by Dr. Brad Strait, CCPC Lead Pastor
Have you noticed how God visits us in our weakness during bleak times?
This is repeatedly seen in both the Bible and in life. Hudson Taylor once said that God uses people who are weak and feeble enough to lean on him in the bleakest of seasons. Hope often comes on the winter’s frosty wind. At Christmas, we sing “In the Bleak Mid-winter” by Christina Rosetti (1872). A few years ago, it was named by church choir-masters as the best Christmas carol ever written. Look at the words about God’s coming as an infant in the bleakness:
In the bleak mid-winter Frosty wind made moan;
Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter Long ago.
Our God, heaven cannot hold Him Nor earth sustain,
Heaven and earth shall flee away When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty — Jesus Christ.
The glory of God comes in weakness and in bleakness. I am currently reading a great book by Nichole Zasowski, From Lost to Found (Nichole is the daughter-in-law of CCPC members Jim and Sherri Zasowski). I found this great quote on weakness and hope today. I think it is worth reflecting on:
Uncertainty in our circumstances naturally leads us to want to let go of hope. Choosing to dwell in our current reality without expectation or hope for a change in our situation may feel like the best way to protect ourselves from pain. If we expect nothing, how can we be disappointed? If we prepare for the worst, maybe we will be ready if it happens. If I expect another month to end with me staring at a negative pregnancy test with one lonely, pink line or another pregnancy to result in miscarriage, maybe I can keep myself numb to life’s disappointments. If one is trying to avoid a fall, it seems like the most prudent action to take is to stay low to the ground—to keep our hearts emptied of expectation.
As someone who has watched me try to protect myself from pain for years, my mom has named this personal strategy “practicing disappointment.” This is different from experiencing disappointment. As human beings, none of us are immune to experiencing personal failure or disappointing outcomes. But for me, practicing disappointment is an attempt to control my circumstances and the resulting emotional pain by choosing it before it can choose me, similar to my habit of rejecting others before they can reject me. This strategy claims that if I wriggle myself into a position where I expect to be disappointed and do not allow myself to hope, I can only be surprised by joy.
Hope may leave us open to the possibility of experiencing disappointment, but choosing hopelessness as our default guarantees the very pain we are trying to avoid. Refusing to hope locks in the very darkness we fear. Denying hope that our circumstances will change prevents us from seeing any movement or joy at all…If we attempt to protect ourselves from pain, we protect ourselves from the joy too. We guard ourselves from the intimacy in relationship, blind to the opportunities to grow through what we must go through, and numb to the warmth of God’s faithfulness even in the bleakest of seasons.
The glory of God comes in weakness and in bleakness. It is his way.
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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Lord Jesus, use us even in our weakness. Help us to choose hope, and to place our trust in your faithfulness in all seasons, even bleak ones. May your power rest on us. Amen.
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