“I feel like I’m in a pinball machine,” Trevor told me. I felt like I was in a pressure cooker.
A few weeks before, Trevor’s sister had told him about an amazing opportunity with her company. Trevor has lived in Syracuse his whole life; I remember him telling me when we were dating that he had no plans of ever moving.
Still, I encouraged him to interview for the position. A former elder from Missio is co-leading a church in that city, so we would have a place to plug into. Plus, the job would provide a substantial pay increase and growth opportunity for Trevor’s career. “What do you have to lose?” I asked. And so he dusted off his suit and traveled to the interview.
Weeks passed, and we thought that was that . . . until he received the job offer. We had just one week to decide.
Should We Stay or Should We Go?
We were torn down the middle; we both believed we could say yes or no in good conscience. We could glorify God and be devoted to good works in either place. Neither decision was sinful. “It’s not even that one decision would be wiser than another,” one of our elders remarked.
We prayed, we searched Zillow.com, we talked, and we both completed an exercise of best and worst-case scenarios if we did or didn’t go. We also sought counsel. A couple helpful pieces of advice/questions we received:
The burden of proof lies with the new place. It’s up to them to convince you that it’s worth all you’d be giving up. If you are divided right down the middle, it doesn’t sound like there’s enough there for you to say yes.
Who do you want to do life and ministry with?
“I want you to weigh in,” Trevor told me more than once. It was a good opportunity for me to learn not just to dutifully say, “I will go wherever you go,” but to really engage my mind and heart in deciding along with him what would be best for our family.
As Trevor processed the potential move, he said more than once, “I feel like I’m missing an opportunity if I don’t take it, but leaving family and friends . . . I just don’t know that I can put a number to that.”
The night before he had to give his answer, we sat across the table from each other. “On the count of three,” he said, “show by thumbs up or thumbs down if you want to move. One, two, three.” And both our thumbs pointed down.
Syracuse, We Choose You . . . Again
We felt relief, but also a mixture of sadness the next day. It would have been an adventure, for sure. But there’s something about suddenly being given an opportunity to start over somewhere that shows you just how much you have right where you are.
God has blessed us big time, and unknowingly, we had begun to take this place and these people for granted. But thanks to this difficult decision process, we are recommitting to this place. Syracuse—among the top ten most poverty-stricken cities in the U.S.—is where we want to be a part of giving every man, woman, and child repeated opportunities to see, hear, and respond to the gospel. And the people at Missio church are the ones we want to do this alongside of.
In a world full of pressure to climb up, up, up, I am so grateful for a man who is committed to this cold, needy place. Syracuse, we happily choose you. Again.
How about you? Are you fully engaged where you live, or have you grown lax? Are you taking your influence on the people around you for granted?
In the words of Jim Elliot, “Wherever you are, be all there.”
PS: Through this process, we prayed that God would keep or move us to the place He knew would be most strategic for His kingdom advancement. That appears to be Syracuse. When you think of us, please pray for increased boldness and gospel-success in our neighborhood and city. Thanks so much!
“The Christian life is simple. Love God, love people, and repent and believe the gospel when you fail.”
This sentence has lodged in my gut and changed my days—possibly even my life—since I heard it.
The Christian Life Made Simple
A pastor spoke these words simply as I sat in a circle of complete strangers (you can read that story here). But that’s not the point of this post.
What I want to communicate is that this truth has been changing my thoughts and actions since I heard them. And I think they’ll do the same for you.
See, for years I’ve scurried around trying to chip away at my to-do list. But just when I’d eliminate one task, three more would pop up.
So I’ve lived with the mentality that “after my work is done, I’ll rest.” (All that did was result in a giant physical and emotional crash several years ago.) But recently God has used other means—as well as this one, simple sentence—to calm my anxious heart and change my whole approach to the Christian life.
Instead of hitting the ground running each morning in an effort to tame my beastly to-do list, I’ve realized that my task for each day is simple: Love God, love people, and repent and believe the gospel when I fail.
