Well, it’s been a little over six weeks since my last real meal. What a journey it’s been. I have eaten nothing but porridge in a desperate attempt to find healing, with the exception of a couple small “trials” in the last week or so. While this journey is proving to be far from over, I have been reflecting on what God has been teaching me through it. I hope some of what He’s been teaching me may also be a challenge and encouragement to you.
God instills a will within each of us, some stronger than others. While God created me with a strong will, it was not given to me so that I could be self-sufficient and independent from Him. I have learned (the hard way) that a strong will is often destructive when determined to get its own way, but when Christ infiltrates that strong will, it becomes a force to be reckoned with in the spiritual realm. That’s why the enemy either wants to trap us in our own pride which says, “I can do anything I put my mind to” (whether it is of God or not), or else he wants to cripple our will with the burdens and turmoil of life, so that we become useless for the kingdom of God.
I have seen myself fall into both of these traps and yet, now recognize that God is using this seemingly endless health struggle to break through my self-sufficient will. At the same time, He is using the weariness of the battle to drive me to a deeper dependence on His strength and trust in His purposes. I saw this mostly in about week 3 or 4 of my diet. I was feeling lonely, discouraged, frustrated, and weakened in my resolve. Up until then, I was running on my mental and physical stamina, my own strong will and determination not to give up. I kept telling myself, “You can do this”; “Don’t cave”; “You’re not a quitter”; “You have to do this if you want to get better”!
Eventually, those pep talks began to lessen. I felt the enemy’s taunts gaining strength and weakening my resolve. I began hearing, “This is crazy”; “This isn’t fair that you are making all this food and not getting to eat it”; “Why would God make you go through this along with all the other stress in life”?
And then I cracked. I took a bite of a cookie. Now, not only did I feel weary of the diet and frustrated with not feeling as well as I had hoped, but I felt guilty and angry at myself in addition.
Now, however, I find myself feeling thankful for it. I can see how even that momentary crack in my resolve was used to break through my stubborn strong will, which ironically was making me weak. Christ took what Satan meant to cripple me with and, instead, used it for my good. You see, unless we are hit square in the face with our inadequacies and failures, we too easily fall into the trap of believing that we are relying on Christ, when in reality we are blinded by our own self-sufficiency. In God’s grace for us, he allows us to experience these failures, “character flaws”, and circumstances which stretch us beyond our own capacities to endure, in order to teach us reliance on Him alone. (2 Corinthians 1:8-10)
I have seen in the weeks following that I have a new resolve. Not a new resolve to “pick myself up by the bootstraps”, but a new resolve to admit my dependency on Christ every day. I am not stronger because I am self-confident, which is actually more burdensome than admitting my weakness, but I am stronger because my self-sufficient will was broken in order that I might experience strength and freedom in utter dependency on Christ.
We may feel strong at times in our life. We may feel infallible, unmovable, and untouchable. But God will not allow us to stay there. There is a battle being waged, one far greater and stronger than any one of us. Satan knows we are weak and easily knocked down when we are confident in ourselves. So in God’s great mercy, he has called us, chosen us, and is now strengthening us for the battle being waged for the advancement of the Gospel. We must not be weak, easily swayed, and unsure of what we believe. We will not be equipped for the battle with the weapons of our own strength and will, but must learn a humble dependency on him in order for the strength and power of Christ to flow through us.
So to my Christian brothers and sisters, do not be fooled by a human self-confidence and strong will. You and I are weak, needy, broken people. But we can praise God for the revelation of our weaknesses; for when this is realized, we are driven to the freeing and empowering truth that we have the strength of Christ flowing through us. When we believe we are strong, we are in fact weak and ignorantly vulnerable. But when we humbly admit our weaknesses, falling on our knees in dependency on Christ, we are strong and uneasily shaken!
“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. For the sake of Christ then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)”
What are you trying to fight or maintain in your own strength? Are you attempting to make healthy lifestyle changes, break a pattern of sin, carry the burden of an overwhelming to-do list, achieve growth in ministry, raise a challenging child, care for an elderly parent, or endure a difficult marriage on your own? Do you see evidence of ways you are relying on your own strength and endurance, rather than humbly admitting your dependence on Christ? Jerry Bridges profoundly said, “We must preach the Gospel to ourselves constantly because our default setting is performance.” If you are struggling to admit your weaknesses, or if know you are weak and are feeling paralyzed by it, would you allow these verses to sink into your heart and mind?
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power though his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith- that you being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19)”
I find John MacArthur’s commentary on this passage very helpful in applying this truth. That Christ may dwell in your hearts- “Every believer is indwelt by Christ at the moment of Salvation, but he is “at home,” finding comfort and satisfaction, only where hearts are cleansed of sin and filled with his Spirit.
Through faith- ”This speaks of Christians’ continuing trust in Christ to exercise his Lordship over them.”
To Comprehend- “A believer cannot understand the fullness of God’s love apart from genuine, Spirit empowered love in his own life.”
Filled with all the fullness of God- “To be so strong spiritually, so compelled by divine love, that one is totally dominated by the Lord with nothing left of self. Human comprehension of the fullness of God is impossible, because even the most spiritual and wise believer cannot completely grasp the full extent of God’s attributes and characteristics- his power, majesty, wisdom, love, mercy, patience, kindness, and everything he is and does. But believers can experience the greatness of God in their lives as a result of total devotion to him.”
Friends, this is what Christ desires for us; to be so strong spiritually, so compelled by divine love, dominated (in a freeing sense) by the Lord that there is nothing left of self. We cannot do this in our own strength and we cannot do this with idols competing for our affection. Would you join me in asking the Lord to reveal the idols in our lives and give us the desire and strength to break free from them? Would you also join me in asking him to reveal any areas that we are attempting to maintain control of rather than trusting him and relying on his strength for what he has called us to? As believers in the process of sanctification, we will always battle the temptation to default back to self-sufficiency until the day we are in the presence of Christ. But I want to be free from the things that steal my affections and prevent me from experiencing freedom and joy in Christ, don’t you?
As I continue in the daily surrendering of my will and desires, and pray for the Holy Spirit’s power to provide joy, peace, and strength in Christ despite my thousandth bowl of porridge, I challenge and encourage you to do the same in whatever area Christ reveals. If you find yourself struggling to understand why God seems to be withholding something good from you, would you find encouragement in the truth that He would only withhold something good if he had something better – more of himself? It is in his great love and mercy that he allows us to endure these trials in order that we might be transformed into His likeness and fully equipped to stand firm when the tumultuous waves of life come crashing down on us.
These last six weeks have been incredibly hard. They have brought me to the end of myself more times than I can count. Yet, isn’t that what Christ desires these circumstances to bring about in order that we might experience more of Him and His all-sufficient power? So while I am anxious for the day that I hopefully get to eat real food again, I am thankful for God’s grace and transforming power to grow in me a desire to be filled with the fullness of Him more than the fullness of food. It is a moment by moment battle for each one of us. So I pray for you and me, “May we come to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled with all the fullness of God. Amen.”
In Christ, Sarah Walton