the steps we take, the relationships
we build, and the life we create
we build, and the life we create
SCRIPTURE TEXT Isaiah 40:25-31
KEY VERSE “He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless” (v. 29).
Rolling over in the comfort of my bed, I checked my phone when I heard the text notification.
In ATL . . . heading to airport via shuttle.
I read the message while still trying to shake off the sleepiness clouding my head. Scott had left a few hours earlier for an international flight to Colombia, South America where he would be for the next week and a half.
Smiling, I messaged back – Glad you made it on time. Praying for you! I love you so much! I hit send and prepared to close my eyes for just a few minutes longer. Just as my head rested again on the pillow, every electrical system in the camper went down. No overhead lights. No blinking indicator on the microwave. No air conditioner.
We had been camper living for less than a year, and while we had tripped a breaker here and there trying to run the hot water heater, coffee maker, and hair dryer at the same time, we had never lost complete power. I could feel a sense of panic rising and with it a flood of adrenaline. I checked the electrical panel inside the camper. I tried resetting the GFC outlet. I unplugged the surge protector and plugged it back in.
Still nothing. Two melted surge protectors and a frayed power cord later, we learned how a seemingly minor separation had created a major breakdown. Mowing the grass earlier in the week, Scott had yanked the cord enough to create a tiny gap of separation between the cord’s prongs and the power surge receptacle. The cord and receptacle were still connected, but loosely so.
Instead of the cord being safely surrounded by the receptacle, the prongs of the cord became corroded by all of the weather elements. The disconnect had not been enough for it to come completely unplugged but enough to create distress. The resulting continuous arc of electricity eventually melted the surge protector and blackened the grounding prong. The power shutting down was inconvenient, but it was a protective response preventing a larger crisis of an electrical fire.
How many times have we experienced something similar in our personal lives? We try to stay connected to Jesus, but the yank and pull of life causes us to prioritize other things over uninterrupted connection with Him. We know He is our strength, and we want to love Him well, but we end up pulling back, allowing the distance to create a gap that our best intentions cannot overcome.
Sometimes, we deliberately choose to let other things get between us and Him. Other times, we spiritually burn out because we think we are putting Him first but what really drives our thoughts and actions is our fear of disappointing people, our fear of the unknown, or our fear of being alone. Then, when the distance becomes chaos, we wonder why we don’t experience God’s strength and power in our lives.
We think we’re fine, until we’re not.
Isaiah 40:26 reminds us, “Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing.” He is far greater than we could ever imagine, and there is not a single detail He does not see. Family, job, friendships–any number of things cause us to get disconnected. Some of them are worthy of our attention, but they will always be secondary to the wonder of who God is (v. 25).
Mark 8:35 reminds us the harder we try to control, the more we lose. Only in the paradox of letting go can we find true strength. I cannot fight to stay in control and live in the strength God has promised (Isaiah 40:29-31). I also cannot be “loosely” connected to Christ. My attempt to be anything less than all in will eventually result in spiritual crisis. Daily, I must choose the One in whose hand rests “heaven and earth” (Psalms 69:34, Isaiah 37:16, Acts 17:24-25).
Intimacy with Jesus is powerful, but just like electrical power, it isn’t to be taken lightly. He is “the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth” (v. 28). We were not created for power outages, system failures or burn out. We’ve been made for strength. The kind that comes in weakness. The kind that redefines our circumstances. The kind that remakes us for eternity.
GOING FURTHER Read 2 Corinthians 4:6-18 and consider how this passage shapes your understanding of what it means to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.
THINKING FORWARD Think about the thing or person in life that most often gets in between you and Jesus. Why do you think this aspect of your life has the power to create distance in your relationship with Him?
We want to trust Jesus, but we like to be in control. What is one area where you have experienced God’s strength through giving up control and how did that reality unfold in your life?
By Alyssa Calloway
SCRIPTURE TEXT 2 Corinthians 12:9 & 10
KEY VERSE “But He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.” (v.9, AMP)
“You CANNOT push! The doctor is on the way and I can’t deliver this baby!” As the nurse’s eyes met mine, I saw the anxious plea that echoed her words. Behind an oxygen mask and through labored breaths, all I could say was, “I’m not trying to, I’m sorry!”
My mind was spinning, and my body was exhausted. The natural progression of my labor had been on track, but within minutes the situation drastically changed. My blood pressure had become dangerously high, the doctor wasn’t on site, and my baby was at risk for meconium aspiration syndrome. I was afraid. I was vulnerable. I was weak.
