Let the weak say, “I am strong!”

March 11th, 2013

 

“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.”

 

So here we are.

We knew it was coming.

The tough stretch.

Daniel’s in the last five weeks of tax season.

I’m in the last seven weeks of pregnancy.

My body is increasingly bulky, weighty, and awkward; it tires easily.  Every week it takes more time to get less done.  I have to be careful of my back, my round ligaments, and my ankle.  Tall strong sons lift and carry Katie for me whenever possible.

Last summer’s skinny, energetic, low-maintenance self is but a distant memory now.

 

A few months ago, a friend of our family asked if he could sit down with Joe and me and talk.  He hoped he would not be offensive, he said, but something was concerning him.

He observed me giving and giving and giving and giving.  And giving.  How was I making sure I was also being fed?  How was my walk with the Lord?

As usual when put on the spot in person, my words stumbled around on their way out.  I tried to explain how I saw my relationship with my heavenly Father.  I’m pathetic at long lists of “things good Christians must do,” like kneeling to pray for an hour each morning according to the acronym A.C.T.S, and putting the spiritual armor on every day.

Et cetera.

I’m more like a child with her hand in her Father’s hand.  I talk to Him and listen to Him throughout the day.  I’m not worried that He’s going to let me wander off, or that He’ll disown me if I don’t get it all right.  He keeps His grip on me, gives me what He wants me to have and takes me where He wants me to go.  I can trust Him to tell me when I’m sinning and ask Him to forgive me and purify the motives of my heart.  I’m not strong.  I’m needy.  I need protection.  I need someone to guide me along.  I need a constant diet of straight truth.  I need lots of mercy and forgiveness.  I’m His child and He has what I need.  The burden is on Him; He has told me to put it there.

The conversation stayed in my mind afterward.  There was more, something else I wish I had said.

 

I made careful plans for that trip, you know.  Who can blame me?  After all, I’m a planner by nature.

Tall black European-style boots would complete winter outfits to help me blend inconspicuously into the background in Tommy’s country.  My body language will demonstrate that pregnancy isn’t going to slow me down, in case anyone wonders.  An agenda is made up for every spare minute of time there.  A list of questions for the director.

 

God’s plan for that trip?  Strip away every human strength.

Suffer a sprained ankle less than two days before traveling.

Trade in the black suede boots for a last-minute Goodwill find–ugly comfortable shoes that can easily accommodate the swelling, the ankle brace, and the on-and-off process through airport security.  Find out much too late that in certain light, one shoe is black but the other is a definite navy blue.

Travel in a wheelchair.  Dependent, needy, and at times, helpless.  But never inconspicuous.

Watch my companions carry the luggage I wanted to handle myself, while I stand uncomfortably idle.

Try to keep up a stiff pace from the moment I arrive in Tommy’s country, learning to use crutches at the same time.

 

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Meet the new director of Tommy’s orphanage as a middle-aged pregnant mom limping along on crutches, wearing unsightly old-lady shoes.

Hear His clear directive, “Let go of your agenda and list of questions.  Wait and see what I will do instead.”

Try hard all week not to inconvenience anyone.  God forbid that my needs cause anyone else to have to wait for me or help me.

Find something I can do to carry my own weight in some small way.  “It makes you feel better to do something to help, doesn’t it?”  Her simple observation shone a sudden truthful light onto my actions.  Who was I fooling?  Was I really loving others with my pitiful and proud efforts?  Or feeding my own ego?

 

Why do I so dislike being needy?

 

To put it bluntly, I hate being dependent.  I can’t stand the inability to just take care of everything myself the way I want to.  Weakness isn’t “me.”  I’m a doer.  I’m not afraid of hard work.  If I have an addiction, it’s Getting Things Done.

 

But here we are once again.  We said yes to Him.  He is again hemming me in behind and before.  So, Susanna, what is true about this situation?

Do I want the power of Christ to be made perfect in me?

Did I really think that was going to happen without discomfort or sacrifice?

If I insist on keeping my life within humanly sensible, manageable, attractive, and explainable bounds, who gets the credit at the end of the story?

Would I rather have it easier if it meant missing out on seeing the surpassing power of God in my life?

 

Why do I go to such great lengths to avoid being in that weak place when it’s the only way I will get to see His strength flowing through me?

 

God asks some to be instantaneous martyrs, but not many. Is it not just as much an honor to be counted worthy to give up my life everyday for the rest of my life as it is to give it up in one moment?

