This is such a beloved verse. To know that I can do anything through Christ, that’s good news! I can land the job, get the promotion, succeed and thrive in this life—through Christ. And surely, I can.
But I think Paul wanted us to grasp a greater truth. He had just spoken about how he made it in situations when he had plenty and when he had nothing. Rich or poor, full or hungry, his solution was the same—Christ. He was saying, “Hey y’all! I found the secret to happiness and satisfaction in life, and it’s Christ!” Whether on the mountain of victory or the valley of suffering, I’ll emerge triumphantly because Christ will give me strength. He will be my strength.
I challenge us today to trust our stories to the Master Author, knowing that every page was written before we were ever born. I pray God gives us the grace to enjoy the story as we live it in real time. And when we reach a difficult chapter, a plot twist or cliff hanger, I pray he reminds us that he will be our strength. And because of that, there is nothing we can’t do. We will have victory in this, yes even this, through Christ.
Thank you for always being with us. There’s no place we can go to escape your presence. Your eyes are always on us. Your ears are always open. Your arm of strength is always ready to fight for us. Your plan will always prevail. We know this God, but if we fully internalized it, how much more peace would we experience? Thank you for teaching us more and more every day to trust you and believe your every word. And when we forget what you’ve taught us, thank you for reminding us again. Your patience never runs out. Your love is unfailing. Your mercy is forever. I pray this prayer with love and adoration and in Jesus’ wonderful name,
A quick stroll through memory lane is all I need to revitalize my trust in you. When my path is unclear, glancing into the rearview mirror of my life reminds me of how far you’ve brought me. We have history. Whether in the distance past or just the recent days, you’ve given me uncountable blessings. You have been light and life. Sometimes I rehearse what I should forget and forget what I should rehearse. Help me to use my memory as a tool to cultivate my faith, courage and gratitude. You’ve already done so much. It’s true that if you did nothing more, I would still have enough to thank you for all eternity. But because of who you are, I know that you aren’t stopping with what you have already done. The best is still yet to come. Help me to remember that, too.
I’ve decided that the popular definition of strong is something I no longer want to identify with. When black women like me are labeled strong, it often refers more to how much pain we can tolerate, how much mistreatment and stress we can handle before breaking. (Bonus points for breaking privately, while maintaining a polished exterior.) It seems to be some sort of badge of honor, a consolation prize for pain unjustly endured.
I think that subconsciously, labeling someone strongcan dampen the labeler’s empathy for the “strong person.” Example: When statements like “I’m hurt” or “I’m struggling” are met with, “you’re strong” as though the latter negates the former. It can feel like your strength disqualifies you from help or compassion. Because you can bear something, does that mean you should have to bear it without help?
No one should be pushed to their capacity, just so that others can marvel at the vastness of their capacity. So for me, strong is over.
But shouldn’t Christians be strong in the Lord? Strong and courageous?
I’m not saying that I’m not strong. I have witnessed my own strength in situations that threatened to overwhelm me. Make no mistake, I am strong and I know this. But I am not strong in and of myself. God’s strength is perfect in my weakness. He gives me strength for the battle. He makes me strong.
But strength in society’s context lends to a more toxic definition and the true understanding gets misconstrued. It even tangles my own expectations of myself. Because of the way the label“strong Black woman” is weaponized against Black women, my choice is to distance myself from the burden, not the character trait.
If God remembers my frame, recalls that I am only made of dust and has compassion on me (Read Ps. 103)–I’m going to follow His lead and have some compassion on myself.
So for me this looks like asking for help, acknowledging my uncomfortable emotions, not feeling guilty for crying when something hurts. It looks like softness. Taking off the superwoman cape. Surrounding myself with people who handle me with care and extending the same grace to others. It looks like realizing the fullness of my potential, while fully respecting my limitations as a human.
Thank you for a being a safe place for us. When our hearts are overwhelmed, we can always come to the Rock. Thank you for being a solid foundation, never turning away from us in our times of weakness or vulnerability. We’re never too much for you. We’re never too heavy for you. You delight to come to the rescue of the ones you love. You desire to keep us safe as we dwell in the secret place of the Most High. Help us to bring all of our cares to you without hesitation or shame. Thank you for showing us that your love is one we can never be separated from, you’ll never withhold it and you’ll never take it back. Thank you for full acceptance in you.
On the heels of Resurrection Sunday, I’ve been allowing my imagination to dive a little deeper into the perspectives of those who witnessed that day and the surrounding events. Consider where things stood one week ago today, over 2,000 years ago. The crucifixion of the Savior of the world was taking place.
The Messiah, the promised One had come. He gave sight to the blind, he cast out demons, he raised the dead. He was going to set everything right and things were finally going to be perfect.
Except that they weren’t. On that Good Friday, things got worse. Imagine his followers rejoicing on Palm Sunday, not knowing that Good Friday was right around the corner.
The rumors and rumbles had started to grow louder. At Passover, when he sat with his disciples, he confirmed it all. He told them about the things that were to come. His betrayal, his death. He spoke of leaving. But how could that be? This was the Messiah they’d waited on. It had to have all been so confusing.
I can imagine how his disciples must’ve felt that night as they watched him betrayed by one of their own. And what about those that had personally experienced his miracles, those he taught in the temple, his family, his mom? They watched him tortured and mocked, watched him carry his cross, bloody and weak. Then they saw him on the cross, the suffering Savior. Envision what they must’ve felt watching from afar.
It had to have felt so hopeless at that moment. Blinded by what they saw, I can only assume the heaviness of the defeat and despair they felt. Where would they go from here?
