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Friday, August 22, 2008

True Strength

People often tell me that they can't imagine how I've gotten through all that I've been through. To tell you the truth, I'm pretty amazed myself. If someone had told the innocent 24-year-old me back in 2001 that the road I was about to take was going to be like this I probably wouldn't have believed them. I really would've had my doubts if the same messenger said that 7 years into it I'd still be hanging on and sticking with it with most of my sanity intact.

I want you to know that most days I don't feel like I've done such a great job of coping. Even at 24 I had seen enough hard times to know that life wasn't easy. Coming from a broken home and then a blended family, and with barely two nickels to rub together, I'd experienced some trials. It's not easy being a kid when there are problems at home. Then again, it's a whole different story when you grow up and the problems are yours instead of your parents'. I definitely believe that experiencing some of those trials made me a stronger person. But the question is, "How do we acquire strength?"

Last night while I was up late reading I came across this quote by William Barclay:
"The effect of testing rightly borne is strength to bear still more and to conquer in still harder battles."

The Bible also has much to say on the topic of trials and testing, especially in the book of James. My favorite verses on the subject though, come from the Apostle Paul. When writing about the thorn in his flesh in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul says that he pleaded with the Lord to take it away. The Lord's response in verse 9 is, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." I love how Paul then applies this to his life and his circumstances: "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (vv. 9-10, NIV)

It is a strange thing to delight in weakness. It's even stranger to think that it could be through weakness that we are made stronger. "The effect of testing rightly borne is strength to bear still more and to conquer in still harder battles." We are tried and tested, and through that we gain the strength to overcome the next trial. It usually seems like more than we can handle, but we come out on the other side and look back over what we've been through, utterly amazed that we handled it.

Earlier this summer I was in a ladies' Bible class with three other women. As we were sharing about our lives one day I listened as each one described her biggest trial. They were my three biggest fears. One had lost her mother at an early age. One had lost a child. One had lost her husband. These are amazing women of faith. It didn't mean those trials weren't horrible or difficult. I sat there and wondered how I could ever overcome such painful circumstances. Somehow, though, what I saw was their strength. God's strength was at work in them, carrying them through, being made perfect in their weakness.

This year my mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer. Yesterday was her fourth (of six) treatment of chemotherapy. I'm sure she couldn't have imagined going through something like this. A few weeks ago she had her head shaved after she started losing clumps of hair. The emotional and physical pain that comes along with a diagnosis of cancer is something just unimaginable to me, but she has been amazingly strong even on bad days. She has a good prognosis, and we're so thankful for that.

I'm sure you all know people in situations that seem impossible to overcome. Maybe you're going through a trial right now that you never thought you would be able to survive. I am. But by the grace of God I am making it through, and it is making me stronger.

8 comments:

andrea_jennine said...

Amen!

Andrea said...

This post meant so much to me. It was just what I needed to read. I've had a rough day and this makes me feel so much better and reminds me that God is in control and that this is all for a reason.

How many Andreas post on your blog!? lol

Andi said...

I think that makes 3 Andreas, so, Stace, just for you, I changed my display name. Hope this helps!

I do some training for a grief resource center. In the material we cover, we quote author Jehu Thomas Burton who wrote a book called Trusting God Through Tears about the death of his son. Jehu says, "Many have said, 'I could not endure losing my child (spouse, sibling, parent, friend).' I have found God gives the grace we need at the moment we need it, not one second too soon adn not one second too late. At the right moment He delivers. Prior to a trial, we do not possess the strength or the wherewithal to endure or overcome it. It is not within us. It is God's desire that we turn to Him in times of trail, and it is His promise to deliver us at His appointed time . . . If there is no need for deliverance, there is no need for grace. If grace were delivered before the right moment, it would be as pouring out a glass of water on teh ground during a rainstorm. It would go unnoticed. However, if the glass is poured out on the parched ground during a drought, then it is most appreciated. So indeed is God's grace, it is not delivered until it is needed. Likewise, God only delivers a portioned dose. He only gives the grace needed for the moment. He does not give the grace needed for tomorrow. This is why the burden of tomorrow, anticipated today, seems overwhelming."

Stacey said...

Wow, all three Andreas in one place! Thanks for the comments, ladies.

Andrea, sorry you had a bad day. :(

Andi, the name change does help! Thanks for sharing that. Awesome. I love it.

I Believe in Miracles said...

You collect Andrea's the way I collect Jen's. :o)

This post is awesome. I'd never thought of this until you said it "it's a whole different story when you grow up and the problems are yours instead of your parents'." It's true. The whole growing up thing makes any problem you face so different.

I love the verses you used too. That is so true. I tend to gravitate towards Romans 5 when I'm feeling weak. I need to remember these too. Awesome.

Thanks for sharing! I'm so glad you can claim God as your strength. That's a true testiment.

**BIG HUGS**

Connie said...

Amazing post, Stace. So many times, as your big sister, I have wanted to jump in and somehow try to "fix" this for you. Instead, I have had to wait. I have watched you grow stonger (in spirit and in strength). You are such an inspiritation to me and so many others. I love you!

Connie said...

I spelled inspiration (guess I was thinking about my "spirit comment; phew!) wrong! You're obviously "the smart sister". ;)

bonjovijennie said...

i needed this....i feel like i have been treading water and barely keeping my head above water. i just had the thought today that God's grace is enough for me. i need to quit struggling so hard and let God hold me up.