GOD GRANTS US STRENGTH TO STAND IN OUR WEAKNESS by Simonetta Carr for Core Christianity
One of my favorite movies as a child was Bambi. One scene impressed me more than anything: after Bambi’s mother dies in a forest fire, a strong, majestic figure emerges from the flames. It’s Bambi’s father. He has been mostly absent, but returns to save his son. And he does so by commanding him to leave his mother’s side: “Get up, Bambi!”
The command might seem harsh – even insensitive – to modern ears, but the forest was burning. Still, the father could have come and picked up Bambi. Instead, he orders him to walk. I liked that. I wanted to be that strong.
We all like strength. We want it for ourselves and for our heroes, and the advertising companies bank on this desire, bombarding us with products that will make us strong, tough, resilient, and victorious. But what if that strength eludes us? What if it seems completely out of reach?
This societal emphasis on strength might cause some to hide their weakness. Even in churches where the sinful nature of mankind is confessed every week, the general expectation is that people will greet us with a smile. If we ever open up about our struggles, we like to end with an expression of confidence in God. After all, isn’t that what the Psalms do?
And then we come to Psalm 88, which starts with an unremitting cry and ends with a bitter lament: “You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness” (v. 18). Few are willing to admit such hopelessness, maybe because we anticipate a chain reaction of concerns that we might not be able to handle. Pretending to be strong keeps others at a safe distance.
But the Bible is full of admissions of weakness – from the Psalms and the book of Job to Paul’s letters. We may think, for example of Paul’s confession of anxiety in 2 Corinthians 2:13 (when Titus didn’t meet him as expected) or the acknowledgment of his inability to obey the law in Romans 7.
On one occasion, his lack of strength seemed unbearable: “We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death” (2 Cor. 1:9-10).
Even Jesus showed dread and anxiety in anticipation of the cross, when he prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.” Apparently, even after an angel came from heaven to strengthen him, “being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:42-44).
Sometimes Christians are still influenced by the world’s view of success, and expect themselves and others to find ways to bounce back from their pain. They might attribute this ability to God’s strength rather than to the inner reservoir our culture is persuading us to discover, but the basic reasoning is often the same: “Tap into your power (whether natural or divine).”