What they didn’t know, was that though all of this was unfolding in what seemed to be a tragic turn of events leading to Jesus’ crucifixion, they were actually watching the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. It was part of the plan, in fact it was the plan. It had to be this way. He was going through with it for them. For me. For you.
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.
We know what they didn’t know. Sunday was coming. Sunday was part of the plan from the beginning as well.
Even greater than the despair that gripped the disciples’ hearts that Friday, was the hope and joy that overwhelmed them that Sunday morning when they found he had risen, just as he said.
Now a week later, the previous events playing over in their minds, still trying to make sense of it all, I imagine them feeling a myriad of emotions. Relief, that their worst fears would never come true. Jesus was alive and he was in fact, the true Messiah. Regret, that they had doubted him and deserted him at the most critical time in his human life. Yet still, overwhelming love and devotion, for the one who sacrificed it all and welcomed them back with open arms even after they’d failed him.
In this week following Resurrection Sunday, I want to remind myself and whoever is reading this, that nothing negates the promise. The situation may be bleak, it may even appear to be going in the opposite direction of the promise. And yes, it’s only human to have an emotional reaction to that. Some things just knock the wind out of you, no matter how close you are to Jesus.
But just like Jesus died and rose again, just like the disciples experienced the worst day of their lives followed by the best day in humanity’s history, in the end the promise will stand. God’s plan will prevail. Jesus is our hope and our promise. He has shown that he does not fail, not even death could defeat him.
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
Knowing that Jesus is the same God now as he was then, I receive and accept the hope that even in the midst of disappointment, confusion, or heartbreak, no matter what transpires–Sunday is still coming. One week can change everything.
Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
What in the world? No, really. What is going on in the world? Watching or reading the news always leaves me with the same response, “Wait, what?” Things vacillate from the comical to the ridiculous to the downright scary and unbelievable all throughout the day. It’s easy to feel anxious, confused, angry…tired.
The future is unknown to us, but God knows all and rules over all. He’s been teaching me about faith in a major way over the past year. It’s about holding tight and standing firm on what he’s taught and what his word says. It’s about digging deeper in him and casting my cares on him. It’s about knowing that he will sustain me and no one can ever snatch me out of his hand.
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
John 10:28 (ESV)
He’s helping me understand that a small, shaky faith in a big, strong God is all I need. It’s true. Matthew 17:20 (NLT) says that with “faith even as small as a mustard seed…nothing would be impossible.” As I grow, he’ll strengthen it, but it’s not about my strong faith so much as it is about the strong God that my faith is in. He’s trustworthy and his thoughts and ways are higher than mine. Isaiah 55:8(NLT) says, “’My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.’”
So I can’t figure him out and I don’t understand him, but I know him and I trust him. His thoughts toward me are of peace and not evil. Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV) says this, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” He promises peace to those who trust him. And we know he doesn’t make empty promises. An activation of faith will always be met with the opportunity for an exchange–our confusion and fear for his peace.
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
John 14:27 (NKJV)
Despite the times in which we live, despite the difficulties and uncertainties, let’s pray for the strength to respond in faith, the endurance to hold on to his promises, and the grace to trust God and know that everything is going to be okay.
Thank you for being a sure place to put our trust and faith. Even when we don’t understand what you’re doing, we trust your plan. We trust your intentions. We know who you are, and we know you well. You’ve been consistent and your faithfulness has been great. Please continue to build our faith and help us to hold on to all that you’ve said to us. Our hope is in you.
“I know who You are.” It’s a prayer “go-to” for me. It reminds me of God’s character. It helps me focus on who I’m praying to more than the situation I’m praying about. It revitalizes my faith. It reminds me that he’s a good Father and that he only gives good gifts. It reminds me that he has all power. It reminds me that his character never changes, who he was is who he is, and who he will always be. I love James 1:17, (NLT) “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” And this one, Hebrews 13:8, (NKJV) “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
During a particularly dumpster fire-ish time in my life recently, I was praying and I said this familiar phrase to God. “I know who you are.” He spoke back to me this time in a still, small voice, “Do you know who you are?”
So, who am I, really? I’m his child, greatly loved and precious, heard and seen, accepted and safe in Jesus, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, a friend of God. John 15:13-14 (NLT) “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.”
In times of instability, our stability comes from knowing the God in whom we believe. Not just knowing of him, but actually knowing him. It’s a lifelong journey and it starts with a personal relationship with him. Just like any relationship, as you navigate life’s circumstances with someone, you grow in love, trust, and understanding. He wants us to walk with him the same way. John 15:4a (NKJV) says, “Abide in me, and I in you. To abide with him, to stay close and really get to know him in a personal relationship, it’s why Jesus died. So that we can have access to him.
We do ourselves and our destiny a disservice when we settle for knowing trivia facts about God instead of seeking to really know God. Knowing him changes everything. Knowing him builds our faith and calms our fears. Really learning about his character teaches us that he’s trustworthy and everything we have and all that we submit to him is safe with him. 2 Timothy 1:12b (NKJV) sums it up this way, “Nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” And he’s not hard to find according to Jeremiah 29:13-14a, (NLT) “’If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,’ says the Lord.” Do you know who he is?
Hand in hand with getting to know him, is getting to know who we are in Christ. As we learn to see ourselves as God sees us, our perspective, our plans, our self-esteem, everything has to come into alignment with what he says about us. We are not the names we’ve been called, we are not the sum total of our mistakes, we are not our insecurities. We are exactly who our Creator says we are. We would do well to not ever forget that. Do you know who you are?