Yes, God is pouring my life out as a drink offering.  That doesn’t mean something’s wrong; it’s the normal Christian life; He designed it to work this way.

Being poured out dry means that the life that flows through me is unmistakably HIS LIFE, not my own energy.  HIS LIFE, bringing forth fruit that will last.

And that’s the “something else” I wish I’d said to our concerned friend.

You can see the demands and exhaustion and discomfort and weakness and limitations.  Unimpressive as they are, I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world.  Those are the jars of clay that hold the real treasure.

His grace is sufficient for me, for His power is made perfect in weakness.

 

 

 

P.S. to my friend who traveled hard, cried hard, and laughed hard with me that week.  Remember?  “These shoes aren’t going to make it in the back door.  They’re hideous, they stink, one of them is navy and one is black, and I wore them the whole week in Tommy’s country.”

I kept my word…

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37 Responses to “Let the weak say, “I am strong!””

  1. sue mitchell says:

    Susanna…how did you know this is the EXACT THING i’ve been mentioning to friends lately??? Just how completely dependent i’ve been feeling since we adopted our twin girls?? And how HARD HARD HARD it’s been for me to be “weak”???? Wow…thanking God for this word and reminder this morning. Amen.

  2. Becky K. says:

    Beautifully said.
    I so needed that hug yesterday.  Thank you!!  I miss you when you are not there.
    And how about that sermon for addressing so many of our desires to do, do, do?
    I know your heart is in the right place and I sincerely love you for it.  Please do take care of yourself and the babe inside.  The finish line is in sight, or at least right around the next bend.  
    HE is our strength and our ROCK.  Glory to His name!

  3. Louisa says:

    Well said Suzanna…God makes us strong for this race He has called us to run but only if we lean on Him!

  4. Nicole says:

    “How was I making sure I was also being fed?  How was my walk with the Lord?”
    I really don’t appreciate that kind of question ! It is between me and my God !
    I am now resting, forced by sickness for over two years, but so greatful I managed to do so much for my family ! And if I never get back to how I was “before” I will not be sad… I really gave the best to them and have no regrets ! ;)

  5. Lydia says:

    Thank you, Susanna.  I am in one of those stages where I am fairly competent and needed.  I don’t ask much of others and try to be the giver.  But, oh, I believe my Anna will change that and so much more!  How weak I will become in just a few weeks.  How needy will I be as I try to meet her many needs!  Thank you for the reminder that I need to pray for God to be glorified in my weakness.  I need to pray that I will lay down the competence and strength He has allowed me to enjoy for this season and take up the new life He has for me.   And what joy she will bring!

  6. Warriorbride says:

    God bless you, precious Susanna!  As you know, I struggle in the same exact way. I’m a doer and can’t stand sitting idly, let alone if someone else is doing for me. I totally get it. What you posted is beautiful. Thank you for your transparency. Love you, dear friend! 

  7. Colleen says:

    Yes! Oh a thousand times yes! We have so much in common, dear sister. I continue to pray for you (all of you, really!). Thank you so much for putting into words exactly the way I feel when people ask me about how I can possibly be handling things with A’s treatment and all of the traveling… it is not me, it’s Him doing this through me. Praise God!!!  And He will continue to strengthen you these last hard weeks… much love to you!

  8. Merechel says:

    As sweet as the concern was for you, it was a question best directed to Joe, since he is your spiritual head.  :)  Then, if Joe felt the need to explore the subject with you, it could have been a discussion for your date night! 