Never had I been in a place where my mind, body and soul were more vulnerable. This child, Addi, had been a promise from Heaven to our family five years prior. Why was her life being threatened and chaos being allowed to reign? Kyle, my husband, was flying in trying to make it in time for her birth. Did I want to deliver her without him there? My body was ready to deliver, and yet I was being told to stop that process. Did I have the ability to bring her into this world safely? I was at a point of desperation I had never known. I felt as though I had nothing else to give.
The door swung open and the doctor rushed in. “Let’s have a baby!” I was ready to get her here safely, but I had no strength left to match her enthusiasm. Blinding lights were turned on, instruments prepared, and it was now or never. “Let’s stop the epidural and get this baby here now,” the doctor instructed the nurse. Everything that I had planned was changed and stripped away. Yet, coming from beside me was the sound that hushed the chaos around me—prayers going to heaven. My mama had not stopped praying, and I knew the Holy Spirit was present. Through the exhaustion and an onslaught of emotions and thoughts, my heart could only cry out, “Help me do this, Jesus.” At 5:47 on July 16th, Addilyn Belle was born, and God’s promise that He had made five years before had been fulfilled.
Have you ever felt as though you were in a place of survival and suddenly you’re called to a place of vulnerability—a place of birthing. How do we find the strength to push past the exhaustion and unfathomable pain to see the promises of God revealed? Where does the power to persevere come from when our mind, body and soul are at the weakest state? When these questions come and they’re louder than the truth, it’s in the secret place we find our resolve.
In this place of intimate communion with Jesus, He imparts His power. Being vulnerable with our Creator is how we begin gaining the strength to push again. Psalm 62:8 and 1 Chronicles 16:11 remind us to pour our hearts out to the Lord and seek Him and His strength always. Being vulnerable is scary. Being vulnerable is hard, but fighting the fear and pushing through the chaos births beautiful things.
Birthing requires a strength and resilience that has transcended time, cultural barriers and socioeconomic status. It’s a place where our vulnerability gives way to the most tangible expression of powerlessness. And yet, we were designed and graced for power. It’s here that trust and intimacy with the Father shifts the course of our life. We partner with the Holy Spirit and birth forgiveness. We push and begin living in community with other women. We labor and birth restoration in our family. We birth a deeper and sweeter relationship with Jesus.
No matter our weakness, He wants to work His best in us (2 Corinthians 12:10), and His power is at work in and through us. When Eve referred to God in the Garden of Eden, she called him Elohim. She called him God the Creator—distant and powerful. However, after she had birthed Cain, Eve says “I have gotten a man with the help of Jehovah” (Genesis 4:1). Jehovah was personal—the God who has relationship with His people.
In spite of her mistake, in the midst of her weakness and vulnerability, God gave her a renewed strength and purpose. She had created a deeper intimacy with her Creator and power was being restored to humanity. The plan for redemption–Christ Himself–had been set in motion (Genesis 3:15).
Labor and delivery is one of the most vulnerable places women find themselves–mentally, emotionally and physically–but it is also in this moment we are most powerful. We are graced to be vulnerable, with Christ and each other. We are graced to push, even in the chaos and uncertainty. We are graced for power, for it’s in hard places that we are truly able to see His strength revealed within us.
GOING FURTHER Read Isaiah 30:15-18. Consider the chaotic and vulnerable times in your life. How does this passage reframe your thought process about difficult circumstances?
THINKING FORWARD Think about the last time you felt most vulnerable, how did you respond? What was ‘birthed’ because of your willingness to push forward in what the Lord was asking you to do?
We want intimacy with Jesus but the chaos of life often takes precedence. What area of your life has been empowered by pushing back the urgency of what’s around you to make time for Him?
Spend any amount of time with me and you will soon discover I am a huge proponent of personality tests. While they are not the end all be all to relational struggles and interactions, I do find they are helpful starting points. My personal favorite is StrengthsFinder. Maybe it was just the time in my life when I completed the profile, but I cried when I read the report. I laugh about it now, but inside I thought, somebody gets me, only to realize I was referring to a set of questions based on research data and analysis. It's nice when people understand us, but even more so when we feel validated as to why we think or act the way we do.
