This is the fifth post in the March series To Love is to Live in Christ, in which I reflect on our calling to let Christ in, so He can pour His actions of Love out of us. It is linked up to Carolina’s #OpenMicMonday.
1 Corinthians 1: 26 – 31
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”[d]
In 1 Corinthians 13, we are told that Love does not boast. Because God is Love, this means that He also does not boast. He has no need to, you see: because He is supreme over every authority on earth and in heaven. In receiving Christ, we are thus also given access to this supreme Power. But to take hold of His Power, we are instructed to acknowledge our weaknesses, to confess them and even boast of them to others, so that Christ might enter them and infuse them with Himself to the Glory and coming of His Kingdom:
2 Corinthians 12: 9 (NASB)
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness ” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
This morning, I read of someone doing exactly that in this beautiful blog post:
And it made me reflect on how I very rarely confess and boast of my weaknesses. This week, especially, has been a struggle. And it wasn’t until I read through Lamentations and parts of Isaiah, and had a physical manifestation of an emotional problem, that I even recognized the weakness within me.
I was grieving, deeply, but was holding it all in. Subconsciously, I’d decided that sharing it fully, confessing of its depths, would deny Christ’s Presence in my life. And yet, exactly the opposite is the case. For Christ knows us inside out and even tells us:
Matthew 5: 4 (NIV)
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Grief is inexplicable: the tiniest events or dates acting as a trigger, recovering memories so searing, they attempt to suffocate and snuff out all the beauty we’d only just been praising God for. Last week was filled with triggers for me:
- it marks the moment in time, two years ago, when I had a panic attack for the first time in my life: as my Mum lay dying on the other side of the world, my youngest was suffering from an unexplainable illness, and I knew going home to New Zealand would mean leaving behind my oldest (then only 3) for an extended period of time (just as I’d had to do in December, when my mother was operated on);
- it is just over a year since I first started experiencing crippling flashbacks of my mother’s last hours on earth;
- I had a (non-cancerous) cyst cut out on Thursday, a very vivid dream a few days before reminding me of both the fragility of life and God’s comforting and peace-giving Presence; and
- I was back in a hospital and around medical staff for the first time since being at my mother’s side after her brain operation and during her hospice care in my Dad’s and her home.
So, inwardly a wave of grief was rushing over me, but because I couldn’t pinpoint why at the time, I pressed it away as “silly” and “embarrassing”, chastizing myself for not resting in the hope of God, until last night. Then, I finally figured out that the hives covering my body and my overwhelming sadness and utter exhaustion were a physical response to an emotional problem I was choosing to ignore. It is then the tears began pouring down my face, as I shared what was inside me with my loving husband.
So, my weakness right now is my grief. It remains a suffocating, crippling, overwhelming force…until I give myself permission to confess it, feel it, weep through it, and even boast of it to others around me.
Yes, I am weak, fragile, breaking inside … but precisely this awful breaking is what has the power to “enlarge my soul” and draw me closer to Christ through His transformative power, as Stephanie reminded me so beautifully this morning, by sharing part of this quote:
Catastrophic loss by definition precludes recovery. It will transform us or destroy us, but it will never leave us the same. There is no going back to the past… It is not therefore true that we become less through loss – unless we allow the loss to make us less, grinding our soul down until there is nothing left. LOSS CAN ALSO MAKE US MORE. I did not get over my loved ones; rather I absorbed the loss into my life until it became part of who I am. Sorrow took up permanent residence in my soul AND ENLARGED IT… One learns the pain of others by suffering one’s own pain, by turning inside oneself, by finding one’s own soul… However painful, sorrow is good for the soul… The soul is elastic, like a balloon. It can grow larger through suffering. Loss can enlarge its capacity for anger, depression, despair, and anguish, all natural and legitimate emotions whenever we experience loss. Once enlarged, the soul is also capable of experiencing greater joy, strength, peace, and love. What we consider opposites — east and west, night and light, sorrow and joy, weakness and strength, anger and love, despair and hope, death and life—are no more mutually exclusive than winter and sunlight. The soul has the capacity to experience these opposites, even at the same time.’
Jerry Sisttser, A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows through Loss, pp. 39, 44, 61.
So, I am so thankful that God is teaching me, repeatedly (He’s so patient!), to accept His beautiful, comforting, strengthening and upholding Presence, a gift He stands there holding out to me, waiting for me to confess of my desperate need for it. For, we were not made for this world of suffering, but for union and wholeness in Christ, something that we will not receive fully until He takes us Home to heaven.
If you too, are breaking inside right now, will you join me in praying this prayer?
Father God, we stand here broken before you. We confess that our need is great, that we are so very weak, and in desperate need of Your loving, comforting, strengthening and upholding Presence. Father God, please forgive us for hiding our weakness from You and those around us. We thank you that your thoughts of us are of peace and goodness, to give us a hope and a future in You (Jeremiah 29: 11). We hold onto that promise as we lean into Your arms, just as we are: broken, grieving, hurting and weak in desperate need of Your Mighty and Comforting touch. For you tell us that, we, the mourning, are blessed, for we SHALL be comforted. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.