9.12.14 The Secret of Strength and Success

Do you ever have days where you feel sucker punched by life? Perhaps you received a medical report that contained bad news. Perhaps you lost your job or received unfair criticism from people you work hard to serve. We all have days when we feel nothing goes right and wonder why. Sometimes it’s not only a day, but feels like we’re in a difficult season of life. What truths does God offer in the Bible to help us internalize our trials in a healthy way?

Photo Courtesy @ IStockPhoto.com/PeskyMonkey

Photo Courtesy @ IStockPhoto.com/PeskyMonkey

When life hits me hard, I lean on my favorite Christian mantra: the Lord is never taken by surprise by our circumstances. He knows our every thought, our every step, and the number of hairs on our head at all times. We are never out of His sight! When my day feels like it’s unraveling or a relationship feels challenged, I find comfort that God is not surprised. Like you, I want to understand why God allows adversity to happen. What good can come from it? The Bible offers multiple possibilities. Here are a few that give me peace in the midst of life’s storms.

God allows difficult circumstances in our lives for a benevolent reason. We read in Romans, “all things work for good of those who love the Lord and who are called according to His purposes.” (Rom 8:28) I believe that whatever He allows into our lives comes with a sacred intention. If we accept that trials come with a divine purpose, then we can embrace that “God is for us, not against us.” (Rom 8:31) We can rest in His double-barreled promise found in Jeremiah 29:11-12, “For I know the plans that I have for you. They are plans to prosper you, not harm you, but to give you a hope and a future.”

Every Sunday evening I listen to Andy Stanley’s sermon online. Recently, he taught another paradigm that can help us process difficult situations in a healthy way. He shared that adversity comes with a purpose and a promise. The text Andy used was from 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Paul experienced a “thorn in his flesh,” which many theologians believe was a recurring physical affliction. Paul pleaded with God three times to remove it, but God did not. How did Paul internalize the torment he was feeling?

First, he recognized God’s purpose in his adversity: God wanted to keep Paul from becoming conceited (2 Cor 12:7). Isn’t it true that pride can stunt our spiritual growth? It’s the one sin that can take root in our hearts without us realizing it. God doesn’t receive glory when we’re caught up in ourselves. As long as we are something, God cannot be all.

Second, he recognized that adversity comes with a promise: God told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Once Paul understood this, he couldn’t wait to “boast all the more gladly about his weaknesses.” Paul said, “For Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, and in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:10)

As much as Paul’s writing inspires me, it’s hard to delight in hardship! As soon as we feel the “thorn,” we ask God to remove it. If God were to publish the number of times I’ve prayed for Him to remove pain in my life, you would read a thick catalog! We prefer to conquer our weakness and be freed from it, but God wants us to rest and rejoice in it. We think our weaknesses will hinder us in our life and service to God, but God tells us that weakness is the secret of strength and success. God promises that His power will rest on us and “be made perfect in us.” (2 Cor 12:9)

When adversity strikes, let’s remember a few truths to help us internalize it:

• The Lord is never taken by surprise by our circumstances.

• All adversity has a sacred intention.

• God allows adversity to keep us from becoming conceited.

• God’s power in our weaknesses is the secret of our strength and success.

Do you have a favorite Bible passage or two that helps you internalize the adversities you experience?


Lee Ann

8.8.14 Where to Look for Strength When You Feel Weak

Saturday evening, 8:30 p.m. I was exhausted from an unusually hard week. My body ached for sleep, but going to bed wasn’t an option. I was without a lesson plan for my Sunday school class the following morning. I love to teach and believe that anyone who shows up to learn God’s Word deserves a well-prepared instructor. Where would I find the strength to put a lesson together?

Photo Courtesy @IstockPhoto.com/andipantz

Photo Courtesy @IstockPhoto.com/andipantz

Frustrated, I prayed. “Lord, you know my predicament, and you know I lack energy to finish the lesson. You know I have given my family top priority during a difficult stretch this week. I have not wasted time. You tell me that ‘your grace is sufficient for me, for your power is made perfect in my weakness.’ (2 Cor 12:9) Everyone who comes to class deserves to hear a good lesson. Please give me your thoughts, and I’ll take dictation. Lord, I hope you will help me get this done by no later than 10pm. I am so fried.”

I was preparing a lesson on Exodus 13 when I felt Him redirecting my attention to key verbs describing the ways God wanted to be loved by the Israelites: honor, consecrate, commemorate, observe, give, and redeem, verbs associated with dedicating the firstborn of every womb. God was defining how He wanted to be celebrated and remembered in honorable ways. Then “out of nowhere,” Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s treasured poem, How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways, popped into my head. God was showing up! He gave me a fun opening to engage the class, and the lesson came together now that I had my compass. The Lord not only gave me the lesson plan, but He supplied me with the physical and emotional energy to finish the lesson. I knew the lesson contained the message He wanted me to communicate. I felt His strength in my weakness.

It wasn’t a surprise that He answered my prayer. I am blessed to have a Prayer Ministry team who meets with me weekly to pray over my teaching ministries. We pray in faith that the Lord will lead me to His topic of choice and that I will stay out of His way as I become a messenger for the Holy Spirit. We ask Him weekly that I won’t build lessons in my own strength or knowledge. Jesus says in John 15:5, “I am the vine and you are the branches. Apart from me, you can do nothing.” Why would I want to build a lesson apart from Him?! He already has the lesson plan, and I need to be quiet enough to hear Him speak.

I went to bed at 10 p.m. feeling satisfied that the Lord had spoken and made His power perfect in my weakness. I had no problem falling asleep! The class was absorbed by the lesson, still talking about it the following week. They loved connecting God’s love language with Browning’s poem. All I could say to them was, “It wasn’t me who thought of it. I can only give glory to God. If you only knew how my week had gone, you would be in awe of Him too.”

As I reflect on this experience, I am reminded that when we are at the end of ourselves, we are exactly where God wants us to be. When we recognize that we are completely dependent on Him for our needs, He has room to perfect His power in our weakness. When we think we can do things ourselves because of our training and abilities, we become vulnerable to pride. I am thankful for His reminder that He wants us to seek Him with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength in all matters – whether we think we need God or not!

Our best results are God’s results shining through our weaknesses. I want to encourage you to own your weaknesses and invite Him to display His power in them more often.


Lee Ann