  9. Tami Swaim says:

    God gives grace and strength in time of need.  We will never ‘feel’ the grace that God gives another to get through the challenges given them.  We don’t ‘feel’ it because we are never given the grace which has been given to another.  However, we are only given the grace to get through what challenges come our way.  In my own experience the exact calling that God has given my husband and I; he has also given us the grace to get through it.  And not only get through it but to thrive.  Outsiders can look on and say; “How could one thrive spiritually in THAT situation?”  That is a very good question and it’s one that they aren’t meant to understand UNLESS it becomes their own life situtaion.  When and if it does become their situation at that time God will provide grace and strength needed.  Over the years we have had concerned brothers/sisters inquire about my personal spiritual growth.  Our situation as missionaries in a pioneering situation; and I a mother of young children on the foreign mission field made a few outsiders inquire about my own spiritual growth.  In concern they would ask; “How are YOU being fed?”  I know that Susanna does not condemn this person for their concern and neither did I; yet there is something to learn here.  I believe what we as brothers and sisters can learn in this is this;  God gives GRACE in time of need.  He fills the gap.  He restores the years that the Locust have eaten up!  We are not meant to understand the strength that he gives to another.  We are only to make sure that we ourselves are indeed RELYING on his strength and power ourselves. 
    Also, as we learned through Verity and Katy’s experience in life there are many ways to feed! God is known to use many venues to accomplish this work of his.  Some he nurses, some he spoon feeds and depending on what stage of life we are in he might switch this up a bit going back and forth between his methods.  He even uses NG Tubes at times!  Some times he just keeps us hooked up to an IV and gives us a little pump to click as we need small little doses of his word through out the day.  Some times we are able to feast from His buffet; but most busy moms of many young ones they simply can’t get their fill this way.  Most moms need that portable IV bag that has been filled up slowly over the years will lovely truths that come through the line and into her ‘veins’ as needed through out the day! 

  10. Tami Swaim says:

    It’s interesting too how the Lord works to prepare us in challenge for yet a future challenge.  Lessons learned during one challenge don’t seep out of our souls with time but rather fortify us.  I feel that my challenges on the mission field where some may have worried that I wasn’t being fed when on the contrary God was fortifying y soul for yet an even greater challenge.  I believe that my time on the mission field and the strength I developed there was all to prepare me for my REAL mission field; my son with autism.  Life is more challenging because of Joel’s autism yet I am grateful every day and wouldn’t want it to be any other way!  I just had to share the further thought of how God not only uses us in our weakness but he prepares us during that time for yet another day, all until we reach Glory!  ooops………..gotta go Joel’s having a melt down!  see!

  11. Anna says:

     That is why this journey is called faith, belief in the unseen. If we knew we could do it all in our own strength it wouldn’t require faith now would it. God is in the process of growing you, growing your faith. May his grace continue to abound.

  12. Kendra says:

    Thank you Susanna for being truthful, transparent once again. I needed to hear what you said.

  13. Kirsten says:

    Susanna, I have been following your blog for a few months now and I am inspired by all you are doing. God will continue to strengthen you and give you grace to handle the challenges that are ahead. Thank you for the encouraging read!

  14. lizzie says:

    I love this it is so so true.  I am a “doer” too!   you had me laughing so much with the shoes, especially when you discovered that they were different colors.   Bless your heart sweet friend.

  15. Missy says:

    I’m glad you wrote about this. I’m not sure I understand the being fed part but I understand the wanting to do things myself without help from other people. I see it in myself as pride, as holding myself apart from other people, not above them just away from them. But, I’ve been praying and thinking and praying. Maybe God wants us to need each other, to ask for help, to be open to His people. It is so scary though for a shy person. It requires effort to change the inclination to “do it myself” or even to know when to reach out. But when I have done that I have found myself closer to God. Does that make sense? Probably not as I am still sorting through it as I go! :)

  16. Susanna says:

    Tami Swaim said, “I know that Susanna does not condemn this person for their concern…”

    What Tami says is true. This is a man whose friendship we value and we know he asked out of genuine love. Friends who challenge us and speak the truth to us in love are good for us, even if we don’t always feel comfortable as a result. We understand that some personalities are more blunt than others, and that God uses all kinds. Hopefully that helps give a fuller background to this story. :)

  17. The shoe story is funny because I thought to  myself how stylish you looked with those shoes in the picture of you near the elevator.  This is me thinking “Susanna, she has that large family, is pregnant, traveling to Europe to meet her son and she looks great in her shoes.”  I felt rather inadequate but knowing that they are thrift shop makes me laugh at myself.   

  18. Tami Swaim says:

    Suzanna does have an excellent sense of style.  I’ve always thought so.  I love her hair style.  She always looks feminine and stylish.  I honestly just think that this is definitely a gift area for her.  Even in her home decor I LOVE the way she furnishes her home.  I don’t think that she would EVER say that she has this gift.  I think that she’d probably say that she’s not creative, but she sure is!  Having said all that even when picking out a pair of shoes in a desperate situation.  In spite of the color shade difference, that only some one with a keen sense of style could notice <chuckle>  she managed to actually get a pair of shoes that STILL make her sport her typical cute, feminine, stylish self!  Now, if ONLY she had the time to take me to Goodwill and pick out a new wardrobe for myself tee hee……….  I probably notice this about Susanna because I am absolutely terrible about fashion.  I DO NOT know what looks good on me.  That makes running in and out of a store very difficult for me.  It helps to KNOW what looks good on you.  My husband would tell you that HE needs to help me find clothes for myself.  And my home decor well I am creative but I just can’t seem to stick to one theme LOL. 
    as a PS note…I think most women struggle with over doing!  We have a certain ‘need to nurture’ button that the male race doesn’t seem to have. 

