Experiencing Strength on Life’s Difficult Roads
Have you found yourself on a road you wouldn’t choose to travel? Whether the circumstances are trivial or momentous, at some point all of us confront a difficulty we’d rather not face.
I still remember the pain and frustration I felt as I agonized over waiting to meet my husband. I had always envisioned that I would marry right out of college, but it wasn’t the case. With every passing year it felt like I would never meet the “one.”
I struggled watching my friends wed their one-and-onlys while I longed to fall in love with the guy God designed for me. Where was he? Though I was committed to making the most of my single years I remember saying over and over through puddles of tears (I know…a little dramatic), “I wouldn’t choose this road.”
As I look back now almost two years into marriage, I see that God used what felt like tumultuous times to bring about a greater good than if I had married when I wanted. Not only did I eventually marry my true soul mate in Jared, I also see how crucial the wait was for God to deepen Jared and me to prepare us for each other. Without time to mature individually I am certain our marriage would lack its current strength.
Similar to my longing to be married, my mom’s desire to have children also remained unfulfilled for longer than she envisioned. For five years my parents tried to have a baby while watching seemingly everyone they knew get pregnant at the drop of a hat. My mom and I have shared many conversations about trusting God even when we don’t understand why His paths don’t align with the roads we desire.
If you’ve read my recent entries you know I am currently walking another road I wouldn’t choose: I am going through chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. When I first received my diagnosis I kept saying over and over, “I just wouldn’t choose this.” However, moving past the disappointment and fear, I am asking God “What can I learn while on this difficult road?”
God has directed me to one of my very favorite passages: 2 Corinthians 12. The author, Paul, talks about the difficulty he faced after being given a “thorn in his flesh.” He asked three times for God to take it away but God responded:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness” (vs 9).
I don’t know about you, but when I’m walking through a difficult time I don’t necessarily want to be told that God’s power will make me strong; I want relief. Though God certainly had the power to completely eliminate Paul’s problem, He instead asked Paul to focus on Him and His grace. Why?
At first, when I read this verse I found it somewhat baffling. I believed God’s power was already perfect so the phrase “for My power is made perfect in weakness” was confusing. However, it occurred to me that you can’t comprehend something’s perfection until you experience its value. Thus, when I began to read the verse as saying “your weakness will enable you to understand and experience how perfect My power is,” it began to make more sense.
When trying times aren’t exposing my weaknesses, my tendency is to rely on myself and not God. Specifically, when I see my life unfolding according to my expectations or when I feel like my life is all together and under control, I begin to believe I can handle whatever life throws at me in my own strength apart from God.
In these moments of over-confidence, God’s power is not made perfect for me because I am not tapping into and experiencing His unmatched strength. I am instead relying on my power and abilities to tackle life. However, how quickly the imperfections of our power surface when we face difficulties or situations out of our control. This certainly happened to me when I received the news of my cancer.
When I first heard that I had to undergo chemotherapy after already enduring the previous two surgeries, I felt overwhelmed with weakness. How was I going to get through this? I cried out to God and admitted I couldn’t walk this difficult road without His power.
It was in those raw emotional moments when God reminded me that this road wasn’t about me being able to sustain myself with my power. Instead, it was about me relying on and resting in His power. As I continually trust Him with each step of this journey, I continue to experience His inexpressible strength.
This same perfect power is available to you as well. Whether the obstacles on your difficult road stem from esteem, relationship, medical, or other issues, God’s grace can give you unmatched strength to put one foot in front of the other. As we do, may we join with Paul in declaring:
“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 (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Walking this cancer road is bringing out every part of me that is not a natural tendency. Resting, accepting kindness from others, surrendering my schedule, and trusting are among the many new practices I am learning. And although it’s not easy for this go-getter, I understand at a deeper level with every passing day how God’s power is being perfected in my weakness.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay
to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed.
Perplexed, but not in despair;
Persecuted, but not abandoned.
struck down, but not destroyed.”
2 Corinthians 4:7-9