What is true strength?

As I finish up my final weeks in the Foundations for Counseling Ministry, I’m realizing that I’m not growing into the woman I thought I would. I thought I would come out the other side as a strong, free, and perfect woman of God. There is partial truth in that statement. More free in Christ than before? Definitely yes. Strong? Also yes, but in a totally different way than what I imagined. And perfect, no – I never will be.

So how does being strong and powerful look different than what I thought? Well this may sound silly, but the image that keeps popping in my head was of an intimidating business lady with a tough veneer, more clever than the next person, and without any signs of weakness.

But God has been humbling me so much over the past year, and I am now getting to this point where I really am utterly dependent on Him. So many weaknesses have been uncovered in my life that I can’t help but see myself as this little girl who, for the most part, doesn’t have a clue in comparison to God’s infinite perspective into me. He knows me more than I know myself!

And I’m NOT discrediting my strengths, I have a lot of them and plan to keep using them for God’s glory and my enjoyment. But I would be a fool to think that my strengths and talents define my value. I have valued myself this way in the past, and it’s only put me in a perpetual state of insecurity. 

So how does my new strength actually look if it’s not tough and without weakness? 

It’s so counter-intuitive, but it’s God’s truth! To be strong and powerful means to know that we are weak, and that God’s grace is sufficient (2 Cor 12:9). I love this about God! He’s so opposite of how the world (or I) sometimes think!

Honestly, I would love to just draw from my own natural giftings to get through life and ignore the places where I am weak because I’m too afraid to confront them. But there are such severe consequences to this type of thinking! I am too weak in my human nature to ever know my own potential in Christ without God revealing it to me. God has a destiny prepared for me, and I can only walk in everything He wants to bless me with if I am in constant relationship with Him. I need Him!

So if the only way I can fulfill all that God has for my life is by relying on Him, then it’s actually His grace alone that makes me strong! My natural giftings in business and academics are good and should not be thrown out. In fact they can be used in great ways to serve others and God. But these do not make me strong! And there are so many more good things God wants to accomplish both in me and through me, that I simply cannot without His grace.  

While I want to live my life out of excellence, I no longer want to live as a perfectionist. Perfectionism, as most of us know, is a negative thing, and yet most of us don’t realize we struggle with it. At least I didn’t. But God continually made Himself bigger in my life these past months, and revealed to me a lot of things in my life that were hidden that gave me a sober reality of who I really am. Again, this is about true humility, not the “woe-is-me” false humility crap.

Today, I am surrendering to the fact that I can’t be self-sufficient in life. I can’t keep believing that one day I’ll be perfect without any weaknesses, or times of vulnerability, and can do everything on my own without ever needing an intimate relationship with God.

But this surrender comes as a welcome relief, because trying to be perfect is exhausting. 

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Lovesick

I’ve grown so much spiritually since I first recommitted my life to Christ in 2008. I’ve always been on a quest for truth, knowing deep down there is so much more in life than what many people settle for…and I don’t say that because I think I am superior, but it is just an honest description of my heart.

But I just came to two important revelations during my time in Kona: the spiritual growth I have experienced was not because of anything I did, but by God’s grace alone. Sure making wise decisions about how I spent my time led to faster growth. But even in those decisions of who I hung out with and what I did with my time was all by God’s grace. Every revelation I had, every word God spoke personally to me, and every time I did His will, this was all by God’s grace, which works in all believers (Phil 2:13).

For me, this was an important revelation because it enabled me to stop striving every day to love perfectly. It enabled me to trust God that His grace is sufficient to perfect my weaknesses. My own attempts of trying to love God and others better never changed me, it was always God’s grace.

The speaker this week said that our only part, as true followers of Christ, is faith. Everyday we must choose to trust God that He will change us, guide us, and always have our best interest at heart. When we learn this, striving ceases.  But faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17), so asking for the Holy Spirit’s help in learning God’s voice is necessary. When we practice hearing God’s voice and step out in faith, we are playing our part as sons and daughters of God, but even this is enabled through grace!

I believe striving and performance due to the lack of a heart knowledge of grace is the most pressing issue facing believers today. As Paul repeatedly admonishes: we MUST grow in the knowledge of grace. But not head knowledge that puffs up (1 Cor 8:1) and leaves our lives unchanged, but knowledge coming from the Spirit that sinks into our hearts, which is our inner being (Eph 3:16).

One book that helped me along my journey toward truly knowing the grace of God through Jesus’ death and resurrection was “Spiritual Slavery to Spiritual Sonship” by Jack Frost (yep, that’s his real name). Do yourself a big favor and read it immediately, and ask the Holy Spirit to teach you in all wisdom as you do.

My second revelation has been this: in spite of all the wonderful visions, revelations, and spiritual growth God has blessed me with, I still have a longing in my soul. Just as someone falls pray to  chasing after achievements or recognition or money to obtain happiness, I have exalted personal godliness over God himself. Because of this, I still have a void in my heart that can only be filled by God himself. Maybe this is why the Greatest Commandment is to love God with all of our heart, soul and mind, because God knows every human longing will only be satisfied in Him (Psalm 145:16).

But the reason why the first revelation of God’s grace is still important is because it’s only be by grace, through faith, that I can be filled with the fullness of God. No striving on my part will get me closer fulfillment. I’m just getting myself in a position now to receive by faith.

As Eph 3:14-20 goes, my prayer is that I come to know in my heart the height and width of Christ’s love, to know Him and His love on a more intimate and higher level, so that God may finally fill the hole that exists for Him alone.