Then, I’d love to hear from you. How does this simple summary of the Christian life focus and/or redirect your hectic life? Do you need to repent of not loving God and others and believe the gospel—that in Christ you are forgiven? What can you do today to cooperate with the Spirit in you in loving God and others?
This post from the archives has been freshly updated and expanded with my three main tips for those who want to write a book. Enjoy!
I often hear from aspiring writers asking for tips on how to make their dream of becoming a published author come true. Here are three steps I recommend for those whose eyes are set on a writing career.
Explore Your Motivation to Write
Why do you want to write? Why do you want to publish a book? Motivation matters—big time.
In 1 Samuel, we see the Israelites demanding the prophet Samuel to appoint them a king. There was nothing technically wrong with wanting a king (see Deuteronomy 17:14–20 for proof). The problem was why they wanted a king. Here it is, straight from their mouths:
“There shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles” (1 Sam. 8:19–20, emphasis added).
God had a flawless record in fighting their battles for them, but they wanted a king who looked and acted like the kings of the nations around them. This was a direct rejection of God:
And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them” (v. 7, emphasis added).
God gave His people the king they wanted, but He warned them through Samuel that the day would come when they would cry out to God for relief from their king. On that day, God would not answer them (see vv. 10–18).
Motivation matters to God. And it should matter to us.
I’d encourage you to take some time to journal through these questions. Ask God to search your heart. Why do I want to become a well-known writer? Why do I want to publish a book? If you find less-than-lovely motives (or more like when you find less-than-lovely motives), confess them to God. Ask Him to cleanse you from sinful desires and to replace your ungodly motives with pure ones.
Write Like You Mean It
If you want to become a writer, you have to write. And write. And write. Dreaming won’t put words on the page.
If you’re anything like me, it’ll take you awhile to figure out what routine fits you. Try different options until you’ve figured out what works best in this season of life.
Are you an early riser . . . or could you be? Wake with the roosters, and write at a set time each morning.
Do you need a good amount of time to “get into the zone”? Maybe an extended Saturday date at Barnes & Noble would be just your thing. Consider inviting a friend along for accountability and an occasional laugh.
Warning: This will feel like work. Hard work. Because it is. This is why it’s important to know why you’re writing (back to that motivation thing). You’ll need a solid reason to sit down at your laptop again when others are out enjoying the sunshine with friends.
Don’t always choose writing over time with friends, though. You’ll need to read diversely and live well so you actually have deep thoughts to ponder, adventures to write about, questions to answer.
Once you’re into a rhythm of writing regularly, you might want to think about starting a blog (I recommend WordPress), so you can begin to grow an audience and so others can benefit from your words.
Once you’ve mastered the discipline of writing regularly, there’s one more thing to do.
Something Your Profs Won’t Tell You
Bestselling author Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth (author of nearly twenty books, with more than three million copies sold worldwide) never set out to become an author. She was approached by a publisher for her first book when she wasn’t well known. When I first heard that, I thought, Well, that worked for you, but then . . . you’reNancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. You’re special!
But then, miracle of miracles, it happened for me, too. Unbeknownst to me, a publisher had been reading my blog, and then they approached me about writing a book. Professors never even tell you that’s a possibility when you’re sitting in Writing 101! They spend all their time warning you that you’ll have to submit countless query letters and will receive scores of rejection letters.
There’s nothing wrong with sending query letters, but I think those writing profs would do well to also remind hopeful students that they live under God’s providence. While we were still unformed, God wrote in one of His books every day that was formed for us (Ps. 139:16). This same God opens doors no one can shut and shuts doors no one can open (Rev. 3:7).
Wait on God
One of the twelve “Cutting-Edge Commitments” of Life Action Ministries (the parent ministry of Revive Our Hearts where I’ve worked for the past eleven years) is faithfulness. They say it like this:
God has not called us to be “successful,” as the world measures success, but to be faithful. It is not our responsibility to promote ourselves or the outward, visible growth of our ministry. If we will take care of the “depth” of our lives, God will take care of the “breadth” of our ministry” (1 Cor. 3:12–14; 4:1–2).
