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.