When I’ve done these tests in groups, depending on which personality test, there is one aspect of my personality that people often guess incorrectly. I remember the first time I realized the disconnect. I was teaching a Bible study at our previous church, and one of the women and I were talking before class about a particular book on personality. Trying to guess my personality, she assumed my dominant personality was what Personality Plus terms the “sanguine.” If you’ve taken the DISC, the sanguine is the person who is the high “I.” Energized by large groups of people, the sanguines (high I’s) look for the party, and if it isn’t happening, they make one. They are the embodiment of an extrovert. When I told her that the sanguine was my next to lowest number, she was surprised. She’s not been the only one.
There are giftings and inclinations the Lord has put inside me that draw me toward people, so I understand the confusion. Scott and I live a very people-centered life–and I love the life we live–but my place of comfort is one on one. And I have what is to some a surprising need for time by myself. I am the introverted “I.” Don’t get me wrong, I love people. But right now I am alone in the camper with the two dogs, and I am content. Scott has learned to not take it personal when I get excited about being by myself.
God has been radically rewiring the way I think and approach life in the past year or so. There are some things about me, though, that He has wired into me, and I shouldn’t expect those things to change. Like the fact that I love quiet, and I enjoy time to myself. He is both changing–and not changing– me. It’s in those places, I’m learning these truths:
time I didn’t respond. And especially if I didn’t respond to every single post.
But that isn’t the truth.
The lie is that I am unloving. The truth is that for several months now, I have felt the Lord speaking to me to protect my heart and disengage from trying to feel something about everything. I would sit down to catch up on news, and tragedy after tragedy kept coming across my screen. In that same moment, I would feel the Lord encouraging me to distance myself emotionally, but it felt so . . . not like Jesus. I’m learning, though, that what I was taught, or what I used to think, about who Jesus is and what He expects of me isn’t always accurate. I’m called to reflect the heart of God. I’m not called to be Him.
So yesterday, when I reached for my phone to put on my favorite podcast–Church of the City, NYC–I found the sermon, "Above All Else." Hearing this word drove another “stake” deeper into the ground of my heart. I could see more clearly what God is at work doing in and through me in this season of life.
There is a significant measure of distance between trying to know everything that is out there and burying our heads in the sand. I don’t have to read every article link. I don’t have to read every post. I don’t have to engage every single piece of information that comes my way. Just because I have the time to read the story doesn’t mean I am supposed to. We are called to be led by the Holy Spirit–in what we take in and how we care.
Knowledge does not equal power. Part of being graced for battle is knowing not only our weapons of offense, but also knowing the tools of protection in the heat of warfare. Because this heart is the only one I’ve got, I’m going to protect it. And because it must remain tender as well as strong, I am not looking for formulas but I’m listening for the voice of the One who knows me best.
Watch the sermon, "Above All Else."
My body could still feel the fatigue of my restless night. When it appeared sleep would not be coming anytime soon, and morning was beginning to settle in, I decided to get out of the bed. As I made my way into the kitchen, I could see the sun had already begun to rise. I grabbed a blanket and my cup of coffee to stave off the morning chill and headed to our front porch. Wrapping myself a little tighter in the knit blanket, I let the steam from my coffee warm my nose that was growing cold in the morning air.
Nothing significant had changed in the past few days, but I could feel uncertainty all around me. I was in a new season professionally, and while it had been a chosen transition, my mind would often circle around the unknowns of this new season. Especially at night. Numerous factors were beyond my control, and as much as I had needed to create some space in my life, I had not realized how much security I had placed in productivity, especially when it came to meeting others’ expectations.
Five years prior, my husband I stepped out to plant a church in a community about thirty miles from where we were living at the time. We had sold our house, transitioned out of a church and ministry position where we had been for over twenty years, and moved our kids to a community they didn’t know. Thankfully, the school where I worked, and where our kids went attended, remained a consistent thread in that particular time of life. However, it meant commuting each day of the week in an already busy family schedule. Though the travel time was manageable, the distance between the town where we were now living and the one where I was working were worlds apart in more than miles. I had already been working full-time and working with my husband in his ministry for several years, but now I was trying to keep community alive in two distinct places. Adding to the complexity, we were ministering in an entirely new arena, not just in terms of the people we were meeting but in the responsibilities we now carried.
There were days I felt I was barely holding life together, and I had little time to create space for rest. So when my husband and I made the decision that I would make a career change (for various reasons), I was grateful. Not only would I not feel the constant tension between ministry hours (which often function outside of a nine to five schedule) and the demands of a school day, my drive time would significantly diminish, and I would be able to focus my energy investing in our church family.