So my counter-cultural advice to you would be rest. Wait. Stay close to Jesus. Be faithful with what God’s entrusted to you, even when it looks like no one is watching, when you don’t know how this could possibly be advancing your own dreams.
Regularly talk to God about your dreams. He will most likely ask you to die to them. But then, He is the resurrection and the life, and I’ve found He will often resurrect dead dreams when you least expect Him to.
How about you? What dream could you begin to work toward today?
As I share in this post to college grads, be patient if it doesn’t happen right away. Trust God and know that He doesn’t waste anything; He is still writing your story. True contentment is found in Him; not in a dream job.
Pursue your dream job (as long as you don’t have to sin to do your job), and trust God to open and close doors in His perfect, infinite wisdom.
I can’t stop talking about it everywhere I go. Tim Challies’ book, Do More Better has revolutionized my life.
It’s a slim little book, which is probably why it’s the first book on productivity I’ve actually read cover to cover. Not only that, it’s such a practical book that I’ve been able to implement most of what I’ve read along the way! And oh, how drastically I needed someone to come alongside me and help me figure out how to change . . .
For years, I left untold emails unanswered. I have also been guilty of failing to return voicemail messages and asking for grace when returning a purchase a few days after the thirty- or sixty- or ninety-day return policy had ended. Piles around the house have remain untouched; great ideas of doing good for others have remained just that . . . ideas.
I have worked frantically, moving from one incomplete project to the next, attempting to keep my world from crashing down around me. As a result, I have not loved people well, I have not enjoyed life, and I have been a slave to work without ever feeling like I was getting anywhere.
This book has and is changing all that, though. When I read the true measure of productivity, I was stunned at its simplicity. I wrote in the margin, Could it really be this simple, God?
What Productivity Really Is
Productivity is not about crossing every task off our to-do list. It is about organizing our lives so that “you can do the maximum good for others and thus bring the maximum glory to God.” Matthew 5:16 summarizes this well:
“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Tim Challies writes, “Your primary pursuit in productivity is not doing more things, but doing more good.”
He then pointed out the “productivity thieves”: laziness and busyness. If you’re like me, you’ve come to normalize and even spiritualize busyness. But Challies puts an end to that with this enlightening paragraph:
Busyness cannot be confused with diligence. It cannot be confused with faithfulness or fruitfulness. Busyness does not mean you are a faithful or fruitful Christian. It only means you are busy, just like everyone else. Busyness . . . probably just means that you are directing too little attention in too many directions, that you are prioritizing all the wrong things, and that your productivity is suffering.
Ouch! But it got worse. He went on to diagnose my condition perfectly. I have been “Busylazy”: I put tasks off until I absolutely can’t avoid them any longer, and then I work like crazy to meet the deadline.
With that foundation, Tim led me through some super practical exercises:
In chapter 3, he showed me how to define my areas of responsibility and then fill in the roles, tasks, or projects that fall under each.
In chapter 4 he encouraged me to define my mission. In his words:
You haven’t begun to live a focused and productive life until you have said no to great opportunities that just do not fit your mission.
In chapter 5 he taught me a basic organization tool: “A home for everything, and like goes with like,” and he recommended a task management tool, a scheduling tool, and an information tool. Because . . .
Appointments always need to go where appointments go, information always needs to go where information goes, and tasks always need to go where tasks go.
In chapters 6–8 he honed in on each of these areas:
collect your tasks
plan your calendar
gather your information.
In chapter 9 he encouraged me to “live the system.” He writes:
Your day needs to have two phases: planning and execution. . . . While planning does not need to take much time, it is very important, and when done right, will dramatically increase what you are able to accomplish throughout the rest of the day.
And then in the final chapter he emphasized the importance of maintaining the system consistently. “Nothing in this world coasts toward order,” he writes. “You need to free yourself from thinking that organizing your life is a one-shot deal.”
Ever since, I’ve scheduled a “daily review” first thing each morning (Tim outlines how to do this in chapter 9), and I’m starting up weekly reviews each Friday as he recommends.
He closed the book with two bonus sections that were perfect for me. The first, “tame your email,” taught me to start at the top of my inbox and take action on each email before moving on to the next:
reply to it
or move it to my reply folder.
