“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
- 2 Corinthians 12:9 NKJV
It was Pentecost Sunday 2020 when God told me that I should write a blog. It was our annual Pentecost party (Happy Birthday Church!) and while we were sitting around my living room talking about the goodness of God, Travis looks over at me and randomly says, “Amanda you should write a blog.” Then the conversation carried on as though nothing had changed. Except something had changed; something in me changed. God gave me my marching orders—the direction that I had been praying about for so long came at that moment—a moment so short and nondescript that I could have so easily missed it. Yet I couldn't have; He wouldn't let me.
It was seven years before that when God used a blog to change my life, my salvation came through a group of women who loved Jesus and a cousin who refused to let me rest until I read it. (Thank you, Melinda, I am forever grateful that you never gave up on me!) I've always enjoyed writing and my teachers genuinely seemed to enjoy reading it, though after school I had very little reason to continue. Until Jesus. I found it easier to pray in a straight line if I was writing out my thoughts instead of just thinking them. Therefore writing a blog made perfect sense and that terrified me. What if I put myself out there and people rejected me? What if I said something wrong or wrote something stupid? What if it didn't make sense or no one wanted to read it? What if...? The thoughts bombarded me and I kept putting it off, making excuses about time or that I wasn't technically inclined. I started writing so many things and never finished but the nagging, gnawing knowing that I was saying “no” to God never went away. God was unrelenting.
Fast forward through a whole bunch of battles and here we are on the twelfth blog and all of those fears are still there, all of the excuses still exist, and our God is still unrelenting. Honestly, I would be lying to you if I said that I knew what I was doing, I do not. I also know that this is a different bend from what I've written in the past but the thing that changed me about the blog that I was implored to read all those years ago was the honesty of the women that wrote it. So I vowed to God and to myself when I started this that I would write honestly and candidly about what following God looks like.
This week following God looked like a conviction that I don't fast anymore.
This might sound like nonsense but I used to enjoy fasting, not necessarily the hunger part but that greater intimacy with God part. I've done all the types: only water, only juice, only coffee (I swore I would be honest...), Daniel fasting, and fasting from various forms of entertainment. I enjoyed them all. But somewhere along the line I stopped, I started to get religious about it, I was fasting just to fast, not to have more of Him and it became more of an annoyance than anything else. So when God laid it on my heart that I needed to begin not just a fast but to start living a fasted lifestyle again, it came as no surprise. The surprise came when God dropped the bomb on me that rarely, even when I was fasting quite regularly, did I fast from a place of dependence on Him. (He did not say that I wasn't seeking Him in the fast but that I wasn't depending on Him to make it through the fasting.)
As I contemplated this, I realized that He was right, I didn't depend on Him while I fasted, I white-knuckled my way through it. As I thought about it more I realized it wasn't just fasting that I had strong-armed through, I quit smoking that way, I lost weight that way, and (though I hate to admit this) early on I waited on Joe that way too. I've always been strong-willed (or stubborn as it is more commonly referred to) and I have spent a decent amount of my life relying on the strength of my own resolve. I realized this week that tendency has carried over into my life as a follower as well.
So I fasted, not for very long (I had brunch plans the next day) but I gave Him the time that I could give Him, and instead of gritting my teeth and bearing it every time the whiff of food came or I had to feed my children, instead I prayed and I said, “Daddy, I'm too weak to do this on my own. If You don't help me I can't succeed—not the way you call me to fast, not with joy.”
"So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness." So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That's why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
- 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NLT
I've read this passage many times over, and truthfully normally I get caught up in the thorn bit and miss the rest. For today what Paul's thorn was is of no matter. It is the fact that he boasted in his weakness that counts. Sometimes I can get full of myself and start to believe that God has chosen me because of some quality or strength that I bring to the table. When in all honesty God chose me in spite of these things not because of them. Any ability that I have originated as a gift from God; any strength that I have I have been given to me by Him. It is my weakness that God is after because they are the perfect canvas to display His strength. The moment that I start to believe that my strengths bring anything to the table I have been deceived and start operating from my own (very limited) supply.
I've often looked at my weaknesses with contempt, thinking that they are something that I am doing wrong, that somehow I must in and of myself do better, try harder, strive longer. When really those very weaknesses are the places that God wants to use to shine through to make His power and glory known.
I'm now standing in front of this latest commission, this blog, and I'm finding that I can't bulldoze my way through this one and quite frankly I don't want to. Do you know all of those fears that I shared with you earlier? They pale in comparison to the fear that I could succeed at this by my own power and not God's. So I will boast in my weakness, so that through it the strength of our God may be manifest.
Written by Amanda Strauser