When I was young I was disturbed by novels in which the protagonist had to achieve his or her goal despite an early set-back. Often the dramatic intensity of these books depended on this handicap, but for me I yearned for a fully fit, fully equipped hero running at full speed with every possible advantage.
We were listening to King Arthur on our way to France last month and I hadn’t realised that within 24 hours of getting his hands on Excalibur and a magic scabbard that would protect him he would lose the latter to Morgan le Fay for the rest of the book. How frustrating! A hero at half strength. Yet they all seem to triumph through their own strength. Even Superman has his weakness to Kryptonite (why bring it with you Superman?!) – yet he always triumphs through his own resourcefulness.
We always like to be at full strength. Handicaps and set-backs hinder our potential. Somehow we feel unfairly treated if all is not strong and healthy with us? We can accept a temporary weakness or handicap but it is a human right to be restored afterwards. I know myself that in ill-health or any other compromised aspect of life I react with “well how am I going to be useful if I am running on only 2 cylinders?” – when I was really low I would bargain with God “make me strong and see how I will shine for you!”
But this is childish thinking, and anyway, do we ever shine as brightly as we promise if we are restored! No, some things in life are weaknesses that are meant to stay with us. Coming to accept them is sometimes not easy. It could be ill-health, a painful relationship, a damaged emotion, a difficult work situation – any pain or pressure. When it happens we might suspect our usefulness is gone.
So we come to this verse in Isaiah which refers to how Jesus sees us, deals with us and uses us “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out; in faithfulness he will bring forth justice” I had in mind that the verse actually went like this: “a bruised reed he will not break, no – he will fix it so it is a really strong reed” but it doesn’t, it doesn’t promise strength or fire, at least not in the human sense. And what does it say? It says “…he will bring forth justice” – so it is all about him and not us anyway.
Paul had some sort of thorn in his flesh and he asked 3 times for Jesus to remove it. He sounds like me saying “Hey Lord, how am I supposed to get all this done if I have this impediment? Make me 100% and I will do a better job for you, I will shine for you” But Jesus says – ‘No! It is not about you, it is about living with my grace being sufficient. Do it in my strength or not at all’. It is a tough lesson to learn but in learning it there is great peace and power.
I have to continue on through life carrying with me the fact that I don’t have the strength I want or the health I desire. I am not superman. Instead I have this stick of Kryptonite with me all the time. But there is great blessing, glory and strength in saying his power is made perfect in weakness. So I will try to cheerfully boast of my weaknesses if Christ’s power is the result.
One day, at the right time there will be be running and not thirsting and eagles wings and no more pain!