As my sleepless night had proven, though, I was much more rooted in a demanding schedule of work than in rest. All night long, I had tried to solve life’s problems as I had tossed and turned. My body had been horizontal in the bed but I had carried the burden of self-effort. There were problems to be solved, future concerns to be anticipated, and uncertainties to be considered. Rest was anything but near.
In our culture today, we are masters of distraction, and yet, I am convinced that what we really long for is rest. I understand the temptation. Sitting down to watch a television show that doesn’t demand any investment on my part, or scrolling mindlessly through any social media platform, might pull my thoughts away from feeling overwhelmed by all that I have to do, but it only removes me from that source of responsibility or stress temporarily. Any relief I might feel happens only as long as I am able to separate from the source of my stress. When life returns to its normal pace, everything I set aside in my time of distraction remains the same. Not only have my circumstances not changed, but I myself have not changed.
True rest demands we trust in a sufficiency outside of ourselves, one that brings more than an interruption or diversionary tactic. Only the God of life can refill us with life.
The other day, as I was studying the idea of rest in scripture, I came across Genesis 5:29. A simple verse I had encountered many times before became one of those moments of connection for me as I read these words: “Now he called his name Noah, saying, ‘This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands [arising] from the ground which the LORD has cursed.’” Work certainly didn’t end with Noah, so how would his life create rest? Then I began to think about what Noah’s life represented in scripture. Genesis 6:8-9 tells us that though God was deeply grieved by the depravity of mankind, “Noah found favor with the LORD . . . [he] was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.” But Noah’s life of promise didn’t end there. He was a man willing to obey when circumstances would have otherwise deemed him crazy. His life revealed the power of resting in a promise rather than trusting in what he could see and control (Genesis 6:22, 7:23).
One of my favorite verses, Psalms 27:8 says, “When You said, ‘Seek My face,’ My heart said to You, ‘Your face, LORD, I will seek’’ (NKJV). Speaking to the intimacy we have in Christ, the Psalmist reminds us that relationship with Christ is first found in being with Him, before we begin doing for Him. Matthew 11:28-29 reiterates this same idea, when Jesus said, "Come to Me, all you 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.”
In this most recent season of transition, I have learned again how often my desire for productivity and excellence are little more than an effort to avert the unpredictable turns of life. Perhaps if I can plan enough, work harder, dig deeper into my own efforts, I can minimize the unexpected. When I wrap myself in the truth that He is the God who not only knows the future but whose character is consistent (Psalms 90:2,Hebrews 13:8) and whose love for me is sure (Romans 8:38-39), I begin to understand what rest really means.
Excellence in our work matters, whether that be in our profession, community involvement or the investment we make in our families and others we love. Psalms 90:17 attests to this truth by reminding us, “And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us, And establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands.” Our desire to be productive is part of the imprint of God’s image on our lives (Genesis 1:27).
But so, too, is rest (Genesis 2:2-3).
Creating respite in our lives begins with setting aside our list of tasks, but we must also allow our minds to push back the questions we cannot answer, the possibilities we cannot control. The only real safe place is in spending time with Him, resting the weight of every care and concern in the goodness and strength of His heart. A test of our faith in One far more capable and stronger than our best efforts, making the choice to rest seats us before our own insufficiency. But it also opens our eyes to realize God sees much farther into eternity than we do. Entrusting ourselves and those we love to His care is the most strategic place to be. Only then can we sense the surety of His presence. Only there can we know what it truly means to rest.
Our daughter who lives in New York City texts me throughout any given day. Sometimes, I am awakened by an early morning sound from my phone as she navigates her 6:30 a.m. commute; other days, she sends me a message me from her afternoon class as a thought crosses her mind. Still other days, I find myself laying in bed answering a late night series of messages as she shares something important from her day. In these late night hour exchanges, I often end our conversation with these simple words: Rest well, love.
I believe Christ speaks the same to us.
Rest well, dear one. You are so loved.
As a writer, Regina draws from her experiences with her own family, her work in education and her love for her local church family. The author of two books, Who Calls Me Beautiful and Designed by God, Regina was also a regular contributor to Our Daily Journey, an former online and print publication of Our Daily Bread Ministries. Regina has also written for Discovery Series, contributed to devotional compilations (God Hears Her, God Sees Her), and published with Church Planter Magazine as well as The Quiet Hour Devotional.