I have just had a couple of extremely challenging weeks.
Between the seven college courses I take, the one I teach, the young-adult Sunday School class I co-teach, and all the writing I do for academic and professional publications, I averaged about four to five hours of sleep per night for two weeks. Thankfully, I am in spring break just now, and have time to catch up–on sleep, on classwork, family, relationships, church, and peace of mind. It is hard trying to accomplish everything I am doing, but nothing worth doing is ever easy, is it?
Indeed, we require challenges in order to grow our spirits and our characters. Without challenges, we stagnate. Thankfully, God provides a way that we can get through hard times – and benefit from them.
“For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
This is my mantra. The moment I realize I’m faltering under a heavy load, I speak these words. Instantly, I can feel God’s strength pour into my body, energizing my muscles and sharpening my mind. I speak it when studies threaten to overwhelm me, when tasks overload the amount of time I have in which to physically complete them. I use it in the gym and on bicycle rides and hikes when I am in danger of giving up before I reach my goal.
There was a day, though, during the past two weeks when I forgot completely about relying on God’s strength to help me.
During that day, I felt discouraged all day long. I wondered what on earth I was thinking trying to become a writer. I wondered what made me think I was good enough for higher mathematics. I compared myself to everyone around me and found myself lacking. The lowest point of that day was when I got into a heated debate with a classmate over the state of K-12 mathematics education. The debate itself was fine – the livelier the better, where debates are concerned – but I felt out of control, loud, and overly emotional. When another classmate interrupted with a calm and reasoned voice, I thought, ‘why can’t I be like him?’ Then I thought, ‘well, here I am halfway into Lent and I have completely failed to be the light of Jesus in the world. I am nothing like God wants me to be.’
Later that night I met my boyfriend, Bill, for an ornithological society meeting. As we were walking from the meeting under a velvet-black night sky, holding hands, I shared my discouragement with him. He put his arm around me and reminded me that I had God in my court. After the hundreds of times I’ve recited my mantra, he repeated my own words right back at me. I realized with joy that I had completely forgotten about relying on God, that my discouragement was not something that even belonged to me; feelings of failure belong to the fallen world, not to the kingdom of God. I said the scripture out loud, “for when I am weak, then I am strong.” Immediately, I felt God’s presence.
God helped me get through the rest of the days leading up to spring break, though there were plenty of times that I just wanted to run away and cry. He also helped me to be candid with my friends and classmates. There were several times during those weeks when, rather than hold my tongue as I would normally do, I shared my frustrations with others. They told me how much it helped them for me to vocalize exactly what they were feeling. With joy, I received another deep insight from that experience; God wants us to share our frustrations with one another. When Christians are open about their own difficulties and frustrations with being Christian in the world, it benefits both the one sharing and the one hearing. When I shared my frustrations with Bill, he helped get me back on the right track. When I shared with my classmates, it helped them to know that someone else was feeling the same pressures that they were.
I fully believe in honesty now, and intend to practice it in everything from now on, with a spirit of servitude and love. With God involved, only good will be accomplished. Of that, I have certain faith.
God’s word reveals its depths to us when we reflect upon how scripture intersects with our daily lives. Another interesting thought emerged, in fact, from my two challenging weeks; “Thou shalt not lie” takes on a new meaning with regard to candor. We know that direct lies are bad news. But lies of omission can be made indirectly as well – when we fail to share openly with one another. I will enjoy exploring that thought further over time. And sharing my explorations, of course, with you, dear readers and friends.
God Bless you all in your joys and in your challenges. May you find opportunities to share both with those around you.