Speaking in Christianease, have you ever romanticized the idea of “weakness?” What I mean is, the idea of God displaying his power in your weakness, so therefore the idea of being made weak becomes oddly appealing. I’ve done it, I’m ashamed to saw. Long before Isaiah was ever born, long before I had the responsibility of being a husband and father, back when my biggest worry was pretty much getting a paper done on time, or wondering when God was going to send me a wife, the Christian idea of my faith growing through some kind of trial or weakness seemed strangely appealing.
I’m embarrassed to admit it really. It’s not that I prayed for or wanted some kind of sickness or tragedy. I honestly didn’t want a trial. But I had a very romanticized picture in my head of what it was like for a true Christian to endure through trial. It might compare it to a Hollywood movie where soldiers valiantly fight a war, battling bravely, fearlessly, self-sacrificing, emerging victorious at the end with flags waving and shouts of joy. No one wants war, no one seeks it, but there’s something very appealing about glorious scenes of valor and triumph. I suppose in some way that’s what I thought of when I saw Christians going through trials. “Wow, it’s tough!” I thought to myself, “But in the end of this their faith is going to be so strengthened, and they will stand up more faithful than ever.” Part of me passively thought of these people as spiritual giants. In the midst of their pain and suffering they were rising each day early in the morning, reading their Bibles for 3-4 hours at a time, hiking out to the woods for prayer sessions, and getting up in the night to meditate on Scripture by candlelight. I thought that their faith never wavered. Then reality hit.
After Isaiah was born part of me was ready. Though I was scared and didn’t know what to expect, deep down inside there was almost an arrogant “bring it on!” kind of attitude. “I’m ready for the battle.” I didn’t doubt that the trial of his surgeries and treatments would be painful and difficult, I just thought it would be a special kind of painful and difficult, a glorious kind of painful and difficult; a good kind of hurt. But it wasn’t that; it was not a “good” kind of hurt. It just hurt, and sometimes it hurt badly.
I remember being a little confused at first. I would sit next to my son in the Neo-natal Intensive Care trying to read my Bible. I would stare at the pages, read passages over and over again, flip through and find familiar verses rich with God’s promises. Nothing. No jolt, no warm fuzzies, no sweet aura of peace. I felt nothing. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe the passages, I did, but the emotional rush of triumphant perseverance wasn’t there. The same thing happened when I prayed. I’d seclude myself somewhere for a while and try to pray. Again, nothing. My mind would wonder. I’d be speechless, not knowing what to say. Many times I’d simply pray “God help me.” No “blessed quietness”, no “sweet hour of prayer.”
At first I thought something was wrong with me. “Maybe my faith isn’t real?” I thought to myself on a number of occasions. “Maybe I’m not praying hard enough, or reading enough.” Where was the emotion? Where was the triumph and valor? Where was the charging forth on the field of battle in victory, with the King riding before me?
Throughout Isaiah’s life we’ve had a number of people tell us things like “You’re such and encouragement” or “You’re such an example of faithfulness.” I appreciate the sentiment, and in many ways it is an encouragement because it does let us know that God is indeed using this for his glory, so I’m not being critical. But so often I’ve wanted to say, “You have no idea just how thin the thread is that’s holding me.” At least that’s how I feel at times.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Cor 12:9-10
As Isaiah has grown and we’ve walked through many valleys together with him I have ceased having any kind of romanticized view of trials. And as time has gone by when we’ve had difficult moments, there have indeed been times where God’s word has literally jumped off the page at me, or my mouth was opened freely in prayer, but not always. Weakness is weakness. God is not going to give me a trial that makes me feel more confident in myself or permits me to stand victorious on a field of battle and receive one ounce of glory. HE get’s the glory – all of it. HE’s the brave one, the mighty one, the victor. He cuts my “threads” of self-confidence, emotional grandeur, warm fuzzies, etc. and shows me that he’s holding me with his strong arm.
I picture in my mind of times after Isaiah’s surgeries when he’s recovering. He’s weak, helpless, in pain and emotionally distraught, and I’ve had to lift and carry him for something. It doesn’t matter how he feels about it at the moment, or whether or not my carrying him comforts him emotionally, the point is, I’m carrying him. In a small way I think this reflects what my Heavenly Father does for me. At times I’m broken beyond all words, and he holds me. His sustaining grace is not dependent upon how I feel about it. I may not feel it, but it’s a reality nonetheless.