  19. Susanna says:

    Cheryl and Tami, now it’s my turn to laugh! Tami, remember that everything tacky about my style can be traced to me and everything right about it should be credited to Maureen! Every time I travel or have a big event, she comes over and helps me put outfits together, and she never does it the way I would. I always slide toward frumpiness without Maureen’s help. She’s the one you want to have with you when you go to Salvation Army (on Wednesday, because that’s half price day)! I borrow her flair, and Joe’s as happy with the results as I am. I’m so grateful to her!

    Cheryl, the mean things we women can say to ourselves that we would never say to our friends, huh?

  20. Ann Voskamp says:

    Why do I go to such great lengths to avoid being in that weak place when it’s the only way I will get to see His strength flowing through me?”

    Yes. A Thousand yeses. 
    Thank you for ministering Jesus’ truth to me. .

  21. stephanie carpenter says:

    Hey Susanna,
    Praying for you and for these last few weeks before your precious boys are in your arms!!!  Miss you and hope your Cabin trip was amazing…sure wish it would have worked for us to visit!  Sasha was so bummed!!!
     
    love and hugs…stephanie
    Proverbs 24: 11 -12
    http://www.marianaorphanfund.blogspot.com
     

  22. maureen a. ;) says:

    I love you!  “We said yes to Him.”  As our Father gives you just enough light for the next step, you walk forward in faith.  Your example of carrying on in the midst of weakness while holding His hand tightly is such an inspiration to me.  
    You were able to speak the truth in love to me all those years ago when I told you that I was “the reluctant mother of a large family.”  Never preaching, you encouraged and exhorted with grace.  Saying yes is the first step.  The hardest step for me.  Like taking a seat on the roller coaster and strapping in (after being tempted to exit the line at every opportunity) or jumping off the diving board (after staring for an eternity at the terrifying water).  I wait. In fear.  
    Thank you for saying yes.  Thank you for sharing your weakness.  Thank you for being brave.  
    Oh, and if you didn’t already burn those shoes, I think you should bronze them.  They were the pair that taught you how to walk.

  23. Thomas R Boroughs says:

    Dear Joe & Susannah,
     
    I am touched when a friend comes to me, and expresses Christian concern for my physical & spiritual needs.  I know I have “blind spots” in my life.  It usually means the friend loves me and has been thinking and praying for a long time before they approached me with the burden of their heart.  Because of that, I listen to what they say and thank them.  I know they will continue to pray for me and my family. 
    When I consider the path the two of you are walking, I too am concerned about the burden you carry, but then I remember Who is sharing the yoke. 
    When I was a child, I lived in the community my family had grown up in for over 200 years.  Because of that I knew my Great-grandfather.  We had a picnic every year to celebrate his birthday.  He died at the age of 87 in 1966.  I didn’t know much about him until most of my own children were grown.  It turns out he was the 5th child born to his parents.  Some of his siblings were at the birthday picnic I attended as a child but I never knew it!  He was not the middle child in his family and he was not the baby.  He was one of 15 children his mother bore.  The oldest was born in 1872 and the youngest in 1895!  Two of the children died in childhood, the rest lived to adulthood.
     In the American 19th century Christian faith was strong; doctoring could be horrible; medicine was at best ineffective and at worst might kill you.  Most of the time water was carried to the house, the toilet was 500 to 1000 yards behind the home, and the washing machine was the ‘lady of the house’ and as many of the children as would help.  The clothes dryer was modern; solar, a line attached between two trees propped up in the middle to keep cloths off the ground.
     In the American 20th century, attitudes about Christian faith, and children changed.  Doctoring is excellent, childhood diseases are at best a nuisance.  The most dread diseases and birth defects can be cured or fixed.  Having more than two children is now considered irresponsible and foolish.  Having a child you know will have a birth defect or might have a birth defect is considered stupid.  Terminating a pregnancy is considered a mother’s right.
     Praise the Lord our Saviour, who is the same yesterday, today and forever! 
     Psalms 127: 3-5
    3.      Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward.
    4.      Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. 
    5.      Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.
     God’s attitude had not changed!

