Daily Archives: October 5, 2010

Strong-armed Weakness (A guest post by Hilary Isaac)

This is a guest post by Hilary Isaac, who happens to be one of the brightest people I know. By that, I mean two things: 1) she is super smart, and 2) she is simply radiant. She has a wonderful way with words–not only is she great on talk radio, but she is a deep and thought-provoking writer as well. For this post, she wrote a piece that is perfect for a Thinking Tuesday. :) If you ever feel weak (it’s a familiar feeling for me!), this one’s for you:

Strong-armed Weakness
by Hilary Isaac

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

It’s so easy to quote that whenever we feel inadequate, insufficient and unqualified; as though by merely quoting the passage itself will cause such an earth-shaking power to come over you. Sure, the glory of our Lord will break and go beyond any Richter scale, but it’s not as if we go through a Hollywood B-movie acting type of convulsing whenever the Holy Spirit’s power comes upon us. Gosh. This topic on weakness is so apropos that I don’t know where to begin.

The previous months have been an uphill-downhill-uphill again kind of journey. I think you’d be able to relate. But in the recent weeks I was skimming over the whitewash of life with a new zest, a spring in my steps—I was on a natural high. I felt so filled by the Spirit that I was about to burst in fresh fruit flavor! I felt unstoppable as I rested in the shadow of His wings. But you know, while the supernatural highs are great, we cannot expect to be riding that wave consistently for long. Our lives consist of ups and downs and the major difference our lives have from the lives of those who don’t have a relationship with Jesus, is that we can go celebrate the “ups” with a grateful heart, while enduring the “downs” with a peace and joy knowing Christ will see us through. So as predicted, the enemy who relentlessly is on the prowl to steal our hope, kill our dreams and destroy our faith lies in wait, lurking in the shrubs and bushes of unpredictability. Sometimes his attacks are obvious, other times it’s subtle and slick. Usually, it’s the subtle and slick that get us.

I’ve been battling with my mind and heart about my own self-worth. To begin with, I know that the only thing makes me worthy is the truth that God loves me. Nothing in and of myself is capable of good apart from God. I know that Christ died for my sins both past and future. But how come I still feel unworthy? Why do I feel inadequate? In the wake of my sins, why does the weight of my error seem greater than the weight of His glory? It’s because I choose to deny my weakness. Sure, in my mind I know I’m a weak and fallen human being. But there is a trace of pride that tries to fool me into thinking that a self-pity party and a deep form of penance will atone for my sins better than what’s already been done on the cross.

I try to pray a little longer, read a little further into the Bible, and quiet myself a little more. While these acts are all good tools to deepen a relationship with Jesus, they are also all nullified by the wrong motives: a motive that attempts to atone for one’s own wrongdoing. You might ask, “Come on Hilary, how can you call it pride when you’re already feeling bad for yourself? You’re always telling yourself you’re not good enough—surely that’s not pride is it?” Well my friend, when your sorrow is an earthly sorrow that causes you to spiral further into a relationship that’s distant from Christ because you’re so overridden with guilt, and then you try to “make up for it” by being good, then that’s pride telling you that your own wavering, fickle and indecisive actions can make up for such a cost. You cheapen the cross and everything it stands for when you fail to understand, realize and live in the truth of what the cross is about: the propitiation of our sins through the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In situations where I feel I have sinned greatly (well, all sin is the same in God’s eyes, but I guess to us humans, we can’t help but have a certain “ranking” for different sins—but you know what I mean), it is usually followed by a sulking of sorts. I drag my steps, my eyes get droopy, I slump my shoulders and walk defeated. I cry myself to sleep and ask God for even the strength to get out of bed. Yes, I do have a flair for melodrama (remembering King David’s life and picturing his gold, his castle and silken things in my mind just has that effect on me. He he). I forget that this was precisely the weakness that David felt when he was being chastised for his sinful act with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11). We all make mistakes and bad decisions—sometimes we even do them willingly and after we have sinned, we kneel at the cross in shame and guilt that we allowed ourselves to be so weak. But again, this is precisely why we need God. This is the thorn on our side that even Paul himself was not spared from. Our human fallibility makes us need God consistently and frequently.

I know it may sound cliché to many of you to hear someone say that truly to live a righteous life, you must have a strong prayer life. Prayer is a great tool to communicate with God and find out what He wants for you in your life. But it’s only with a renewed mind that our lives can begin to transform. It is only when we understand the true nature of God (that He is loving, caring, just, righteous and able to set us free from sin, forgive us of it and redeem us from all our mistakes) that we can begin to understand His word as well. And when we read that His strength is made perfect in our weakness, we can only begin to understand that this means He will champion you in your situation IF you know His true nature as a sovereign God—one who is in total control of everything and who will not abandon you or change on you (Mal. 3:3) Really I can go on and on but that would be preaching to the choir because I believe in your mind you know that already.

But has that knowledge made the distance from our mind to our heart? In my most recent moment of weakness, I found that the only thing I could do—the best thing really, was to admit my weakness, to own up to my helplessness, cry out to God the very aching of my heart, and just know that as I crumble to pieces, I crumble in the palm of His hands so that when the breaking is done, He is able to piece me back together and cause a new breakthrough in my life. It sounds so emo I know, but really, that’s the kind of intimacy and honesty that God desires from us. That we shouldn’t put on any formalities or pretense when we come to Him for help. He wants us to come as we are: battered, broken and bruised by the disappointments in life and the failure of others as well as ourselves. The first step to gaining strength in weakness lies in the first step we take in entering His rest.

When you’re feeling condemned and weighed down by your sins and shortcomings, I encourage you to immediately have a heart-cry about it to God. Don’t waste your time sulking and moping and telling your friends about it just yet. Our initial response to failure, weakness and disappointment must be to run to God and get on our knees about it—only He can sort us out. When we have prayed and read His word and sought Him about our situation, another helpful thing to do is to call your support system or accountability partner/s. Get together with your small group or your mentor and seek counsel. Don’t give up on meeting and fellowshipping with our brethren in Christ because it is through those relationships that we are covered in a mantle of prayer. Don’t let the weight of your sin chain you to slavery, instead let the weight of His glory and unfailing love rescue you from the pit of despair and raise you up again.

If the Creator of the universe Himself is validating you, no condemnation on earth can overturn that.

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Hilary Isaac is an events host, preschool teacher and a radio DJ on Jam 88.3. She has a blog called From the Swingset where she writes with a biting honesty about the triumphs and travails of her life. Visit her blog at http://hilaryisaac.wordpress.com/