracles require impossible contexts.”  Furthermore, a lengthy period of waiting and faithfulness witnesses that only God provides blessings, success, and goodness in our lives.

As Jacob journeyed to Egypt with his sons to reunite with Joseph, God graciously encouraged Jacob to follow the Lord’s leading.  Dr. Stiles reminds us that those promises remain true for us as well:

“Like Jacob, we receive few specifics from God when he initiates change, but he gives us everything we need to take the next few steps.  His Word, like a lamp, show us only our next few steps.  (Sometimes this means waiting.)  And like Jacob, we have the assurance of God’s presence with us . . .”

Yet, sometimes we don’t even recognize that we’re waiting on God for blessings He alone knows He’ll give us.

Today’s question: During your desert, transformational time after your ministry downsizing or vocation loss, how have you trusted God in yur impossible situations?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Joy only God can give”

Sucker punches to our pride

“Honestly, most of the tests God issues come as sucker punches to our pride followed by a spinning Bruce Lee- style kick to our hypocrisy.”- Wayne

In Chapter 7 (“The Surprising Place Where Waiting Begins”) of Waiting on God, Dr. Wayne Stiles summarizes our daily walk with God.  Dr. Stiles writes:

“Our daily walk with God includes a whole lot of waiting on him.  It always will.  A life of faith, hope, and love requires a life of waiting.  But it never began there.  It began [at Creation] with God waiting on us.”

Therefore, God takes the initiative in our lives.  Then, He waits for our response.  Throughout the process of this divine exchange, we grow.  However, God’s initiative in these events gets really uncomfortable when He chooses to test our faith.  Such tests come in two forms- pop quizzes and bigger tests.

We never see a pop quiz coming.  As  a result, it blindsides us.  Having a pop quiz dropped in our laps is like catching a live grenade.  Therefore, we must respond in an instant.

On the other hand, Wayne states,  bigger tests “examine the mettle of our theology and often seem to contradict it.”  These exacting exams go beyond merely exposing our blind spots.  Especially relevant, bigger tests reach those areas we turn a blind eye to.

Consequently, the revelations of pop quizzes and bigger tests humble us.  Furthermore, we’re confronted with the reality that we’re not the person we think we are.  Most noteworthy, Dr. Stiles encourages, neither are we the person God promises to help us become.

Today’s question: What sucker punches to your pride followed your ministry downsizing or vocation loss?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The hard facts of life- a means of God’s grace”

Prosperity’s greatest temptation

“Moses warned his nation (Deuteronomy 6:10-12) of prosperity’s greatest temptation: to forget God, who redeemed them from slavery.”- Wayne Stiles

As Wayne Stiles continues Chapter 6 of Waiting on God, he notes that Joseph made no personal requests when he stood before Pharaoh.  Most noteworthy, Joseph said nothing of the injustices he’d endured.  Furthermore, he asked for no personal favors- like a quick trip home.

In all his years of waiting, Joseph learned to trust God’s timing and God’s ways.  Yet, Joseph’s new-found success provided the basis for another refining test.  Would Joseph give up on his ultimate dream?

Similarly, Wayne observes, abundant prosperity and blessings tempt us to neglect God.  We must be intentional in keeping our focus on God through incremental growth.  Bible study and prayer sink our faith roots deep.

Hence, Dr. Stiles describes how to maintain our walk with God:

” . . . before we know it, we can replace devotion to the Lord with devotion to his blessings. . . . Our walk with God is not an appointment we keep each day- and then move on- like climbing the rungs of a ladder.  Instead, our time with him forms the foundation that supports all we do.  We build on it.  We don’t climb past it.”

Even in success, Joseph remembered God.  Pharaoh gave Joseph a pagan wife, Asenath.  Since Asenath had no effect on Joseph’s faith, Dr. Stiles surmises that Joseph likely affected hers.  Both sons born to them were given Hebrew names.  Both names gave glory to God.

Today’s question: What Scriptures enable you to resist prosperity’s greatest temptation, thereby trusting God’s timing and God’s ways?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Slammed doors”

Tough circumstances

“With very few exceptions, tough circumstances simply reveal the holes in our hearts, not the holes in our lives.”- Dr. Wayne Stiles

In Chapter 4 (“Going Backward, Moving Forward”) of Waiting on God, Wayne Stiles asserts that many people use physical or material substitutes as sedatives to a disappointing life not firmly founded on God.  As a result, Dr. Stiles states, “the lure of temptation itches like poison ivy.  It screams for scratching, as if satisfaction can come no other way.”

However, scratching only worsens the itching.  True satisfaction, Wayne notes, comes through allowing God’s process of healing and health to run its course.  Consequently, temporary gratification only intensifies pain.  Therefore, God must be at the center.

During extensive times of waiting, longstanding bouts with temptation offer the greatest temptations to fantasize, as Dr. Stiles describes:

“When expectations about what life ‘ought to be’ go unmet for extended periods of time, our hearts will want to drift . . . to fantasize about how great it would be to live in other ‘ideal’ circumstances.”

Furthermore, Dr. Stiles sees two problems with fantast.  Fantasy:

  1. dwells on lies
  2. is a longing to be out of the will of God

Tough circumstances or situations reveal areas of needed growth.  Our refusal to trust God’s sovereignty creates a much bigger problem than our meager circumstances create.  Wayne cautions against assuming a victim mentality:

“We are not the victims of live we think we are.  we are sinners God has chosen by grace to mold into his image.  Hasn’t the Lord promised to take care of our needs?  And if he chooses to wait to do so, and to cause us to wait to receive them, might he have a reason?”

Obedience provides the antidote for a discontented heart.

Today’s question: Think about your tough circumstances.  How have these circumstances revealed the holes in your heart?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Failure to wait on God”