And then his final bonus section included twenty tips to increase my productivity. A few I especially appreciated:
Stop multitasking. Whenever possible choose a task, take it to completion, and then move on to the next one.
Move around. Sometimes a change of scenery is as good as time off.
Learn to delegate. What you do poorly someone else may be able to do with excellence.
Don’t send unnecessary email. Send sparingly, and you will receive sparingly.
It’s For Us All
With all this talk of email, you may think this book is just for someone with an 8:30–5 desk job, but it’s not. I believe this book will be revolutionary for the student, the housewife, the women’s ministry leader . . . for you.
That’s why I’m so grateful Tim has agreed to give away three copies. If you think you, too, could use some help thinking about productivity biblically and practically, log on to the giveaway widget over at ReviveOurHearts.com for a chance to win one of three copies of Do More Better.
Do More Better: A Productivity Tool That Could Revolutionize Your Life was originally published on ReviveOurHearts.com.
Congrats! You’ve worked so hard, and now commencement is over. I was cheering big as you walked across the stage, and I’m praying for you as you make this transition out of college. I remember well the conflicting emotions: mourning all the goodbyes, anticipating all the adventures just ahead.
Speaking of adventures just ahead . . . let’s talk about that, because if your experience is anything like mine, reality won’t quite meet your expectations.
Let’s Talk About . . . Your Friends
Your circle of peers is likely going to decrease. Significantly. You’ll no longer have a built-in community to play intramural basketball or to go out with for ice cream.
You’ll need to work to find new friends. You might look right past them at first, because some will be older than you, others younger, and most not much like you at all. And while that might not feel okay, it really is. They have a lot to offer you, and you have a lot to offer them. Befriend newly-married couples. Befriend preteens. Befriend families with kids. Befriend senior citizens.
Let’s Talk About . . . Your Local Church
Where can you find all these new friends? The best place to look is at a local, Christ-centered, Bible-teaching church. Of course, that’s not the only reason you’re attending, but as you spend time with these brothers and sisters in Christ week after week—hopefully in smaller settings throughout the week
as well as in corporate worship on Sundays—you will begin to feel and receive true affection for and from them.
Let’s Talk About . . . Your Relationship with God
It’s not enough to just hear about God. You need to hear from God through His Word.
Attending a local church is important, but it’s not your only connection to God. And while the Christian life is not meant to be an individual affair, it is deeply personal. It’s not enough to just hear about God. You need to hear from God through His Word, as that’s the way He’s chosen to reveal more about
Are you aware of and in tune with His presence as you go about your day?
Are you regularly spending time studying His Word?
Are you talking to Him about everything, as He is your Father, your Counselor, your Lord, and your Shepherd?
Are you praising Him with songs—even if you have a terrible voice or you’re feeling depressed? (That’s the best time to sing, actually!)
Let’s Talk About . . . Your Career
It’s rare that you’ll get your dream job right out of college. Don’t be discouraged if your first job seems . . . beneath you. Mine sure felt like that. But I had a ton to learn about blessing my employer rather than making a name for myself.
Learn, learn, learn. Grow, grow, grow. Give more than you take.
So be patient. It’s not likely that your first job will end up being your lifelong career. Learn, learn, learn. Grow, grow, grow. Give more than you take.
Trust God and know that a) He doesn’t waste anything, b) He is still writing your story, and c) He is where satisfaction is found. True contentment is found in Him, not in a dream job.
Let’s Talk About . . . Your Ultimate Purpose
True happiness and peace come from knowing, enjoying, and seeking to make much of Him, not much of ourselves.
Life is not about us; it’s all about God. They won’t tell you this in your business classes, but that doesn’t make it any less true. We were created by God and for Him. True happiness and peace come from knowing, enjoying, and seeking to make much of Him, not much of ourselves.
I’d love to hear back from you. What are your expectations for friends? Do you plan to commit to a local church? What’s your plan for pursuing God daily? What are your career dreams? And what do you consider to be your ultimate purpose?
