Often I find myself focusing on who I cannot be. There are frequently ideas or dreams I envision yet when faced with reality realize they are unattainable. While recognizing what you are unable to achieve is necessary, it often removes our focus from what is most important – who we can be.
If you are a Christ follower, regardless of who you are, I believe there are three traits you already possess which overshadow those times of defeat. These characteristics are who you are because you know whose you are.
In 1984, my husband, John, felt the call to full-time mission work. The Lord called our entire family – not just John – however, at the time I was frightened by the idea of uprooting our family of four to move overseas. This decision would be wrought with challenges: leaving the culture we knew, people we loved, and comfortable life of which we'd accustomed.
I pushed back.
The Lord continued to mold my heart and not long after we began training with the International Mission Board before being assigned to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Upon arrival in Campinas, Sao Palo, John and I enrolled in a language school for one year of Portuguese classes to begin acclimation into Brazilian culture. I was amazed how quickly our two children, Joy (4) & John John (2), acquired the language as I muddled through each sentence.
One day in particular, I was having a difficult time communicating with a store clerk. I turned to our daughter, Joy, and asked for the translation. After she told me, I turned back to the cashier and repeated what Joy had said. The cashier gave me a confused look so I turned back to Joy, thinking I had misheard. I asked my daughter to repeat the Portuguese word. We went through this cycle a few times before I turned back to Joy and found her laughing – she had purposely made up a word knowing I would trust and repeat whatever she said.
I quickly hurried from the store in frustration, barely holding back tears until I burst through the door of our apartment. Failure to learn the Portuguese language loomed over my head, a constant reminder of my inability to connect with the Brazilian people…the very reason we were in Brazil. Yet in my weakness, my need for His strength became apparent.
In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Paul reminds the people of Corinth the Lord’s grace is sufficient to carry us through times of weakness. In fact, our weakness is often the conduit through which His strength is recognized. As I cried out to Him on the floor of our bedroom, the realization of my human weakness revealed how desperately I needed strength apart from my own.
John, the children, and I lived in Brazil another 10 years after that moment of defeat. While the journey to learning Portuguese was never easy, the Lord’s strength sustained me. I am now fluent (albeit a little rusty) in Portuguese and God used my perseverance to reach the people of Brazil with the Message of Jesus Christ.
Where are you weak? Be strong. Not relying on your personal strength to strong-arm your way through life, but relying on the knowledge when your strength gives way He will be there to lift you up. You can be strong when you feel weak and weary because you belong to Christ.
What about when the unexpected storms arise? When it isn’t a matter of strength or perseverance but foundation, who can you be when all around you feels shaken? There is a second characteristic you can cling to…