The Christian life is full of utterly impossible challenges. You think you can overcome your sin and live a holy life in your own strength? Have at it my friend! Come back in six months and tell me how it’s going for you. You think you have enough wisdom to help your children navigate all the landmines and pitfalls of life? Well huzzah for you! (Side note: we really need to bring the word “huzzah” back into usage.) Do you think you have enough insight to untangle the sticky relational mess you find yourself in? Do you think you have the strength to sufficiently lead your small group, worship team, counseling team, church planting team, or church? Right. Have at it my friend. I’ll have a bed in a padded room waiting for your return.
The reality is, God constantly places us in situations that are far beyond our ability to bear. He places us smack dab in the middle of befuddling, perplexing, overwhelming, even crushing circumstances. Why does God do this? To humble us. To make us painfully aware that we cannot make it through this life apart from him. To highlight our desperate dependence on him. God strips us of our own strength to make us totally reliant upon his strength.
In 2 Corinthians 1:9, Paul says:
Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.
God allowed Paul to be pushed and pressed, hit and hammered, even sentenced to “death,” SO THAT he would not rely upon himself, but upon the power of the God who raises the dead. God puts us in situations that are so far beyond our ability to survive so that when deliverance comes, only God can receive the glory.
Speaking of pastoral ministry (but this quote applies equally to a million other situations), Charles Bridges says:
Did we depend upon the failing support of human agency [strength], or upon the energy of mere moral suasion [our ability to persuade] – we should cry out, prostrate in heartless despondency – “Who is sufficient for these things?” But the instant recollection – that “our sufficiency is of God” – “lifts up our hearts in the ways” and work of the Lord. (The Christian Ministry, page 19)
Are you in a situation that is too hard for you? Are you being stretched beyond your giftings and abilities? Are you pushed down and crushed, even to the point of despair? Do you feel like butter scaped over too much bread? You really only have two options.
Behind door number one: give up. Let despair, anger, and unbelief wash over you like an acidic shower, eating away at your faith. Start calling yourself a “realist.” Allow cynicism to have its way with you.
Behind door number two: rely upon the God who raises from the dead. Throw aside any foolish remnants of self-sufficiency and depend wholly upon our mighty, powerful God. Depend upon God to work in your rebellious children. Depend upon God to work mightily in your shaky marriage. Depend upon God to save your “unsavable” relative. Depend upon God to give you physical and emotional strength to serve your family. Depend upon the God who slays giants, shuts lions’ mouths, and rescues out of fiery furnaces.
God does incredible things when we stop relying upon our own abilities and start relying on him. He does incredible things when we finally give up on our own abilities and find all our strength in him.