A soon-to-be-graduate asked: “I really want a career that not only glorifies God but also gives me financial security. Am I wrong?”
I think the answer depends on two things:
1) her definition of financial security, and
2) her motivation for wanting financial security.
By “financially secure,” does she mean that she will have enough to cover her expenses and bless others in need? Because that’s wise. We know from God’s Word:
It is important to work hard and earn your own living so you won’t be a burden to others.
“We hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living” (2 Thess. 3:11–12).
We are to honor God with our money.
“Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine” (Prov. 3:9–10, emphasis added).
It is good to have enough money to share with others.
“Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, sothat he may have something to share with anyone in need”(Eph. 4:28, emphasis added).
“If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8).
So if by “financially secure,” this girl means she will have enough to cover her expenses and bless others in need, that’s wonderful!
But I don’t know her heart. She could be asking, “Is it wrong to want enough money so I can have a closet full of expensive clothes and drive a fancy convertible into the garage of my luxury home?”
Is she wanting to never have any financial needs that she might have to trust God to meet? If this is the case, God’s Word warns:
Riches are anything but secure; they are uncertain.
“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17).
Riches are deceitful and can choke out God’s Word.
“They . . . hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of richesand the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Mark 4:18–19).
If you trust in riches, it’ll trip you up.
“Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf” (Prov. 11:28, emphasis added).
Trusting in God, who cannot be moved, is so much more secure than trusting in riches that can be stolen or decrease in value.
There are temptations that come with both poverty and riches.
“Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God” (Prov. 30:8–9).
What a great prayer to pray! Will you pray it with me?
“Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me.”
So what does this mean as you search for a career? Ask yourself:
Would this amount of money allow me . . .
To honor God first?
Not to be a burden to others?
The freedom to share with those in need?
If so, it’s enough money.
How about you? How much money do you hope to make in your future career, and what’s your motivation?
This morning a girl wrote me that she’s struggling with “how to know God’s will for my career.” I figure she’s not alone, so I’m sharing my response here in hopes that it will help you, too, as you face this daunting decision.
First, a little history.
We’re living in a super unique time. Choices abound. Schooling, military service, full-time ministry, an apprenticeship, an internship, a job directly out of high school . . . these are just a few of your options.
But it wasn’t always like this.
“During Bible times,” Gary Friesen writes in Decision Making and the Will of God, “sons usually took up the occupations of their fathers . . . daughters became wives. Asking a young Israelite if he had discovered God’s will for his life’s work would probably elicit a blank stare.”
Yet somehow we’ve come to believe that we have to discover God’s specific will for exactly where we work.
I just don’t think it works that way.
Scripture shows that God is not concerned with what career you choose (unless, of course, it’s in direct disobedience to His revealed will in Scripture, such as prostitution) as He is about how you work at your career.
As Gary Friesen shares in his book, your work is to be characterized by:
Must be diligent in your work, with the idea that your ultimate superior is the Lord (Eph. 6:6–8; Col. 3:23).
Must work as hard when no one is watching as you do under direct supervision (Eph. 6:6).
Must regard your employer as worthy of all honor (1 Tim. 6:1) and show respect even to those supervisors
who are unreasonable (1 Peter 2:18).
Must not take advantage of an employer who is also a believer, but rather serve him all the more out of love (1 Tim. 6:2).
So can we tweak the question? Rather than asking “What is God’s will for my career?” can we ask “How can I best serve God through my work?”
Don’t fret when you don’t hear a voice from heaven telling you that you should move to Alaska to work in the fishing industry or that you should enroll in Bible college in Chicago. You have great freedom in choosing your work.
Instead, listen to His clear voice through Scripture and learn how to please Him in the way that you work. How can you best serve God with the gifts He has given you?
I’d love to hear from you. Have you been more focused on finding exactly where God wants you to work, or have you been obeying His moral will regarding how you work? What specific step will you commit to take after reading this post to glorify God in the way that you work?
Trillia: I don’t speak on something I haven’t experienced or researched well. It’s that simple. For example, I won’t speak about raising teenagers because my children are young, but I wouldn’t mind being on a panel with older women who could speak to that topic.
