Bible verse 1: Philippians 4:13
Bible verse 2: 2 Timothy 4:17
"I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13
This is one of the most popular scripture verses, and for good reason, it gives us hope! I can't know what you are going through right now. All of us have such different battles in this life, whether it be physical or mental illness, difficulties in our relationships with our families or friends, loneliness or grief. Everyone has her own cross to carry.
The good news is that no matter what we are suffering, our God gives us the strength to keep us going. In today's world we are taught to always be strong and independent. But Paul, throughout Philippians and all of his letters, boasts not in his strength, but in God's. He consistently relies on the help of others to survive. He boasts about his weaknesses in order to shine light on God's power. This way of living isn't exactly trumpeted from our smartphones today.
Everywhere I look, whether on Instagram or Facebook or the blogs I scroll through as I'm in the waiting room, I see people whose lives look like they've jumped from magazines, they take the right pictures, know the right angles and lighting, their homes are never cluttered, and their children are always smiling and well-behaved in public, maybe they even grow beautiful gardens after they've gone on their adventure to the beach to see the sunrise! There's nothing wrong with these things, everyone enjoys a good picture and yes, everyone should have beautiful moments. The problem comes in when I believe that these are the only moments in their lives, that people are always out having adventures and smiling, that they are always perfectly dressed and their eyeliner never smudges, and then I look at myself and ask "why can't I be like that?"
It might not be the kind of strength you're thinking of when you read this scripture, but the way I see it, this tendency to show only the best moments of our lives is about showing our strength. We know our lives aren't as perfect as our Instagram pictures, but we seem to forget how social media works the second we see someone else's seemingly perfect life. We believe that they are strong, that they aren't struggling, and that's simply not true.
Right now I am typing at my dining room table. I had a meeting last night and my kitchen is full of dishes. This study was due three days ago. I still have wet clothes in the washing machine that I forgot about. The moving boxes from two weeks ago I keep saying I am going to take to the recycling bin are still taking up most of the space on my porch. I'm definitely not the perfect writer, or mother, or homemaker. I have so many weaknesses.
Yet when I think about what a godly woman looks like, the first thing I think of are all these things I lack. I focus on my weaknesses and her strengths. What I don't focus on in God, and this, my dear sisters, is the problem. When I look at my failures, no matter how small they are, all I see is ME. When I need to look up, see God, and say, "okay, help me do this."
I'm not telling you that you have to Instagram all your weaknesses. (Although go ahead if you want, think of a good hashtag #Philippians4challenge?) But I think it is important to recognize that our weaknesses are opportunities for God to make us holy and to bring glory to Himself. Yet we are so busy focusing on the strength and perfection we think other people have, that we want to sweep our weaknesses away, to allow ourselves to wallow in our failures, when we need to dust off our weaknesses, take a good look at them, and then ask God for help.
No matter what you face today, whether it's as small as a load of laundry or as big as an ocean of grief, I pray the you would allow God to be your strength. You don't have to try and be perfect. You don't have to rely on your own strength. God's strength and perfection are more than ours could ever be, and our God is generous! Simply ask Him to work through you and your imperfect circumstances, and He will.
Reflection question 1: What are some of your weaknesses or struggles? How can you allow God to strengthen you in these circumstances?
Reflection question 2: How has God already worked through the struggles in your life to strengthen you?
Act: Today, reach out to one person about something you are struggling with. It can be anyone! By being honest about our struggles we find out so much more about other people and are able to see how God has worked in their lives and in our own!