strength

noun \ˈstreŋ(k)th, ˈstren(t)th\

Simple Definition of strength

  • : the quality or state of being physically strong

  • : the ability to resist being moved or broken by a force

  • : the quality that allows someone to deal with problems in a determined and effective way

Strength. For as long as I can remember I have valued this trait and strived to possess its attributes. Before I fully knew what this word meant, I instinctively knew that it was an inherent part of my character. Passed down from a first generation immigrant father, strength was something that was held in high esteem in my household and upbringing. It was the standard that all of my performances and struggles were held against.  The question of whether we were giving our best, fighting with our all, was always subconsciously posed beneath the surface of what was actually spoken. And sometimes, it was spoken.

“You have to be strong.”

“Don’t give up.”

“Anything worth fighting for is going to be a struggle.”

“Don’t be a quitter.”

“Life is hard, but you just have to keep at it.”

And though there were and are many truths to these statements, it dawned on me as of recent that there is  such a thing as an appropriate time to let go of the fighting and the struggle and just surrender; to find acceptance and peace with what is, and still contend for a better life. Can the two even coexist? Contention and acceptance? I believe so. And I’m finding that the less I struggle against what I can’t control or can’t overtake, the more ground I actually win.

The facts are, I can’t snap my fingers and magically be healed. I can’t devise the perfect treatment plan that will effectively kill the bacteria and other invaders and strengthen my body overnight. I can’t predict whether one day I’ll have pain, or another day be pain free. I can only wake up each morning, find gratitude in the good that’s there, and look forward to the hope that looms ahead.

It’s been a struggle for me to let go of being strong. To let go of being the first to volunteer to help, to commit, to get involved, to X, Y, or Z. The hardest thing, it seems, for a strong person to do is the easiest thing of all: to let go.

To surrender and embrace whatever God allows life to bring. To let Him guide, and lead, and to trust that He is who He says He is, and that His goodness shall follow me all the days of my life, even if all the circumstances in my life scream otherwise.

A very good friend encouraged me the other day with this sentiment: that maybe what I need isn’t more strength, but maybe what I truly need is release; the letting go.

Lightness. It’s something I have never pondered until now. In the gym, you lift heavy weights to gain strength. The heavier the weight, the general thought and scientific research holds, the stronger you will become. You gain that strength, however, not in the action, but in the rest. Your muscles aren’t being built in the strengthening, but rather in the waiting. In the time where those broken down fibers are weaving themselves back together, bigger and dare I say, stronger, than before. More enduring, and with more ability to withstand a greater force next time.

During the training period there is always tension; it is required to elicit growth in the muscles. But if this tension persists, then breaking occurs. There will inevitably be injury. Weakness. So we must be keen and aware of when we have reached our limit. To know when enough is enough. When it’s time to put the weight down, and let go.

While my friend was encouraging me to be thankful for the lightness and light in my life, it illuminated a common and popularly quoted Scripture and brought a whole new meaning to my mind:

Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Take. Learn. Let go of what you are holding onto. Forget what you thought you knew. Give me that baggage. Let me carry that load. You don’t have to do it all on your own. Rest. You will find rest. Find it in Me. My yoke is easy. My burden is light. LIGHT.

“Let go. You can do it. I’m right beside you.”

His whispers reassure me that He means it. Like it’s spoken in those words of the Scripture, I am learning that He is gentle and patient with me; a girl so apt and so eager to cling to all of my struggles and my own quickly failing devices.

“I can do this on my own!”

“I am strong!”

“I don’t need anyone’s help!”

“I can do this. I can do this… Sofia, you can do this!!

But truth is, when I step back from that mirror, I realize deep down that I am wholly inadequate to do anything on my own. Because it is only by His grace and power that I am able to do anything in my life. To make any ground. To lay stake and claim any territory.

2 Corinthians 12:9

“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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

That’s it. That’s enough. His grace (empowerment within me to will and to act according to His good purpose) is sufficient for all of my struggle. When I am weak, when I have depleted all of my human resources of self, that is when He truly shines in my life and is able to work marvelously and miraculously before my very own eyes. When I surrender. When I let go. When I give up my right to be strong on my own THEN and only then can His power come to full fruition within me. Then and only then, can His power REST upon me. Ah. Sigh. Relief. Somehow it all makes sense now and becomes clear, and my struggle seems so sillily in vain.

I can rest in Him. I can take on His yoke. I can lean on Him in my weakness.

I can release my load. He is Light. He gives light. He shines light. He lifts, He carries, He lightens.

He is the lightener of my load.

And it is in this burden released, this weight off my shoulders, that I am finding true strength from above. True shelter in the Lord, my stronghold. He lifts me up. He makes me soar. Without worry. Without struggle. Without question. Without effort.

Isaiah 40:30-31

“Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.”

Though you may not be fighting a similar battle, chances are, if you’re on this planet and have a pulse, you are fighting some battle. So let me encourage you friend: release it. Give it to the Lord. He wants it! The God who created you wants to fight on your behalf.

Exodus 14:14 (NIV)

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

So be still, dear one. Let God fight your battles. Let Him prove to you that He is faithful. That He is who He says He is, and does what He says He’ll do. It may not always happen on our time frame (that’s where the surrender comes in), but it WILL happen. He won’t ever leave us or forsake us. THAT’S a promise.

So surrender. He is good. He will catch you if you fall and lift you back to flight once again. Give Him control. He can be trusted. With Him, the victory is already won.