Paula: I ask what the purpose of their event is and if there’s a topic they want me to cover. Then I open my Speaking Engagements folder on my computer to see if there’s anything I’ve already written or taught that I can repurpose. No need to reinvent the wheel!
The Role of Prayer
Trillia: I ask the Lord to fill me with His Spirit and give me wisdom as I read His Word—I don’t want to make things up when I speak. I’d like to truthfully speak from His Word. I ask the Lord to help me be self-forgetful so I can serve well without thinking much about myself. I ask that those who hear have ears to hear what He might have for them, and if there’s anything I say that wouldn’t be helpful, that those words would be tossed from their minds.
Paula: It’s impossible to pray enough! The power of prayer is phenomenal. When I recently spoke in Brazil, there were literally thousands of people praying around the world. I’m convinced the fruit that continues to come out of that week is a direct result. I’d recommend setting up a prayer team. I email mine before and after an event to be sure I have prayer covering.
Trillia: Get someone to listen to you who would be willing to tell you hard things. I have a friend and colleague who regularly critiques my talks. It has been the most helpful thing I’ve done in a long time. He’s a trusted scholar, which definitely helps, but he’s also not afraid to tell me the truth. Finally, he not only wants me to do well; he wants those who hear me to be served. It’s a blessing!
Paula: Consider every opportunity to speak as vital practice and preparation. No opportunity is too small: making an announcement, emceeing a wedding reception, or hosting a small group. See if it can be recorded. Then, when you’re done, ask other great communicators to critique you. It’s scary, but invaluable.
The Three Best Tips We’ve Received
1. Critique yourself.
Even as painful as it is, listen to your talks or watch the videos so you can see and hear what you are saying/doing.
2. Be organized.
Have a clear goal for each message. I wrote my messages out word for word at first, but now after a few years, I can do an outline on some talks.
3. Be yourself.
You can’t be anyone else! Don’t try to mimic someone; be you. Don’t try to be an entertainer. If you’re a teacher—teach.
1. Channel your nervousness.
I will never forget my college speech professor telling our class that everyone gets nervous right before they speak. The key is to channel that nervousness into . . . energy!
2. Keep your priorities straight.
Don’t ever forfeit time with God for ministry.
3. Take your thoughts captive.
Something I’ve learned is to take the thoughts captive that inevitably come: I’m not ready. I’m not adequate. They have the wrong girl. If God brought this speaking engagement my way, He must think I’m the woman for the job. Praise Him; His strength really is made perfect in our weakness!
I read over the talks and pray. I pray a lot. I feel my great need for God while speaking. It’s not like writing where you can edit; once it’s out of your mouth, it’s out there. So I pray. Where words are many, sin is close by. I want to be aware of that.
I also try to chat with those I’ll be speaking with (in the crowd). I want to be their friend, if even for that moment. I like to relate with them so that when I’m up there, it’s clear we are in this together.
I wake up early—even though I never sleep well the night before a speaking engagement—and spend time with God, in spite of the fact that I can barely keep my eyes open.
I arrive earlier than I think I need to be there, and I’ve yet to get there too early! There’s always something unexpected to attend to.
I like to greet women as they come in and get to know them a bit. (Sometimes I’ll change my examples and illustrations on the spot after I learn about women as they come in.)
After I’ve spoken, I thank God. He came through . . . again! Soon after the event, I write my host(ess) a thank-you note and journal about the event. It allows me to process and learn. I also update my prayer team, then try to rest. Easier said than done after all that excitement!
I bet you’ve learned a trick or two from your teaching experiences! What speaking tips can you share?
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies-in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:10–11).
Do you think of yourself as a strong or a weak woman?
Personally, I’ve counted myself a strong one.
I was the girl who ran around flexing her biceps, challenging boys to arm-wrestling matches, and re-arranging my heavy bedroom furniture all by myself.
I was the young woman who had a scheduled activity on her calendar every night of the week. I was the woman who wrote a book on the side while continuing to work full-time. I was the woman who always, always pushed through.
But then last month I had an Isaiah 40:30 fall,
“Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted.”
