“…who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight” (Heb. 11:33-34, ESV).
On Easter Sunday, before church, I was thinking about how weak I feel in myself. Early in my walk with the Lord, it would’ve mostly been lip service for me to say something like this. I would’ve talked about my need for the Lord while honestly feeling strong in myself.
A lot has changed since then; feeling capable and confident is more the exception for me than the rule. So when I talk about feeling weak, I really mean a halting limp in my psychology that is sometimes better, sometimes worse, but always there.
That said, God is still God, and I turn to Him in the midst of feeling weak. As I did that Sunday morning, God brought to mind part of the verse from Hebrews quoted above: were made strong out of weakness.
As a younger Christian, when feeling strong was important, I heard verses like these as a promise that God would remove my weaknesses. I imagined God would move to make me capable or smart or powerful in a situation. Basically, I imagined God would remove whatever barrier was presented by my own limitations. I suppose that’s possible, but it is not what I have leaned on for a long time now; it’s also not what I believe the Bible teaches, broadly speaking.
When I hear verses like Hebrews 11:34 now, I hear that God’s strength is rooted in weakness, and flowers from there. My weaknesses aren’t going away, and I don’t believe God is going to take them all. I do believe newness and life will spring up from them.
This is a paradigm based in scripture, based in Christ’s death and resurrection. Regarding resurrection, Paul tells us we are “sown in weakness, raised in power” (1 Cor. 15:42-44). In 2 Corinthians, Paul tells us he boasts more gladly about his weaknesses that Christ’s power might reside in him (2 Cor. 12:9).
This is a paradigm shift the Lord began in me about 10 years ago yet my mind is still being renewed to it. One thing that’s hard is not living by how I feel. When I consider my resources for doing this or that, I assess my capabilities, my confidence. It’s still disorienting to feel empty, ill-equipped, incompetent, etc. and to trust in strength I don’t feel, strength that really is not me but is Christ. That said, it is out from empty tombs that the risen Christ comes.
This Easter season, I pray we will know Jesus more deeply as our risen life, the one whose strength shoots up from our weakness, not the one who takes all our weaknesses away. Jesus truly is enough. Feelings of strength add nothing to His real strength within. Happy Easter