Posts Tagged ‘we are weak and strong’

Even to your old age and gray hairsI am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you;I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Isaiah 46:4

God promises his people three things here in Isaiah.

First, he will sustain them to the end of their lives. To sustain is to strengthen or support physically or mentally. And note the logical corollary to this: We will need the most sustaining when we are the weakest.

At one point in my life I lost a precious job and in the interim, before finding another one, I was afraid. I felt emotionally weak, vulnerable. I didn’t like it. I’m not particularly fond of feeling vulnerable. Few of us are. I’ve often played the strongman, the teacher, the leader, the writer but clearly I haven’t always been the strong man.

Secondly, in Isaiah 46 we are told that because God made us and feels intimately connected to us as family, he will carry us. To carry someone is to support and move them from one place to another. Again, this carrying implies a position of weakness: A person only needs to be carried when they cannot carry themselves. It can feel quite undignified to be carried.

I once sprained my ankle playing soccer in Brazil. The soccer field had holes in it. I was wheeled through the airport by my teenage team for the plane ride home in a wheelchair. I felt both privileged and slightly embarrassed. It’s true. Sometimes I find my weakness embarrassing.

Thirdly, in Isaiah, God repeats the first point, that he will sustain and he adds one more thing: He will rescue us. To rescue someone is to save someone from a dangerous or distressing situation that they can’t save themselves from. It is also to keep something from being lost or abandoned by retrieval. Again, dangling from a rescuing helicopter or laying on a gurney is hardly a bragging point for most of us. “I had to be rescued!”

At two points in my life I have been significantly sick, recovering from surgery, dealing with chronic pain. During these times I’ve had to wait on rescue, wait on doctors, wait on appointments, wait on surgeries, wait on a gurney, wait on God. I’m not that good at waiting, particularly when there is a high degree of uncertainty and uncomfortability. 

What can we take from all this? First, that we will at times be weak, embarrassed, at times need to be carried and that sometimes we will not be able to rescue ourselves from loss, deprivation, failure, need.

Let’s be honest. None of us like to be weak, dependent, helpless, sick and needy, and yet sometimes we will be. One of the great steps of maturity in life is to realize and accept our own vulnerability. All are subject to financial, health, material, relational, physical and situational loss and and its attendant emotion — vulnerability. We are realizing this acutely during the coronavirus pandemic. How insecure we are, practically spending the entire families savings on toilet paper!

But it is in such times of personal need that we can discover our humanity that includes our vulnerability — which by the way was always there even when we didn’t know it or denied it. How much we are all alike, strong, yes, and also all sometimes indisputably, intrinsically afraid, dependent and weak.

And here’s the thing; this weakness is most hard on us at the emotional level. The emotional power position is to save; the affectively weak position is to be saved. To be the one who needs to be rescued; we must be okay with being and feeling weak, even embarrassed; we must be okay with waiting until we are sustained and rescued by another; we must be okay with not being the hero, the driver, the solution and we must be okay with letting others shine and do the saving.

Ah, needy, waiting for help to come. The help seems slow. As time passes we wonder, will it come? We may grow angry over our loss of control or we may become sad.

What else can we do?

We can accept reality, accept both our strength and our weakness and we can work on not being so embarrassed by it so that it doesn’t become impedimenta to us that we drag along with us. Note that Betty Ford was praised for raising breast cancer awareness following her 1974 mastectomy. So many women have been helped and encouraged by her model of openness. We help ourselves and others by normalizing sickness and weakness. It is strong to accept that we are weak.

And we can learn to hold on to hope. That means we can trust that God will come through when he decides to come through and not when we tell him to come through.

We can lean into our difficulty and see what it has to teach us as we wait. That too is a form of strength. Waiting and watching can teach us that we are alternately weak and strong, that life is up and down and that God will come through in his own time and way and not ours.

Finally, it has been my experience — and I know many of you have experienced this too — that the promises of God do not always come to us when and how we want. Then we trust. Then we wait. Then we mature into those who are not afraid to be what we sometimes are — the strong-weak. Then we experience latency, a normal stage of life, the state of existing but not yet being developed or manifest.

Weak-waiting —- today it occurs to me that this can be a beautiful form of strong-trusting, and that this can set up a working relationship with God, one that preps us for future times of strength and weakness, one that finds a way to deeply liaise with the God who rescues.