My doctor said I was strong to have made it as long as I did.
I wasn’t so sure.
God, do You think of me as weak or strong? And how should I think of myself?
Taking Cues from a “Strong” Man and a “Weak” Man
I went to God’s Word for answers, starting with the strongest man I could think of: Samson. You know the beast—tearing a roaring lion to pieces with his bare hands, striking down 1,000 enemies with a donkey’s jawbone, pushing down a house killing 3,000 party-goers.
Here’s the surprising pattern I found. Just before Samson displays great strength, this is what happens just before:
“The Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him” (Judg. 14:6).
“The Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him” (Judg. 14:19).
“The Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him” (Judg. 15:14).
It was always God’s strength Samson displayed; never his own. God is the strong One. Even Samson was weak apart from God.
Then I re-read the familiar story of David and Goliath. Anyone observing the battle scene that day would’ve put their money on the intimidating war champion Goliath, not the young, inexperienced David. Goliath had complete confidence in his strength; David had complete confidence in his living God. And at the end of the short fight, David was the unlikely victor.
I Am Weak, but He Is Strong
Funny how many times I’ve gotten it mixed up. I’ve considered myself strong and believed God to be weak. Nothing could be further from the truth:
“Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable” (Isa. 40:28, emphasis added).
God’s strength will never, ever give out.
Me on the other hand, I’m weak. My strength is finite.
What freedom that realization brings.
Strength comes when we first own up to our own weakness. (That’s ’cause we don’t rely on God when we consider ourselves strong.) But in our weakness, as we depend on our strong God, His strength flows through to us. Catch Paul’s personal testimony of this:
“We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again” (2 Cor. 1:8–10).
And then there’s my favorite passage from this past month,
“He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint” (Isa. 40:29–31).
How is this strength-for-weakness exchange possible?
Strong Made Weak; Weak Made Strong
It’s all because the Strong One was made weak so we, the weak, could be made strong.
Check out this baffling verse:
“The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25, emphasis added).
The weakness of God? But God isn’t weak!
Study the context, and you’ll see this verse refers to the cross. The world judges Jesus weak and pathetic, hanging there exposed and bleeding. “Weakness,” they spit.
But to us who are being saved, we gaze at the cross and celebrate. “Strength!” we shout.
God refuses to save Himself so He might save us. The Strong One is made weak so we, the weak, can be made strong.
What weakness can you boast about today? How might God want to showcase His strength through your particular weakness?
My dream of being the next Oprah—a Jesus-following version, that is—just came true. Well, sorta. I admit it’s a bit of a stretch . . .
But tomorrow through next Friday on Revive Our Hearts, I interview Nancy on the occasion of her 50th spiritual birthday. That’s 50 years of knowing and walking with Jesus. (By the way, her spiritual birthday is this Tuesday, May 14—the same day she’ll be on the Revive Tour in Indianapolis. Join her there if you can!)
As you listen to or read “Fifty Years of Walking with God” on ReviveOurHearts.com, prepare to laugh with us at what Nancy’s elementary teachers wrote on her report cards, and then to tear up as Nancy recounts the faithfulness of the Lord in her life over the past fifty years.
When I began to prepare for this interview, Nancy made it clear that she wanted this interview to showcase God’s grace and staying power over the past fifty years. We’re definitely not celebrating Nancy; we’re celebrating God.
Catch a sneak peek of the interview with this clip of Nancy sharing about the “missionary letter” she wrote as a seven-year-old.
Who would have thought that a young girl with such a grand vision would be well on her way to realizing it? Today the Lord is using Nancy and Revive Our Hearts to share Christ with women in many, many countries of the world.
If you’d like to encourage Nancy on her 50th spiritual birthday, may I suggest two ideas?
Leave a birthday greeting below for Nancy. Words mean so much to her, and I’ll make sure she receives them.
Partner with Nancy and Revive Our Hearts this month as we’re asking the Lord to provide $350,000 through friends like you to end our fiscal year in a good position. We aim to use your gift well to continue reaching women around the world this year.
Thanks so much for your ongoing support of this ministry. We’re so grateful for you!