Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Strength of God

Just about to go off to Aussie for a 2 week holiday. It'll be two weeks until I return. But I thought I’d type this while a big email sends… a thought I’ve been wanting to get down for a while.

I don’t think many Christians really understand what the Lord’s ‘strength’ is these days, I certainly find it difficult. We think God should give us what we want, give us a good life with no problems and no difficulties, with nothing ever going wrong. (Let’s leave aside the fact that those very problems build in us the character that makes us who we are.)

So many Christians seem to agree with the ‘prayer of Jabez’ doctrine. Pray this, ask for that, God will give you this and that, that so your life will be prosperous and happy. It’s a lovely idea, but is that really how God works? Is that how He wants us to live – without need or want or problem or pain, or persecution?

Real life just isn’t so rosy. What happens when it all seems to fall apart? It does, sometimes. What do you do when God doesn’t seem to have magically fixed all the problems? This happens. I don’t expect life to be problem free – in fact, I expect problems. I count myself blessed in the midst of my woes, because I am blessed – with countless things in spite of them.

I don’t think God takes away my problems or the pain they cause; it just doesn’t seem to work like that. But rather, I know He is with me even in those times – in the darkest valley. It doesn’t make the problem any less painful, it doesn’t make it go away, but it gives me the strength to bear it. It gives me strength to know that God loves me, and that one day I will live in a new body and my current problems will be over.

Somehow, the very fact of God Himself being with me under my problems is incredibly powerful. In fact, I think that’s the way God shows Himself to be the most powerful – that His strength is perfected in our weakness. What is the source of that strength? It is Himself, living in us to walk beside us. It is not that He makes us emotionally blocked from the sometimes painful reality of the world we live in, nor is that He always fixes our problems or gives us the answers we want or the things we’d like. Our strength is God Himself, and He is enough.

Yes, it’s nice for God to bless us with the things we need and ask for, and to be sure He sometimes does. But we are not made stronger by blessing; we instead tend to become complacent and spiritually lazy. It is in adversity that gives us the opportunity to grow stronger, and we find that strength in God-with-us. It is that strength that fills us with praise and worship for God when things are going well for us.

Even if nothing seemed to go right, and God seemed to never do anything for me, I would still be committed to Him because I know He loves me. I may be in the darkest tunnel – but the Light of God at the end of the tunnel draws me on, and instils in me the strength to carry on. It is not physical strength, but strength of spirit. It is the strength that says, I came into this world with nothing, and I will leave this world with nothing, but I will dwell in the house of God forever.


Katherine said...

:) You beat me to it - I was about to do a post about prayer and its purpose, and what we can 'expect' of God in this regard, but you've covered much of what I was going to say.

I'm not so sure that Christians in general do think God will solve all their problems or give them an easy life - at least not in theory. The Prayer of Jabez thing, as I understood it, was mostly about asking God to bless us so that we could be a blessing to others, asking Him to use us, that sort of thing. The author of the book (I forget his name) had to go to great lengths, in the chapter about asking for blessing for oneself, to try to convince his readers that it was okay to ask that (which I assume it is - to ask, at least), from which I gather that people tend to feel a bit naughty asking for things for themselves. Possibly non-Christians think we think God is there to solve our problems, but it doesn't take long once you're in the game to figure out that's not how it works.

But yeah, the old pain problem. One of the beautiful things about being in communion with God is that, though we may not be able to make the pain go away entirely, we are given the means to deprive it of its power. Evil has a way of circulating - when people don't know how to deal with the pain in their lives, they tend to end up passing it on to others, either through intentional revenge or just because the capacity to love just withers away and there is nothing but bitterness left in them to give. But in God we are able to take evil out of circulation - to make it stop with us by channeling it towards Him. We cast our cares on Him, receiving love in their place, and then we have the strength to give out love towards others. That's why forgiveness is so powerful.

But I fear I've gone on a tangent again, as is my wont. Thanks for another excellent post. Have a good break :)

Nathan said...

Heh - it appears people are thinking along similar lines.

Yay for the prayer of Jabez - Nothing like a verse without context. I think the key point that is often overlooked was the second bit of Jabez's prayer, showing that he didn't want blessings just for himself, but for the benifit of others. Which is ultimately what our giftings are for.

have a fun time in aussie!

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