  24. Tamara Butler says:

    I love reading the things that you write and am so happy to have stumbled across this site. What I am going to write will probably sound weird but here goes. I think you need to keep those shoes. Looking at the above picture it dawned on me that they were like so many things in life that are kind of pushed aside because they aren’t “beautiful”, and yet they hugged your feet on your journey, and actually stood by you all the way. From even a shoe comes a gentle reminder that sometimes we need to look beyond things and see more carefully beyond the first glance ….:-)

  25. Amy says:

    This is beautiful and just what I needed to read Susanna.  I am also a doer and I hate to be needy or weak.  I have an anxiety disorder though that has made me both at different points in my life.  We are soon to be adding another child to our family and the situation is very complicated.  I feel peace but also wonder how I will handle it all.  Thank you for reminding me that if I end up needing help and can’t handle it all perfectly then that just gives God a chance to show His glory and His master plan. 

  26. LaurieS says:

    :)   oh, my friend!  I don’t think anyone else noticed that one shoe was black and one was blue, only us….. and only when God knew we needed a laugh!  :)   (luckily you only needed to keep one elevated ;)

  27. Lori says:

    Thank you for your very insightul, thoughtful, AND humorous post!  You make me think, and you make me smile.  AND you inspire me!  May God bless you always!
    (By the way, I have also sported the navy blue/black unmatching pair of shoes in the past.  Been there, done that.  Glad to see that I have not been the only one!)

  28. Cassandra says:

    It‘s almost like a sickness is modern society – this need to be self sufficient. I imagine this grieves God because He created us to be intra-dependent. I imagine this pleases Satan because discouragement is one of his strongest weapons. Anyway. 
    What jumped out at me most about your post was this – this neediness, this low level fear of not being good enough, this mid level fear of being exposed as imperfect has got to be the bread and butter of the special need kid’s existence. This is the story of their life. I can’t take it for limited amounts of time and yet special needs kids live this reality. 
    I heard your genuine gratefulness for having a family friend that cares enough to reach out. 
    Missy – not sure if you are interested but the “being fed” comment is a way bible believing Christians refer to growing spiritually.  Attending church, reading your bible, worshipping, spending time talking about the Lord with christian friends, fasting, being prayed for and corporate prayer and praying alone are commonly thought of as ways to “be fed.” Susanna is sharing how serving her family provides spiritual nourishment, as well.
    “Grace” has been mentioned. Here is what I think. God gives us grace on an as needed basis and not a MOMENT in advance. And I believe He does it that way because we would become to prideful if He doled out grace in advance. Likely we would too quickly forget our fundamental need for Him – The Giver of all great things. It is true that His strength is made perfect in our weakness.  Which is where the conversation began – making peace with our weaknesses. 

  29. Missy says:

    Thanks Cassandra. The “being fed” seemed like a passive term. Like a person sits and is fed by a group or individual but actually you mean something else. Something active and purposeful. I understand now. 

  30. Rebecca says:

    Just wanted to say I am blessed to read here, and as always pray for you all. 
     
    The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. -Hab.3:19
     
    (((((((((((( hugs )))))))))))))

  31. Abbie says:

    Hi! My name is Abbie and I’ve stalked your blog for a while, lol. Anyways, I may be going with a friend on her trip to visit her daughter in the orphanage (1st trip.) Any advice, and do you know if we are allowed to visit the other children?

  32. MamaPoRuski says:

    Praying for your rest and preparation for the next couple of weeks! I hate being an accounting widow myself, can’t imagine being pregnant at the same time. HUGS!

  33. Tara says:

    Susanna, I wrote about you (and linked your blog) in a post today. I hope you don’t mind. I don’t often comment here, but I think and pray for you often. Love you, my friend!  http://simeonstrail.blogspot.com/2013/03/just-willing.html

  34. Susanna says:

    Of course it’s okay, Tara. Thank you for letting me know. Love you, too, and prayers for you today!

  35. Susanna says:

    Abbie, emailing you…

  36. Tamara Butler says:

    I don’t know if you have seen this Susanna, but it is sure to put a smile on your face and in your heart….:-)
    http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=1OT5iU0RcAM&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D1OT5iU0RcAM

  37. Susanna says:

    Tamara, so neat! Thanks for sharing!

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